Critiques and Challenges

Outside of academia, the children’s rights movement has, as yet, had only limited success. The global position of children remains poor, with significant numbers of children lacking a basic education, clean water, or food. The UN Convention has been criticized for trying to impose a global vision of childhood which fails to adequately recognize cultural differences or varying needs.

Moreover many individual countries have been criticized for failing to implement the UN Convention. Therefore, at both the local and global level, children still have little political or economic power and continue to form the world’s largest minority, disenfranchised group. Academically, children’s geographies are challenged by recent critiques that call into question the utility of the main precepts of the new social studies of childhood. As children’s geographers have become interested in emotions and embodiment, the focus on childhood as a social construct limits the possibilities for research. Increasingly, geographers need to understand childhood as ‘both’ a social ‘and’ a biological phenomenon. Likewise the emphasis on children as social actors, which tends to incorporate an understanding of children as individual human subjects, acting knowingly upon the world, is challenged by research that adopts a more relational view of children, and stresses the ways in which they are ‘subjectified’. This is not to suggest that we need to return to a study of children as ‘human becomings’, as merely future adults, but to recognize that all human subjects are in a constant process of becoming, through their relationships with others and with the world. In line with these critiques, novel research into children’s lives has begun to engage with nonrepresentational theory, and also to explore new ways of understanding children’s lives that move away from a focus on enabling children to participate in research by describing the world from their own perspectives.