African Childhood in Transition

African Childhood in Transition. Saturday, 26 April 2008 10.30am – 5.30pm, followed by a drinks reception. British Academy, 10 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1

Dr Nici Nelson, Goldsmiths, University of London. Dr Deborah Janes, London School of Economics

Nicolas Argenti, Brunel University, Jo Berry, World Bank, Olawale Ismail, University of Bradford, Jenny Kuper, London School of Economics, Jean La Fontaine, London School of Economics, Murray Last, University College London, Ruth Payne, Street Child Africa and Royal Holloway, David Pratten, Univeristy of Oxford, Helen Poulsen, Institute of Education, Charles Ukeje, University of Oxford

In the turbulent changes experienced by African societies in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, it is children who have perhaps been most profoundly affected. Political and military upheavals, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, economic down-turns and the resulting large-scale movement of migrants have all had considerable impact on the youth of the continent. This workshop intends critically to examine the roles played by children during these changes. The organisers and speakers take the position that children have not been passive victims of these changes but have themselves often been active agents in transforming their societies. They also maintain that many of the negative portrayals in the British media, which represent children as objects or even subjects of occult forces, are misleading. The workshop, which presents perspectives from the non-governmental and policy sectors alongside those of academic researchers, aims to challenge some of these stereotypes.

The morning session, chaired by Murray Last from UCL, examines the transitions in the meanings and values which different cultures have ascribed to children or their activities. Youth gangs in West Africa are discussed by David Pratten of Oxford, who analyses the socio-economic and political motivations which result in the formation of these gangs and which mould their activities. The phenomenon of child witchcraft beliefs and practices – which have also had an impact here in the African diaspora – is explored by Jean La Fontaine of the London School of Economics. The role of education in changing the ways in which girls are positioned by the state & international agencies within communities, and the way girls see themselves in this process, is the topic of the talk by Helen Poulsen of the Institute of Education. The afternoon session will look at the active courage and initiative of child actors in making transitions to adulthood in new and different ways. Orphaned or abandoned children in Zambia, argues Ruth Payne of Street Child Africa and Royal Holloway, become heads of households, taking on what formerly would have been defined as ‘adult’ responsibility for siblings oryounger companions. A joint presentation by Charles Ukege (of Oxford ) and Olawale Ismail (of Bradford) will discuss children who enter the adult domain of politics, from which they previously would have been excluded, becoming political activists. Finally, a speaker (to be announced) will explore the topic of child soldiers The workshop will close with a plenary discussion in which Nicolas Argenti of Brunel will give a brief overview of the themes and critical ideas from the previous papers. The aim is to create an agenda for questions and discussions involving all the participants and the audience.

Visit our website for a programme and to book on-line
Telephone enquiries: 020 7969 5238 / Email: externalrelations@ uk

For media enquiries please contact Michael Reade, External Relations, 020 7969 5263 / m.reade@britac. 
The British Academy
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