John Wall is Professor of Philosophy, Religion, and Childhood Studies, as well as Director of the Childism Institute, at Rutgers University Camden. He is a theoretical ethicist who has written or edited nine books and dozens of articles in political philosophy, post-structuralism, the philosophy of religion, and children’s rights. He is best known for developing the concept of childism, or the normative empowerment of children, as well as his advocacy for ageless suffrage.
My latest book is Give Children the Vote: On Democratizing Democracy (Bloomsbury 2022). It argues that denying children the vote in democratic societies is both unjust and counterproductive. Using political philosophy, history, and childhood studies, it responds to the major objections made to children’s suffrage and shows why ageless enfranchisement is in reality both important for democracy and beneficial for both children and societies. It also makes the childist case that, just as with other enfranchised groups over history, children’s suffrage would lead to stronger democratic norms and structures.
I am co-editor with Sarada Balagopalan and Karen Wells of The Bloomsbury Handbook of Theories in Childhood Studies (Bloomsbury 2023, forthcoming), a 26-chapter volume by leading global experts that advances cutting-edge theoretical work in the field of childhood studies.
I am also editor of Exploring Children’s Suffrage: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Ageless Voting (Palgrave Macmillan 2023), a multidisciplinary study of ageless enfranchisement by leading political scientists, philosophers, sociologists, historians, economists, medical researchers, legal scholars, and others. And I am co-editor with Tanu Biswas of a forthcoming five-article special issue of the journal Children & Society (2023) on the theme of “Childism.”
My current book project is titled Transsensus and explores the connection between politics and aesthetics. I am working on a novel titled The Art of Being.
Since 2019, I have been the founding director of the Childism Institute, which is a global collaboration dedicated to challenging children’s historical marginalization by transforming scholarly, social, and political structures and norms. In this capacity, I lead a team of 12 advisory board members in the organization of colloquia, workshops, conferences, speakers, collaborative publications, opinion pieces, special issues of journals, edited volumes, and books, as well as developing workshops and consultations for local, national, and international organizations run by both adults and children to understand how childism could inform – and be informed by – their work.
Since 2020 I have been co-founding director with activist Robin Chen of the Children’s Voting Colloquium, an international consortium of scholars and activists working to eliminate voting ages at the local, national, and global levels. This organization has been instrumental in connecting researchers and activists across many countries and backgrounds to build the groundwork for stronger democratic futures.
My previous books include Children’s Rights: Today’s Global Challenge (Rowman & Littlefield 2016), an argument that children’s rights are the major human rights challenge of the twenty-first century; Ethics in Light of Childhood (Georgetown 2010), where I develop the concept of “childism” or empowering children’s experiences to transform social norms; and Moral Creativity (Oxford 2005), a post-structuralist interpretation of moral being as poetic.
I am in addition co-editor of Children and Armed Conflict (Palgrave 2011); Marriage, Health, and the Professions (Eerdmans 2002); and Paul Ricoeur and Contemporary Moral Thought (Routledge 2002; paperback 2016).
In 2006, I helped to create North America’s first doctoral program in Childhood Studies, and from 2010 to 2012 chaired the Childhood Studies and Religion Group at the American Academy of Religion. I was for 12 years chair of Rutgers Camden’s Department of Philosophy and Religion. In Fall 2016, I served as Acting Associate Dean of the Rutgers University Camden Faculty of Arts and Sciences Graduate School and Research. I have chaired or read for numerous dissertations and serve on several scholarly journal editorial boards.
I am regularly interviewed in the media on issues of children’s rights and political philosophy, including for BBC Radio 4, Swedish Public Radio, and other radio shows, for the Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, and other newspapers, and for numerous podcasts and blogs worldwide. Some of this media can be found on the websites of the Childism Institute and the Children’s Voting Colloquium.
I received a Ph.D. in Religious Ethics from the University of Chicago in 1999. I have taught at Rutgers University Camden since 2000, including courses in Children’s Rights, Evil, Biomedical Ethics, Religion and Culture, Introduction to the Bible, and Philosophical and Religious Perspectives on Childhood.
I was awarded a 2006 Board of Trustees Research Fellowship for Scholarly Excellence and a 2005 Provost’s Award for Teaching Excellence.
I live in Philadelphia in the US with my family and grew up in the United Kingdom.