W052
Childhood between kinship and the state: changing practices and ideologies of care

Convenors:
Tatjana Thelen (University of Vienna)
Haldis Haukanes (University of Bergen)
Location:
Queens Robertson
Start time:
20 September, 2006 at 15:00
Session slots:
3

Short abstract:

The workshop will examine recent (often contradictory) shifts in ideologies and practices of childcare between kinship and the state, exploring the theme in a wide range of geographical settings.

Long abstract:

Childcare in human societies is arranged in multifarious ways across the globe. Everywhere, however, close family members have some primary caring obligations. But with the expansion of the modern state childcare has increasingly also come to be regulated by legal prescriptions and norms. The state defines parental caring duties, and assumes new responsibilities itself. Governments have developed diverse measures to support the upbringing of children, such as public childcare facilities, tax deductions and direct payments for families. Recently neo-liberal callings for a retreat of the welfare state are working to reallocate childcare responsibilities again, with diverse consequences in different local settings. <br/>Actual perceptions and practices of childcare are shaped both by such long-term processes and legal-institutional frameworks and by more acute developments. In many countries epidemics like HIV/AIDS, natural disasters and war have destabilised the ability of families to fulfil their childcare roles. This often pushes states and NGOs to take on an increased share of caring responsibilities. In situations of rapid change, contradictions both within and between ideologies and practices become particularly visible. In many post-socialist countries, for example, caring practices are to some extent rearranged according to new conservative discourses that strongly identify women with caring obligations. Nevertheless, references to socialist gender practices and ideologies persist. Similarly contradicting are discourses in western societies: children are often presumed to be at risk because of a perceived erosion of kinship ties, yet an increased mobility of the labour force is promoted, which challenges kinship-based support. <br/>In this workshop we invite contributors to examine shifts in ideologies and practices of childcare between kinship and the state. We encourage ethnographically based papers exploring the theme in a wide range of geographical settings.