China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
This interdisciplinary panel examines new articulations of Chinese childhood as they emerged across the long twentieth century. From the 1920s to the 2000s, we probe the ways in which groups of Chinese reformers, elites, governments and NGOs have attempted to organize, define and represent the interests of “subaltern” children, categorized in terms of poverty, gender, and labor. Conceptions of childhood as both a precious time to be protected and a resource to be deployed for economic and political ends have been reiterated in new social and political settings. This panel will interrogate: How have gender and labor intersected in shifting representations of Chinese childhood? What role have globally circulating ideas about childhood played in their formation? Who gets to define and speak for this group? How do these representations diverge from lived realities?
This panel explores these questions from historical, sociological and media studies perspectives. Margaret Tillman examines how the 1922-1924 Child Labor Commission’s study of factory working conditions was a turning point in how elites conceptualized children in factories. Isabella Jackson explores how reformers changing arguments about why slave girls needed protection in the 1920-30s marked an expansion of childhood as a concept to include girls and poor children. Jennifer Bond examines how Chinese women applied pedagogies of childcare learned at missionary schools to poor children who they educated in the vicinity of their schools in 1920-40s Jiangnan. Stephanie Donald explores how generational ruptures of the 1980-90s have rendered formulations of childhood from the Mao-era meaningless or prescient.