CFP: Children as objects of humanitarian intervention

We seek participants for a session we are organizing for the AAA NGO and Nonprofit Interest Group conference “NGO-graphies” 17-18 November 2015 — just ahead of the AAA Annual Meeting — in Denver.

More info here: 

Session title:
Children as objects of humanitarian intervention: NGO industrialization and commodification of disadvantaged childhoods

Session organizers:
Kristen Cheney, International Institute of Social Studies (Children & Youth Studies)
Aviva Sinervo, San Francisco State University (Anthropology)

Theme Definition:
Within days of the April 25th Nepal earthquake, local and international child-focused NGOs were soliciting assistance for children in need, often focusing on children left orphaned by the earthquake. Though similar actions taken after the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti increased child trafficking and led to unnecessary institutionalization, NGOs continue to reify categories of “children in need” in order to raise funds for assistance – often endangering the very children they intend to help.

Humanitarian discourse and practice provide a good frame to examine how entire transnational charitable industries create and mobilize categorizations of disadvantaged childhoods to direct global resource flows. Yet this inquiry into the objectification of childhood must also consider the experiences of children themselves as they respond to, reject, embrace, or work within NGO narratives of their lives. This session will reflect on how NGOs’ targeting of children (re)creates particular types of vulnerable child identities and even creates demand for ‘savable’ children – perpetuating the need for services that cater to them. The consequences of such processes will be analyzed with regard to their effects on child recipients.

Panelists will internally circulate short papers in advance according to critical questions of common interest from the session chairs. This will facilitate engagement amongst the panelists prior to the meeting (collaborative response). The session will also be flipped such that during the session each panelist will present a brief 5-10 minute overview of their paper, and then audience members will be invited to engage in a moderated discussion of the emergent themes in the papers.

Prospective Participants:
We seek participants covering a range of commodified ‘disadvantaged childhoods’ in a variety of geographical areas. If you are interested in participating, please send an email to and by Wednesday 13 May identifying the ‘disadvantaged childhood’ category and geographic region you would like to discuss. Please provide a few lines on how your research addresses the theme definition above and how you would present that research within the given structure/format (max 200 words).