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Towards a History of Children's Rights in the 20th Century: Transnational Approaches

International Symposium  9-10 October 2014  niversity of Angers – UMR CERHIO – FRANCE

During the 20th century, different social groups and institutions mobilized in defence of children's rights. Viewed as an important political issue, childhood became a "cause" whose stakes went far beyond simply protecting children. The emotion aroused by the vulnerability of children exposed to the tragedies of the 20th century led to public opinion campaigns or activist “crusades" claiming to protect children from the vicissitudes of modernity. This led to the gradual development of children's rights, a process that extended to the societies of the South during the latter half of the 20th. Setting national contingencies aside, the goal was to guarantee each child security and education, both deemed necessary to the exercise of free will, the touchstone of liberal societies. 

From the first Declaration of the Rights of the Child in Geneva (1923-1924) to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child 25 years ago (1989), passing by major milestones along the way (1959, 1979), the history of children's rights has not yet been the subject of extensive academic work. As a result, the contemporary global concern for children, plagued by difficulties in concrete application, does not benefit from an analysis of the historical aporias of the constitution of those rights. This symposium aims to explore how mobilization, knowledge, norms and institutions designed to further children's rights were articulated within transnational space. These rights straddle different fields: law and justice, social policy, education and leisure, public health and humanitarian intervention, etc. The symposium plans to examine the social practices and the construction of the sphere of child advocacy. It also aims to reconstitute the historical experience of the actors, in particular the role of the children themselves in constituting their rights by marshaling the concept of citizenship. It will discuss the tension, which troubled the field of child advocay throughout the 20th century, between the demands of risk management for the protection of vulnerable children and the development of the individual rights of minors in the name of political emancipation. 

Two types of presentations are solicited:

1. Paper discussing the primary sources and the corpus available to historians and the process of gaining access to the files necessary for a history of children's rights. The novelty of this historiographical field calls for diversification and the breaking-down of barriers in terms of the status of archive creators (governments, individuals, associations, international organizations), conservation sites and the nature of documents (text, statistics, film, photography, audio). The conditions for accessing documents, especially in terms of digitization and on-line programs, deserve attention.

2. Monographs and case studies, at different levels, presenting advances in knowledge. There is no limit on the themes and questions that might be considered, but the following are of particular interest to the organizers:

· How did different stakeholders mobilize? Did they produce propaganda regarding the moral, social, and political imperatives of protecting and ensuring the well-being of children and youth around the world?

· What were the spillover effects of mobilization in terms of population control and the practices of social groups and individuals?

· Can one consider the consequences of mobilization for the rights of children as both emancipatory and alienating?

· How does the universal dimension of the rights of children accommodate social, racial and gender inequities at the level of communities, nations and the world?

· What were the various roles of stakeholders, especially children and families, in the application of rights?

· Does the enunciation of the rights of children produce new forms of "hierarchies of humanity"?

· How did the enunciation of the rights of children participate in the construction of a new definition of citizenship? To what extent did the issue of citizenship take into consideration the negotiations and conflicts which form around the social norms shaped by children's rights?

Proposals for papers (maximum 400 words, in English or French) should be accompanied by the author's biographical and bibliographical summary and sent to and before May 15th 2014. 

NB: Presenters will not be asked to pay registration fees and the organizers will cover accommodation and meals. Transportation costs and arrangements will, however, be the responsibility of each presenter.

Organizing Committee:

- Yves Denechere, University of Angers, UMR CERHIO

- Joëlle Droux, University of Geneva, ERHISE

- Patrice Marcilloux, University of Angers, UMR CERHIO

- David Niget, University of Angers, UMR CERHIO

- Eric Pierre, University of Angers, UMR CERHIO

- Pascale Quincy-Lefebvre, University of Angers, UMR CERHIO

International Scientific Committee:

- Louise Bienvenue, Professor of Contemporary History, University of Sherbrooke, CHRS (Quebec, Canada)

- Thierry Moreau, Professor of Law, University of Louvain, Interdisciplinary Centre for the Rights of the Child (Belgium)

- Elda Moreno, Head of Department, Gender Equality and Human Dignity, Council of Europe (until 2013)

- Dirk Schumann, Professor of Contemporary History, University of Göttingen (Germany) 

- François de Singly, Professor of Sociology, University of Paris Descartes

- Dominique Youf, Philosopher, Deputy Director of Teaching and Research, l'École Nationale de la Protection Judiciaire de la Jeunesse

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