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Childhood and Pethood: Representation, Subjectivity, and the Cultural Politics of Power. November 1, 2014
full name / name of organization:
Anna Feuerstein and Carmen Nolte-Odhiambo
Abstracts (500 words) due November 1, 2014
While scholars of children’s literature and childhood studies frequently discuss representations of animals in children’s texts, there is little discussion of the often parallel ways in which these texts construct animal and child subjectivity. At the same time, while critics in the field of animal studies have remarked upon the cultural tendency to think of pets as children, there is little scholarly work on the larger implications of understanding pets as children and vice versa. Even though children and pets are similarly constructed, represented, and dominated in Western culture and society, scholars have largely neglected to interrogate childhood and pethood together.
This collection of essays will investigate the political implications of understanding pets as children and children as pets, specifically in the ideological construction of both as subordinate to and dependent on adults, and examine the cultural connections between domesticated animals and children. We further aim to use the frequent social and cultural alignment between children and pets as an opportunity to analyze institutions that create pet and child subjectivity, from education and training to putting children and pets on display and using them for entertainment purposes. Current constructions of childhood and pethood have developed alongside the emergence of the modern nation-state, relegating children and pets to marginalized spaces in contemporary Western society. In what ways, then, have the modern concepts of “the child” and “the pet” emerged together, and how have these concepts been linked to the project of nation-building? How much institutionalized power should adults have over children and domesticated animals, and how is their lack of rights justified rhetorically? How does understanding pets as children illuminate unequal power relations, and what do such relations look like? What kinds of connections between childhood and pethood do we see historically and today, and what are their implications?
We will draw on recent work in childhood studies, animal studies, and cultural studies to examine how together these disciplines can productively interrogate the cultural politics of power over subjects society collectively views as needing to be trained and schooled in order to become “proper” members of society and the nation. We hope to gather a diverse range of essays that examine cultural and historical constructions and alignments of the child and the pet, theoretical understandings of childhood and pethood, and literary representations of children and pets.
Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
Please send abstracts of up to 500 words, or any questions, to Anna Feuerstein and Carmen Nolte-Odhiambo at firstname.lastname@example.org by November 1, 2014. Full essays (5,000-7,000 words) will be due July 1, 2015.
Anna Feuerstein, Ph.D.
Carmen Nolte-Odhiambo, Ph.D.