CFP for AAA 2015: The politics of deviance among children and youth

Call for Papers: American Anthropological Association Meetings
Denver, CO, USA November 18-22nd 2015

Session: “Breaking the rules?” The politics of deviance among children and youth

Organizers: Laura Sikstrom, Sarah Gould and Lauren Classen, University of Toronto

Discussant: Deborah Durham

Children and youth have been represented in both popular and scholarly discourse as being in crisis. Both victims and harbingers of violence and disorder, they emerge variably as “in danger” and “dangerous” (Brooks 2003: 3) and are frequently cast as disruptive, violent and deviant (Cheney 2007; Cohen 1972). Yet, our research with children and youth reveals that they are ‘breaking the rules’ in creative and often unexpected ways. This panel explores the slipperiness between deviance and agency (Bordonaro 2012) as children and youth respond to recent social and political changes in their lives, navigating shifting social norms and moral boundaries.

There is a tension between longstanding ideas about the need to protect or “save” children and youth, and the current agency-centred paradigm of childhood studies (Amith-Talai and Wulff 1995; Cole and Durham 2008; Honwana and DeBoeck 2008). Many scholars seek to describe children and youth as cultural agents and dynamic contributors to social life (Durham 2008), while in the contexts of our work these same forms of agency are stigmatised as deviant (Kovats-Bernat 2006). Many interventions tend to downplay children and youth’s agency, reflexivity and capacity for resistance, preferring to deal with them as mere victims (Valentin and Meinert 2009) or seek to correct “deviant” behavior. Thus, in this panel we ask, how do young people navigate these contradictions and what are the consequences for themselves, their families, communities and wider society? We consider how human rights campaigns, shifts in livelihood strategies, migration, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and neoliberal policies affect agency/deviancy in different ethnographic contexts.

Please send a title and abstract to [email protected] by Monday, April 13.