In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Middle East

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Globalization
  • Children’s Rights
  • Child Labor

Childhood Studies Middle East
Heidi Morrison
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 November 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 November 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0103


Childhood Studies of the Middle East is a nascent field of study among scholars. The first scholarship to look at children and youth in the Middle East focused on their depiction in Islamic texts of the medieval era. Children and youth are rarely the primary focus of historical research on the modern era but appear indirectly through ongoing debates about state-building, colonialism, gender, class, and the family. For example, a large body of literature exists on educational reforms in the latter part of the Ottoman Empire. This literature discusses children and youth in the context of state-led initiatives to modernize the population through schools. The early 20th century is a critical moment for children in the Middle East because it is at this point that the state begins to usurp the family in teaching children values and behaviors. Studies on children and youth in contemporary Middle Eastern society generally analyze the challenges and pitfalls faced by international and domestic aid organizations. Scholars tend to show that modernization and the adoption of Western-style welfare systems in the Middle East have not always translated into youngsters’ betterment. The bulk of the Western world’s research on the topic of Childhood Studies relates to contemporary youth activism, spawned in large part by political events such as 911 and the Arab Spring.

General Overviews

There are no comprehensive monographs or textbooks on children and youth in the Middle East. The study of children and youth is a relatively new field, with not enough individual accounts to piece together one large story. There are, however, several edited volumes that attempt to cover a vast array of topics relating to children and youth in the modern and contemporary eras. Fernea 1996 and Fernea 2002 are anthologies of primary sources about growing up. Rooke 1997, a survey of 20th-century Arabic autobiographies of childhood, reveals themes relating to children’s lives. Contemporary youth culture and issues is the subject of Georgeon and Kreiser 2007 and Simonsen 2005. Fargues 2000a and Fargues 2000b look at issues relating to children and youth through changing demographic patterns. Giladi 1992 provides a detailed study of legal, medical, and philosophical conceptions of childhood in the medieval period, while Georgeon and Kreiser 2007 and Meijer 2000 survey topics relating to children and youth in much of the premodern era.

  • Fargues, Philippe. Générations arabes: L’Alchimie du nombre. Paris: Fayard, 2000a.

    This book looks at the changing demography of the Arab world. The current generation is vastly different than the preceding due to a decline in birth rates, increasing migration, growth in schools, and decline of the patriarchal family.

  • Fargues, Philippe. Jeunesse du monde arabe: Défis et opportunités. Paris: La Documentation Française, 2000b.

    This collection of nine articles seeks to understand the impact of demographic changes on Arab society, paying particular attention to the topics of school, youth identity, and family.

  • Fernea, Elizabeth Warnock, ed. Children in the Muslim Middle East. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996.

    This anthology looks at the situation of children in the Middle East, with respect to history, health, education, work, school textbooks, adoption, play, politics, and the arts. The contents take the form of academic essays as well as short stories, games, lullabies, poems, and proverbs. Tradition and change are both part of the children’s experience growing up at the end of the 20th century.

  • Fernea, Elizabeth Warnock, ed. Remembering Childhood in the Middle East: Memoirs from a Century of Change. 1st ed. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002.

    This is a collection of life histories in which men and women recount what it was like growing up in the Middle East from the end of the Ottoman Empire through the post-independence period. There was not a single, distinctive way of raising children in the Middle East. All the authors make clear that changing political and social circumstances impacted their personal lives.

  • Georgeon, François, and Klaus Kreiser, eds. Enfance et jeunesse dans le monde Musulman. Paris: Maisonneuve & Larose, 2007.

    This edited volume looks at the place of children and youth in the Muslim world from the days of the Prophet until today. Most of the chapters focus on the premodern era. In looking at everything from traditional Islamic texts to modern literature, the articles address such topics as Qurʾanic concepts of childhood, the education of girls in medieval Muslim society, and Ottoman reactions to early death. (Title translation: Childhood and Youth in the Muslim world.)

  • Giladi, Avner. Children of Islam: Concepts of Childhood in Medieval Muslim Society. Houndmills, UK: Macmillan, 1992.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230378476

    This book deals with childhood in medieval Islamic society, specifically legal, philosophical, ethical, medical, and theological conceptions of children. Topics covered include child rearing, child education, and child mortality.

  • Meijer, Roel, ed. Alienation or Integration of Arab Youth: Between Family, State and Street. Richmond, UK: Curzon, 2000.

    This collection of essays looks at the impact of the state, the family, and the street on Arab youth identity since the 1960s. Youth have become estranged from the state that has moved toward dismantling the welfare systems set up after independence. As a result of these developments, the identities of the youth and the traditional role of the family are in constant flux.

  • Rooke, Tetz. In My Childhood: A Study of Arabic Autobiography. Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis 15. Stockholm: Stockholm University, 1997.

    This dissertation looks at twenty Arabic autobiographies of childhood published from 1929–1983. Childhood autobiography is a distinct genre in modern Arabic literature, with a tradition of its own. There are three reoccurring themes in this genre: the eternal imprint of the birthplace, escape from poverty, and rebellion against the family.

  • Simonsen, Jørgen Bæk, ed. Youth and Youth Culture in the Contemporary Middle East. Proceedings of the Danish Institute in Damascus 3. Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University Press, 2005.

    This edited volume looks at the evolution of and changes in cultures of youth in the 20th-century Middle East. Countries examined include Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, and Morocco. Topics covered include adolescence, leisure activities, Sufism, and dating culture.

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