Reconsidering the new sociology of childhood

Despite its energetic development and high productivity during the last period, the sociology of childhood seems currently to be experiencing a loss of direction. This paper explores this problem, suggesting what its causes may be and pointing to some possible remedies. It is argued that the construction of a sociology of childhood entailed a double task. First, space had to be created for childhood within sociological discourse. Second, the increasing complexity and ambiguity of childhood as a contemporary, destabilised phenomenon had to be confronted. It is argued that, whilst a space for childhood has been created, this was accomplished largely in terms of modernist sociology, a discourse that was increasingly unable to deal adequately with the destabilised world of late modernity. An important aspect of this problem is apparent in the reproduction within the sociology of childhood of the dichotomised oppositions that characterise modernist sociology. Three of these oppositions (agency and structure, nature and culture, being and becoming) are explored. It is suggested that moving the sociology of childhood beyond the grip of such modernist thinking entails developing a strategy for 'including the excluded middle'. Inter alia this may necessitate greater attention to interdisciplinarity, the hybridity of the social world, its networks and mediations, mobility and the relationality of generation.

sociology; childhood; antropology; children

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