The dominant theoretical perspective on children in postcolonial Africa is tied to the crises of the state arising from the disenchantments of modernity on the continent. For instance, in Makers and Breakers, edited by Alcinda Honwana and Filip De Boeck, we encounter children, together with youths, rendered as vulnerable populations with precarious identities produced by sociopolitical conditions and economic processes. However, like several chapters in the volume, much of the analytical frames on the African child obfuscate the agential and transformative possibilities inherent in the narrative of children in Africa. This panel addresses this subject, exploring the image of children in African cultural productions, with a focus on the questions of agency, childhood and, and the politics of representations in literature, popular culture and other symbolic forms of representations on the continent. In examining the portraits of children in varied literary forms, the papers in this panel interrogate the notion of childhood and the prevalent understanding of children as passive receivers of adults’ acts and experiences. The panel gestures toward a new way of making sense of children’s agency, a conceptualization that privileges not only the capacity of children to shape society as they are shaped by it, but also the significance of their voice in narratives of mass atrocities and other forms of social and political instability. The underlining contention of this panel, as the papers suggest, is that while childhood may not be so easily graspable, representing children’s agency is even more unamenable to easy plotting. We invite papers that underscore the significance of studying the ways in which children make sense of and portray their experiences in adult spaces and how they are in turn represented in different cultural and literary constructions in Africa.
Proposals consisting of a title and an abstract (maximum 200 words) should be submitted to James Yeku (jyeku[at]ku.edu) or Ademola Adesola (adesolaa[at]myumanitoba.ca) by Friday, 6 March, 2020. Participants are expected to pre-register for the African Studies Association Annual Meeting by March 15, 2020.