Childhood Studies Globalization
by
Elizabeth Chin
  • LAST REVIEWED: 13 May 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0077

Introduction

Globalization is generally defined as a set of processes and contexts emerging out of the nexus of capitalism, technology, and social change. More specifically, while globalization can be understood as having begun well before the industrial era, globalization tends to be characterized as salient particularly from the 1970s onward. Typified by growing corporate economic power eclipsing that of the nation-state, globalization is often linked in analysis to rising ideologies and practices of neoliberalism. For its part, neoliberalism emphasizes the efforts of the individual, seeks to minimize the role of government, and is particularly critical of efforts to ameliorate systemic social inequalities. The implications for children and childhood have been profound: definitions of children and childhood, enshrined most clearly in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child, now circulate globally. Powerful ideas about proper childhood and child rights are at work, especially in the context of development initiatives and the work of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) such as UNICEF. Children themselves are also in global circulation through migration, displacement, trafficking, and transnational adoption. As media and technologies from cell phones to television have proliferated, children have become objects and agents of a host of images, apps, and practices that are at once geographically and culturally specific and unified across time and space. In relation to children and childhood, thinking about globalization has tended to focus on education, issues of exploitation (particularly with regard to sex work, trafficking, and war), citizenship/rights, and, to some degree, media and technology. This review focuses on works that explicitly are framed around questions of globalization; in addition, because of the importance of media to discussions of globalization, there is attention paid to film and television by or about children and childhood as well.

General Overviews

Because the question of children and globalization tends to be approached from particular issues-based angles, general overviews are few. While not framed explicitly in terms of globalization, the classic and groundbreaking essay Stephens 1995 is a key starting point, addressing the range of questions that define the primary ways in which children figure in globalization processes and concerns. Essays in the UNICEF report (Cornia 2001) provide a wealth of data and outline specific opportunities and areas of concern relevant to that organization. Aitken 2001 provides a critically engaged and theoretically sophisticated analysis of the construction of childhood in the context of globalization. Using a case-study approach, Chin 2004 explores a range of specific dilemmas faced by children when definitions, legal systems, and global processes come together. One of a very few truly comparative studies of children themselves within the frame of globalization, Katz 2004 shows how urban New York City kids and rural Sudanese kids face sometimes similar, and sometimes divergent, pressures as the result of globalization’s changing demands. In an unusual move, Anoop 2003 focuses on forms of white masculinity among youth to show globalization at work in the north of England. Montgomery, et al. 2003 provides an excellent and wide-ranging introduction to key issues, and Wells 2009 is also an excellent introductory text particularly for undergraduates.

  • Aitken, Stuart C. “Global Crises of Childhood: Rights, Justice and the Unchildlike Child.” Area 33.2 (June 1, 2001): 119–127.

    DOI: 10.1111/1475-4762.00015E-mail Citation »

    Proposes the idea that the contemporary crisis of childhood is as much about conceptual definitions as it is about actual conditions. Increasing visibility of children who are engaged in “unchildlike” pursuits—labor or sex work for example—provokes this crisis. Argues that globalization itself demands that both research agendas and theories of children must be reimagined in order to address the real-world problems that exist.

  • Chin, Elizabeth. “Children out of Bounds in Globalising Times.” Journal of Postcolonial Studies 6.3 (2004): 301–325.

    E-mail Citation »

    Examines how discourses of childhood are mobilized in the context of globalization, where states attempt to define individual children as either falling within or outside childhood itself. Case studies include child household workers in Haiti; child trafficking to the United States; and unaccompanied minor refugees. Together, they demonstrate a range of implications for being “out of bounds” culturally, politically, or legally.

  • Cornia, Andrea, ed. Harnessing Globalisation for Children: A Report to UNICEF. Florence: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, 2001.

    E-mail Citation »

    A group of studies assessing basic indicators of child well-being in the context of globalization. Addresses UNICEF priorities of child and maternal health, nutrition, education, security, and economic stability. Here globalization is defined primarily as economic technological migration. Provides recommendations for policy and programs into the future. Provides broad and deep data on benchmarks and change throughout the latter half of the 20th century.

  • Katz, Cindi. Growing Up Global: Economic Restructuring and Children’s Everyday Lives. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004.

    E-mail Citation »

    Unique for providing in-depth, ethnographic accounts of the impact of changing economic and social circumstances in a major urban area (New York City) and a developing one (rural Sudan). Comparative analysis shows how globalization has impacts that are highly specific and highlights the unexpected ways in which people and places are subject to similar pressures and dilemmas.

  • Montgomery, Heather, Rachel Burr, and Martin Woodhead, eds. Changing Childhoods: Local and Global. Chichester, UK: Wiley, 2003.

    E-mail Citation »

    Multidisciplinary and wide-ranging, addresses many key issues related to globalization including soldiering, migration, negotiation of identity. Poverty, health status, and violence are a strong focus. An excellent overall introduction particularly for students or those unfamiliar with the topic.

  • Nayak, Anoop. Race, Place and Globalization: Youth Cultures in a Changing World. New York: Berg, 2003.

    E-mail Citation »

    Unusual for placing whiteness and youth identity in the context of globalization, immigration, and social change. Ethnographically examines youth cultures in the northeast of England, particularly “real Georgies,” “charvers,” “wiggas,” and various other forms of ethnic identity among white working-class youth. Uses social geography and cultural analysis to investigate masculinity, racism and anti-racism, and locality. Accessibly written.

  • Stephens, Sharon. “Children and the Politics of Culture in ‘Late Capitalism.’” In Children and the Politics of Culture. Edited by Sharon Stephens, 3–48. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995.

    E-mail Citation »

    This groundbreaking essay set the agenda for children and childhood studies overall and in particular charted early on the set of concerns that have emerged as central to the investigation of children and globalization. With an emphasis on ethnography, essays in Durham 2008, cited in Anthologies.

  • Wells, Karen. Childhood in a Global Perspective. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2009.

    E-mail Citation »

    Covers a broad range of relevant issues and geographic areas with particular emphasis on children’s rights and the work of humanitarian organizations and NGOs. Accessibly written and an excellent introductory resource for undergraduates.

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