Childhood and Governance

Robbie Duschinsky

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Childhood innocence is understood to connote something essential and timeless, a state of natural purity before adult projects and adult burdens. As a result, childhood innocence seems to be independent of sectional interests. Yet researchers have shown that such representations of timelessness and naturalness have a historical trajectory rather than standing as universal associations of childhood (e.g. Zelizer 1985; Kincaid 1992; Higonnet 1998). Two new texts, working at the juncture between history and social theory, have contributed significant further insights to understanding the trajectory and usage of innocence discourses. Joanne Faulkner'sThe Importance of Being Innocent (2010) and Danielle Egan and Gail Hawkes (2010) Theorizing the Sexual Child set out to examine how contemporary innocence discourses were formed and what their consequences have been. I will suggest that these texts make a significant contribution in their treatment of the way this theme has been deployed, from the nineteenth century to today, to operate and occlude power-relations. Synthesising the arguments of the two texts it will be concluded that, rather than a natural essence associated with every child, or a symbolic expression of a stable social order, innocence discourses can best be conceptualised as strategic discourses. They divide our messy social world into acceptable and unacceptable forms of subjectivity, vis-à-vis innocence as a qualitatively homogenous and originary essence.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)235-244
    JournalJournal of Historical Sociology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2011


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