Come hear the SARI’s own Annie McCarthy discuss her the results of her PHD research.
Marginalised children globally, categorised as range of problems: street children, child brides, slum children, child soldiers, child refugee etc., are some of the most powerful triggers used to spur ethical action and charity in the West today. My study, based on field work among children who live in slums in Delhi, India, seeks to look behind these morally compelling but ‘thin’ representations of marginalised childhoods. Rather I explore the ways that children navigate NGO organisations that work in their communities. In these spaces development means many things, as children and NGO workers weave dense and tangled webs of relationships, reciprocity, and self-interest, in which children develop their personalities alongside whatever skills the NGO is currently promoting. Yet rather than see the activities and skills these NGOs promote as simply instrumental or demonstrative of children’s participation, this thesis argues that our understanding of children’s ‘lived’ experience of development is thickened through a reading of texts and performances children produce in NGO spaces.
In this seminar I am going to talk about one of the foundational of my thesis, the idea of the ‘developmental child.’ Here I theorise the ‘developmental child’ as a discursive category constructed and maintained by powerful networks of international development, at the core of which sits the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). But rather than focus on the violence of this category in this seminar I draw on examples from my field work to point to the fluidity and permeability of this structure. I argue that while this concept constructs the NGO spaces in which these children participate, it does not define children’s participation.