The Childism Institute is dedicated to challenging children’s historical marginalization by transforming scholarly, social, and political structures and norms.
Childism can be understood as like feminism but for children. It has emerged in the academic literature as a term to describe efforts to respond to the lived experiences of the third of humanity who are children through the radical systemic critique of scholarly, social, and political norms. Beyond including children and young people as active social participants, childism also challenges and transforms the historically ingrained adult-centered assumptions that underlie children’s systemic exclusion in the first place. It functions analogously to terms like feminism, womanism, postgenderism, postcolonialism, decolonialism, environmentalism, and transhumanism. As such, it provides a needed critical lens for deconstructing adultism and patriarchalism and reconstructing age-inclusive research and advocacy.
The concept of childism initially grew out of the interdisciplinary field of childhood studies, but has also crossed over into diverse humanities and social science fields. The term itself has been in use since around 2006 (Wall 2006, 2019) (though different uses of the word also existed earlier [Hunt 1991] and later [Young-Bruehl 2011]). In the humanities, childism in this sense has informed fresh approaches to ethical theory and practice (Rubio 2010, Wall 2010), human rights and social justice (Elkins 2013, Ott 2019), poststructuralist literary studies (Wadsworth 2017), and biblical studies (Parker 2017). In the social sciences, it has been applied in girlhood studies (Mandrona 2016), education (Franck 2017, Warming 2011a), children’s political citizenship (Sundhall 2017, Wall 2008, 2014, 2016), and climate studies (Biswas 2019). In these and other ways, researchers have started to examine children’s lived experiences, not only as important in their own right, but also as raising fundamental questions about larger social systems.
The Childism Institute also builds on similar work coming out of childhood studies such as “childprism research” by Hanne Warming (2011b, 2016a, 2016b, 2018, 2019), the “child as method” approach of Erica Burman (2012 and 2018). It also shares much with other childhood studies concepts such as “generation” in Berry Mayall (2002) and Leena Alanan (2011 and 2016), and work by Spyros Spyrou (2018), Zsuzsanna Millei (2014-15), Laura Gilliam and Eva Gulløv (2017), Niklas Chimirri (2014), Katherine Vitus (2010), and others.
The Childism Institute aims to stimulate childist research across the academy, test and evolve the concept of childism, and inform childist social and political justice activism. It does so by developing a range of projects including colloquia, workshops, conferences, speakers, collaborative publications, opinion pieces, special issues of journals, edited volumes, and books. It includes children and youth as appropriate in these initiatives. In addition, it formulates 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. These cross-currents of theory development, empirical investigation, and practical engagement enrich one another. In this way, the Childism Institute strives to develop an ongoing generative conversation about childism that organically evolves new ideas and perspectives over time.
John Wall (Director), Rutgers University
Sarada Balagopalan, Rutgers University
Tanu Biswas, University of Bayreuth
Erica Burman, University of Manchester
Kate Cairns, Rutgers University
Dan Cook, Rutgers University
Jonathan Josefsson, Linköping University
Bengt Sandin, Linköping University
Lauren Silver, Rutgers University
Anna Sparrman, University of Stockholm
Hanne Warming, Roskilde University
“Childism and Ethics” blog post, June 2020
Not from the project, but: nice song by Kian called “Childism”
For more information, please contact the Childism Institute’s Director, John Wall, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
References and Further Reading
Alanen, Leena. 2011. “Critical Childhood Studies?” Childhood 18(2):147-50.
Alanen, Leena. 2016. “‘Intersectionality’ and Other Challenges to Theorizing Childhood.” Childhood 23(2):157-61.
Biswas, Tanu, 2019. Little Things Matter Much – Childist Ideas for the Pedagogy of Philosophy in an Overheated World. Ph.D Dissertation, University of Bayreuth, Münich.
Burman, Erica. 2012. ‘Deconstructing neoliberal childhood’: towards a feminist antipsychological approach. Childhood: a global journal of child research, 19, 4: 423-438.
Burman, Erica. 2018. Child as method: anticolonial implications for educational research, International Studies in the Sociology of Education.
Chimirri, N. A. 2014. Investigating media artifacts with children: Conceptualizing a collaborative exploration of the sociomaterial conduct of everyday life. Roskilde: Roskilde Universitet.
Elkins, Kathleen Gallagher. 2013. “Biblical Studies and Childhood Studies: A Fertile, Interdisciplinary Space for Feminists.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 29(2):146-53.
Franck, Olof. 2017. “Highlighting Ethics, Subjectivity and Democratic Participation in Sustainabiltity Education: Challenges and Contributions.” In Ethical Literacies and Education for Sustainable Development: Young People, Subjectivity and Democratic Participation, edited by Olof Franck and Christina Osbeck, 1-17. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Gilliam, L. & E. Gulløv. 2017. Children of the Welfare State. Civilising Practices in Schools, Childcare and Families. London: Pluto Press (Anthropology, Culture & Society).
Josefsson, Jonathan. 2017. “We beg you, let them stay”, Childhood 24. No 3:316-332.
Josefsson, Jonathan, and John Wall. 2020. “Empowered Inclusion: Theorizing Global Justice for Children and Youth,” Globalizations, 2020:1-19. DOI: 10.1080/14747731.2020.1736853.
Mandrona, April. 2016. “Ethical Practice and the Study of Girlhood.” Girlhood Studies 9(3):3-19.
Mayall, Berry. 2002. Towards a Sociology for Childhood. Philadelphia, PA: Open University Press.
Millei, Z. 2014-5. The cultural politics of ‘childhood’ and ‘nation’: space, mobility and a global world. Global Studies of Childhood. 4(3) Part. 1. & 5(1) Part 2.
Newstead, Shelly. 2016. De-constructing and Reconstructing the unorthodox recipe of playwork. Doctoral Thesis, Human Development and Psychology, London, Institute of Education, University College London.
Ott, Kate. 2019. “Taking Children’s Moral Lives Seriously: Creativity as Ethical Response Offline and Online.” Religions 10, pp. 525-37.
Parker, Julie Faith. 2017. Valuable and Vulnerable: Children in the Hebrew Bible, especially the Elisha Cycle. Providence, RI: Brown Judaic Studies.
Rubio, Julie Hanlon. 2010. Family Ethics: Practices for Christians. Lanham, MD: Georgetown University Press.
Spyrou, Spyros. 2018. Disclosing Childhoods: Research and Knowledge Production for a Critical Childhood Studies. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Sundhall, Jeanette. 2017. “A Political Space for Children? The Age Order and Children’s Right to Participation.” Social Inclusion 5(3):164-171.
Vitus, Kathrine. 2010. Waiting Time: the de-subjectification of children in Danish asylum centres. Childhood – A global journal of child research, vol.17(1): 26-42.
Wadsworth, Sarah. 2015. “The Year of the Child: Children’s Literature, Childhood Studies, and the Turn to Childism.” American Literary History 27(2):331-341.
Wall, John. 2006. “Childhood Studies, Hermeneutics, and Theological Ethics,” Journal of Religion 86.4, pp. 523-548.
Wall, John. 2008. “Human Rights in Light of Childhood,” International Journal of Children’s Rights 16.4, pp. 523-543.
Wall, John. 2010. Ethics in Light of Childhood (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press).
Wall, John. 2014. “Why Children and Youth Should Have the Right to Vote: An Argument for Proxy-Claim Suffrage,” Children, Youth and Environments, Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 108-123.
Wall, John. 2016. Children’s Rights: Today’s Global Challenge (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers).
Wall, John. 2019. “From Childhood Studies to Childism: Reconstructing the Scholarly and Social Imaginations,” Children’s Geographies, 17(6):1-15, special issue edited by Hanne Warming on Society and Social Changes through the Prism of Childhood.
Warming, Hanne. 2011a. “Inclusive Discourses in Early Childhood Education,” International Journal of Inclusive Education 15(2):233-47.
Warming, Hanne. 2011b. “Getting under their skins? Accessing young children’s perspectives through ethnographic fieldwork”. Childhood 18 (1): 39-53.
Warming, Hanne. 2016b. Reconceptualising Agency and Childhood: New perspectives in Childhood Studies. Esser, F., Baader, M. S., Betz, T. & Hungerland, B. (eds.). London & New York: Routledge, p. 119-132 14 p. (Routledge Research in Education; No. 161).
Warming,Hanne. 2018. Children’s Citizenship in Globalised Societies Warming, H., 2018, Theorising Childhood: Citizenship, Rights and Participation. Baraldi, C. & Cockburn, T. (eds.). Palgrave Macmillan, p. 29-52 24 p. (Studies in Childhood and Youth).
Warming, Hanne. 2019. “Society, social changes and sociological theory seen through a ‘childhood prism’” Children’s Geographies, forthcoming.