Theorising children’s participation: Learning across countries and disciplines

In April 2009, the Children’s Institute hosted scholars from India, Brazil and the UK in the first of three collaborative and multi-disciplinary meetings as part of an academic network funded by the UK-based Leverhulme Trust. The aim of the academic network is to deepen theoretical approaches to the concept of children’s participation, which has become increasingly prominent in the policy and practice of governments and non-governmental organisations over the last decade.

A 10-day programme kicked off with an intensive academic seminar attended by members of the international network and South African scholars working in the field of children’s studies, as well as scholars from other disciplines who have theorised approaches to participation. Contributions and discussion focused on, amongst others, notions of citizenship, and democracy; the ways in which the social construction of childhood, gender, identity and civic legitimacy play into broadly held ideas and discourses of participation; and the influences of particular historical trajectories, cultural values, patriarchy, and class.

The programme also involved some innovative work with children in partnership with the Children’s Resource Centre to address the reflexive problems of current theorisations, which have not fully involved children in thinking critically about what their own participation means.



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© 2009 Children’s Institute, University of Cape Town