Another interesting looking article that caught my eye is one that adopts Foucault’s concept of ‘heterotopias’ to analyse the construction of childhood.

The author, Sara McNamee, introduces her thoughts in this way: “Jenks (1996) has argued that childhood is constructed as ‘different’ from adulthood, and I would argue that such a construction allows the boundaries around childhood to be policed and controlled. Simmel’s work on space, Lechner (1991: 198) informs us, allows us to see the way that ‘bounded space makes any social order more concrete and intensely experienced. But spatial ordering not only reinforces social order, it also lends greater clarity to conflictual relations.’ This article discusses some of the boundaries (especially spatial and gendered boundaries) around childhood and the ways in which a focus on children’s leisure allows us to see the strategies of escape from and resistance to control which children employ in their everyday social lives.” (p.479)

Other interesting points she makes include:

“Just as McRobbie and Garber (1976) pointed out that youth studies were actually studies of young men, so it is that ‘childhood’ studies conceal the ways in which gender operates to shape the differential experience of childhood for girls and boys. While listening to children’s voices, and taking children as competent social actors is an important first step in claiming a conceptual space for childhood, it often tends to assume (even where the analysts disclaim it) that ‘children’ are a homogeneous group. In effect, just as the early youth studies ‘missed’ young women, the early childhood studies are also ‘missing’ gender out of the analysis.” (p.480)

“This article […] begins from a position quite opposite to that adopted by Postman. Postman (1983) has argued that childhood is disappearing, and that the dividing line between childhood and adulthood is being eroded because of the accessibility of television and other leisure technologies. He takes the pessimistic view that childhood is on a ‘journey to oblivion’ (Postman, 1983: 149) mainly because there is nothing left to conceal from children, no ‘mysteries’ for adults to reveal when adults think proper. The adult world is available to them through television at any time:

The new media environment that is emerging provides everyone, simultaneously, with the same information . . . electronic media finds it impossible to withhold any secrets. Without secrets, of course, there can be no such thing as childhood. (Postman, 1983: 80)

What in fact Postman means is that without adult control, there can be no such thing as childhood. This argument is erroneous. Far from disappearing, the category of ‘childhood’ is instead increasing, both in its boundaries and dimensions.” (p.482)

“I suggest,” writes Sara McNamee, “that the playing of video games by children can be seen as a strategy for contesting spatial boundaries, arguing that a video game is a kind of heterotopy – it can be seen as a place without a place, where on a 2D screen (or monitor) a (sometimes) 3D unreal, inverted and mythical space is there for the player to control and contest. This article shows that while heterotopias exist for girls and boys, they exist in different spaces and through different leisure activities.” (p.484)

Ref: Sara McNamee (2000?) FOUCAULT’S HETEROTOPIA AND CHILDREN’S EVERYDAY LIVES Childhood Vol. 7(4): 479–492


About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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