Where is children and youth studies at the DSA conference?

Category: conferences

1 Jul 2015

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The upcoming 2015 conference of the Development Studies Association (DSA) is announced as ‘a sizzling set of parallel sessions which explore many different aspects of the complexities and contradictions of relationships involved in global development’. Whilst the draft programme indeeds whets the academic appetite the virtual absence of any engagement with children and youth studies is remarkable.

The DSA describes itself as an association that ‘works to connect and promote the development research community in UK and Ireland’. It proudly brands itself as ‘the largest and most coherent national platform for people studying, teaching and researching development issues’. It organises annual conferences, and this year’s conference is themed: ‘Global Development as a Relationship: Dependence, Interdependency or Divide?‘.

One would expect that such a theme would also appeal to researchers working on questions related to children and youth in contexts of development. Since children and youth are so often presented as the targets of development interventions (see HERE), the relational question posed by the conference organisers invites deeper conceptual and theoretical engagement with the various generational dimensions of development as relating to children and youth (but also, say, to older people).

A quick word search of the 138 page list of abstracts suggests the opposite however. The term ‘youth’ yields three hits, and none of the concerning abstracts suggest more than passing reference to youth. The term ‘children’ does somewhat better with 43 hits. Yet, some of it refers to the affiliation of the speakers or an acknowledgement of the funder (e.g. Save the Children) whereas in cases the term ‘children’ features in the abstract it is seldom given given any conceptual status. The key focus is on things such as the role of private education, measuring learning outcomes, and trends in child mortality. This lack of conceptual engagement with children as a generational grouping is also evident from the fact that the term ‘childhood’ appears only four times across all abstracts. A positive exception is a paper by Gina Crivello and Nikki van der Gaag on ‘Adolescent boys and social transitions’ which draws on Young Lives data and, indeed, it is here that the term ‘childhood’ is used (three times).

This quick assessment raises an important question. Children and youth studies might still be dominated by research conducted in the Global North, yet this dominance is increasingly challenged by innovative research conducted in the South, oftentimes in explicit relation to development. In addition, generational issues like youth un(der)employment have featured highly on various development agendas over recent years, and the appearance of new journals in the field (like this one) suggests children and youth studies is a thriving field. So why is it that in spite of all this, there is still so little intellectual engagement between development studies and children and youth studies?

posted by Roy Huijsmans

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Andrew Fischer

July 1st, 2015 at 11:55

Dear Roy, this is not fair to DSA. As you know, the content of conferences is determined by panel and paper submissions – collective self-management, so to speak. So, the reason that CYS does not appear in the conference programme this year is because you or any of your UK-based CYS colleagues did not bother to submit something. Had you and your colleagues submitted something – especially a panel or two – it could have featured quite prominently. So, the absence of CYS in the programme is in fact your responsibility as a member of the development studies community! 😉

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