Jo Moran-Ellis: "The Significance of Scope and Scale in Children’s Agency and Social Actorship: from fantasy action to everyday life" – organized by the Doctoral School of Sociology at ELTE
Adventure books written for children commonly feature children themselves as not only adventurous but as solvers of puzzles, righters of wrongs, and holders of special insight. Overcoming many obstacles, not least those presented by adults and the ‘adult world’, the child characters are clearly agentic. In the UK, one such series of books has proved enduringly popular: The ‘Famous Five’ series by Enid Blyton.
From the point of view of adults, librarians, and educational experts, these books have been condemned as being weak in terms of story lines, predictable and therefore stifling of imagination, and told in simplistic language marked by poor grammar! Nonetheless, the books have remained loved by generations of children, not least for the spaces they open up to imagine being powerful, clever, and moral in the special universe of school holidays. As a fervent reader in my own childhood, they offered me a fantasy of action outside the control of concerned parents.
Returning to them now as a sociologist of childhood I take them up as a field from which we can look at how to progress the theoretical and empirical thinking about children’s agency which established, and continues largely to define, the ‘new’ social studies of childhood. Responding to recent critiques of the premises on which analyses of children’s agency have been based over the last 25 years, I argue that examining questions of agency in childhood is still a core element for understanding the form, content and nature of children’s lives, their experiences, relationships and structural positions but that this must be linked to sharper analyses of the relevance of capacity to act as reflected in the scope to be agentic and the scale of that agency – and that such analyses are relevant for all human and social orderings. I use the fantasy of action in the Famous Five books and recent research on children’s experiences of a flood disaster to show the value of thinking in a more nuanced way about agency in social analyses of children’s lives.
Professor Jo Moran-Ellis is the Professor of Sociology at the Department of Sociology, University of Sussex, Brighton, U.K. http://www.sussex.ac.uk/profiles/342839
Date & time: 3rd April, 18:30
Venue: ELTE Faculty of Social Sciences, 1/A Pázmány Péter sétány, Budapest, H-1117, room Nr 0.100C (Kari Tanácsterem)