Reconceptualising Agency and Childhood : New perspectives in Childhood Studies book cover
1st Edition

Reconceptualising Agency and Childhood
New perspectives in Childhood Studies

ISBN 9780815359906
Published December 21, 2017 by Routledge
316 Pages

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Book Description

By regarding children as actors and conducting empirical research on children’s agency, Childhood Studies have gained significant influence on a wide range of different academic disciplines. This has made agency one of the key concepts of Childhood Studies, with articles on the subject featured in handbooks and encyclopaedias.

Reconceptualising Agency and Childhood is the first collection devoted to the central concept of agency in Childhood Studies. With contributions from experts in the field, the chapters cover theoretical, practical, historical, transnational and institutional dimensions of agency, rekindling discussion and introducing fundamental and contemporary sociological perspectives to the field of research. Particular attention is paid to connecting agency in the social sciences with Childhood Studies, considering both the theoretical foundations and the practice of research into agency. Empirical case studies are also explored, which focus upon child protection, schools and childcare at a variety of institutions worldwide.

This book is an essential reference for students and scholars of Childhood Studies, and is also relevant to Sociology, Social Work, Education, Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) and Geography.

Table of Contents

Reconceptualising agency and childhood: an introduction.  Section I: Theoretical Perspectives  1. Re-aligning children's agency and re-socialising children in Childhood Studies. 2. Children as participants in practices: the challenges which practice theories pose to an actor-centred sociology of childhood.  3. Neither "thick" nor "thin": reconceptualising agency and childhood relationally. 4. Children's agency: contributions from feminist and ethic of care theories to Sociology of Childhood.  5. Meanings of children's agency: when and where does agency begin and end? 6. Extending agency: the merit of relational approaches for Childhood Studies. Section II: Children as Actors in Research  7. Troubling children's voices in research.  8. Playing with socially constructed identity positions: accessing and reconstructing children's perspectives and positions through ethnographic fieldwork and creative workshops.  Section III: Agency in Historical Perspective  9. Tracing and contextualising childhood agency and generational order from historical and systematic perspectives. 10. Martha Muchow's research on children's life space: a classic study on childhood in the light of the present. 11. "Children need boundaries": concepts of children's agency in German parents' guidebooks since 1950. Section IV: Transnational and Majority World Perspectives of Agency  12. Exploring children's agency across majority and minority world contexts. 13. Do the 'mollycoddled' act?: children, agency and disciplinary entanglements in India.  14. Context matters! On non-working children's citizenship in South Indian children's rights initiatives as a practice.  Section V: Agency in Institutions of Childhood  15. Agency: educators' imaginations as triggered by photographs of pre-school children. 16. Agency and the conceptualization of minors in child protection case files.  17. Children as social actors and addressees? Reflections on the constitution of actors and (student) subjects in elementary school peer cultures. 18. Accounting for children's agency in research on educational inequality: the influence of children's own practices on their academic habitus in elementary school.  Conclusion  19. Potentials of a reconceptualised concept of agency.

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Florian Esser is a lecturer in the Department of Social Pedagogy and Organisation Studies at the University of Hildesheim, Germany.

Meike S. Baader is Professor for General Educational Science at the University of Hildesheim, Germany. 

Tanja Betz is Professor for Childhood Studies and Elementary and Primary Education in the Department of Educational Sciences at Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany.

Beatrice Hungerland is Professor of Childhood Studies at the Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences, Germany.


"The volume provides a comprehensive and reliable overview of the international discussion on the concept of agency that has taken place over the past thirty years, focusing on childhood studies in the Global North."

Prof. Dr. Manfred Liebel, Master of Arts Childhood Studies and Children‘s Rights (MACR) an der Fachhochschule 


"This is an important, productive and ambitious collection that will prove useful to established and emerging academics interested in employing theory to further the intellectual trajectory of Childhood Studies. The authors should be congratulated for bringing together this collection of thinkers in the one collection."

Catherine Hartung, University of Otago College of Education, Dunedin, New Zealand