Accepted paper:

Interrogating childhood and diaspora


Maren Bak (Göteborg University)

Paper short abstract:

Our case study from Sweden unites diaspora research with modern childhood research, illustrating children's participation in diasporic activities, their perception of self and diasporic identity, theoretically assuming a competent child who plays an active role in constructing their childhood.

Paper long abstract:

In recent research in social and cultural studies the concept of Diaspora has opened new ways of understanding migrants and the societies in which they live. However the Swedish theoretical development of the concept as well as the empirical research has overwhelmingly focused on the institutional level of society and on the adult migrant and how adults form or sustain diasporic communities and identities. We wish to unite the cultural diaspora research with the modern childhood research and interrogate children's participation in diasporic activities and networks, children's perception of self and possible diasporic identity, their contribution to diasporic and transnational cultural production based on a theoretical understanding of the competent child, who plays an active role in constructing her/his childhood. The paper is based on a pilot study among 10-12 years old children in a Swedish school where students exclusively have their origin in ethnic groups other than Swedish. There is a wide variety in ethnic background, languages and religion among the children. We conduct group interviews dealing with topics such as the children's concepts of places of home and belonging, their perceptions of self, their activities in creating and sustaining social networks both in physical contact and in cyberspace, their use of language and the significance of different languages in different situations and relations, their thoughts and practices regarding religion and their dreams of future. The aim of the study is to explore, scrutinize and analyze concepts like transnationalism, diaspora and diasporic consciousness in relation to childhood and thereby hopefully give more depth to the interrogation of diaspora as well as contribute to a reformulation of the dominant discourse on the incompetent migrant child towards a discourse on competence. Maren Bak, Department of Social Work, Goteborg University Kerstin von Brömssen, Department of Religious Studies, Goteborg University

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Interrogating diaspora