"Is History from below by necessity a critical approach?” – a reflection on critical thinking in the history of childhood and youth

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"Is History from below by necessity a critical approach?” – a reflection on critical thinking in the history of childhood and youth

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Publication Conference Paper, other
Title "Is History from below by necessity a critical approach?” – a reflection on critical thinking in the history of childhood and youth
Author(s) Widén, Pär
Date 2011
English abstract
The writing of history of children and youth is an academic practice situated in time and space. Consequently this enterprise needs self-critical reflection over the presuppositions it is embedded in. As an historical discipline it was established within a modern ideological framework of writing history from below. This research interest grew out of a will to explore alternative perspectives questioning former hegemonic “whig interpretations” in which the kings and nobles of society was placed in the center of history as movers and shapers. Being an historical object of study was formerly considered a privilege of the elite and being portrayed, documented and glorified in historical chronicles was not part of anybody’s life experience. Michel Foucault interpreted this reversal of focus in history writing - turning from the power figures like monarchs, heroes and heroines, and their importance to historical change - towards women, children and minorities - an effect of changes in power relations of modern societies. I consider this to be a crucial and critical contribution to the understanding of power and government in the writing and use of history. With this focus on ‘regular’ people and their everyday lives Foucault identified a reversal in what was deemed to be of historical interest. His approach was thereby to look to the other end of the power relations of society. Instead of studying who was ‘in power’ by standing in the historical focus, Foucault asked questions about who, what and how this focus on everybody and their everyday lives was effected. Within such a foucauldian frame of thought on what effects the study objects of the historical discipline, we need to ask ourselves: what effects our academic ‘gaze’ at the historical objects on children and youth? What kind of historical focus or ‘gaze’ are we promoting in our studies of childhood and youth? How are we taking a critical stance towards these presuppositions in which our academic interests and venues are being shaped? What power relations are encapsulated in shaping our notions of modern childhood and youth? What aspects and ideals of modern power relations are we promoting with our history writing, and what aspects are we overshadowing?
Language eng (iso)
Subject(s) Foucault, history of youth, criticism, history from below
Humanities/Social Sciences
Research Subject Categories::HUMANITIES and RELIGION
Note “The State of Children. Politics and Policies of Childhood in Global Perspective”, Sixth Biennial Conference of Society for the History of Children and Youth Columbia University, New York, June 23-25 2011
Handle http://hdl.handle.net/2043/14528 (link to this page)

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