CFP – Growing up outside families: independent children’s process of identity

Antropologia Special Issue Call for Articles

Growing up outside families: cultures, religions and politics in independent children’s process of identity

Due Date:
Paper submission (5,000-6,000 excluding footnotes) due January 30, 2017

Publication Date:
October 2017 

Guest Editors:
Giuseppe Bolotta, Post-Doctoral Fellow
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

Silvia Vignato, Associate Professor in Anthropology
Università di Milano-Bicocca, Milano, Italy

Poverty, wars, disasters and socio-economical crises have a deep impact on the way social groups care about their youngest members. A growing number of children who grow up outside a family environment characterizes the youngest and poorest populations of the world. They live in children groups,  institutions,  temporary arrangements or other organizations that alternatively challenge or comfort whatever dominant ideas of ‘family’ and  ‘childhood’ their society offers. We call them “independent” children because of this apparent absence of typical dependence bonds (parental and familiar at large). These children tend to live on the margin of the public sphere and of the major economic, political, and cultural processes. They are often subjected to conditions of structural violence. This study focuses on the formation of identity in independent children and youths. Contributors will provide analyses of the role that specific ideologies play in independent children’s process of identity, paying special attention to the children’s active role in the process. Ideologies might be religious, humanitarian, nationalist, medical or other. We consider three main factors in the process of identity making: how the children’s society thinks children’s proximity and separation; how religion and religious institution conceive of children; and how states, international agencies, and NGOs do. More specifically, we would like to call the contributors’ attention onto a few key issues

Cultures of separation, cultures in separation: ways of structuring affective bonds for independent children

We propose an anthropological perspective on the condition of independence which is focused on the analysis of social practices. We call the contributors’ attention on how the children construct affective bonds in kinship and social contexts which are quite dissimilar from the western bourgeois nuclear family. When the primary care structure differs, the separation from it might also take unexpected turns and be experienced in a variety of ways. How do  independent or displaced children refer to absent, distant or symbolic parents? What is the relevance of the many models of family and of changing social circumstances in the conceptualization of fathers, mothers, brothers, relatives? What are the relevant affective bonds in the children’s actual life? How are these (un)attachments organized in daily practices? Is there an ideology of separation, or cultural ideas about it?

Religion as a resource: how divinities and cults become important references in the identity process of independent children

Because of their living outside a normative family configuration, independent children are often spending a part of their short life in contact, when not within, religious organizations. Various religious charities address them as ‘disadvantaged’ or ‘abnormal children’ in need of support. How do  independent children reinterpret religious elements within their otherwise autonomous peer cultures? How do religious ideas help them to define themselves and to face daily difficulties? Conversely, how do theories of child discomfort based in religious view of the world and the person affect the care that the  institutions offer to these children?

Politics of marginal childhood: states, policy makers, NGOs, and the institutional management of independent children

In many cases institutions of care such as homes or outreach stations, be they State-run, religious or NGO based, are the unique point of reference for independent children. We ask then: which childhood identity and personality model do different aid agencies – local, national and international – try to affirm and why? What is the structure of power relationships embedded in their cooperation or competition? How do children tend to reproduce these power relations (or resist to them) when inserted into paths of religious support and-or fabrication of institutionalized self?

The articles will be rooted in fieldwork and empirical research. Even though anthropology is the editors’ main discipline, other research-based contributions are welcome.

Submission Guidelines and Review Process:
The guest editors in consultation with the Antropologia editors and peer reviewers, make the decisions on which submissions will be included in the special issue. The process is as follows:

  • Initial review of submitted papers by guest editors and Antropologia editorial staff (February 2017)
  • Papers approved by editors will undergo blind peer-review (March-April 2017)
  • Revision of accepted peer-reviewed papers and final submission (April-May 2017)

All correspondences should refer to “Antropologia Independent Children” in the subject line. Please send inquires and manuscripts to Giuseppe Bolotta and Silvia Vignato