Players and Pawns: Political Childhoods, Political Children
Special Session, MLA (Modern Language Association) 2022
Children's Literature Division, MLA
“Think of the children,” we say, again and again using the child as the object of political discourse. Policies and laws governing everything from education and public health to minimum wage and sexual relations are enacted with the intent of protecting children and improving their lives. So often, however, children are denied the ability to be perceived and accepted as political agents themselves. In fact, when children and teens, such as Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thunberg, Mari Copeny (Little Miss Flint), and David Hogg, among many others, become involved in politics, adults often criticize their efforts, arguing that children possess neither the experiences nor the knowledge to be involved in political discussions or to advocate for policy changes.
As children’s and YA literature affirms, children and teens both are used for the political gain of others and are themselves interested in politics. Drawing on children’s and YA literature, as well as films and other forms of youth media, this panel considers what it means to be a political child and/or how children are used by politicians. In other words, in what ways are children players in the game of politics, and in what ways are they pawns?
Papers might consider the following questions:
- What are the politics of the child?
- How is the political child constructed by adults? By children?
- What kinds of childhood are instrumentalized by people in positions of power, and to what end?
- What does it mean to “fight for the children?” How does the desire to protect children affect political children?
- What is the child’s role in politics?
- In what ways do children and teens resist political power?
- How does the political child embody agency?
- How might children politicize themselves?
- Which possibilities or which limitations of children’s agency are inherent in political discourse?
- Who is included and excluded from being a political child?
- How does the political child collaborate with the political adult?
- What is the politics of childhood without the guise of futurity?
- What is the connection between anti-fascism and children’s and youth media?
Please submit 300-word abstracts and a brief biography to Miranda Green-Barteet (firstname.lastname@example.org) by March 5, 2021.