Narratives of Criminality, Punishment and Social Justice in Children’s and Young Adult Literature

deadline for submissions: 
June 7, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Department of English, Jadavpur University & Association for Children's Literature in South Asia

A 2 Day International Children’s & Young Adult Literature Conference
Organised by Jadavpur University, Department of English in collaboration with The
Association for Children’s Literature in South Asia
Dates: 5 - 6 August 2022
Deadline for Abstract Submission: 31st May 2022 (Extended to 7th June 2022)
Conference Location: Zoom

The very idea of childhood as a social construct in which boundaries - legal, social, cultural - are
deployed to identify, isolate, and compartmentalise childhood as a distinct stage in human
development, implies the necessity of socialisation to facilitate the movement from “child” to
“adult”. As theorised by Chris Jenks in Childhood (Second Edition 2005), this significantly
involves the exercise of discipline via punishment and reward through the institutions of family,
schools, social communities, who legally and socially exercise power and control over the life of
a child even as the idea of childhood changes with time. Accordingly, what is considered
appropriate punishments mutates too, which begs the question: if the concept of punishment
exists in a state of flux, at what point can a punishment be a crime? As children garner
recognition as vocal social agents away from the traditional places of quietness, child-protection
laws undergo amendments with changing social norms. Hence the once-recommended
methods of corporal punishment by parents, educationists, and children’s literature authors, is
now controversial and banned in multiple countries.

Punishment, as a method of discipline, exists not just in the physical space, but figures
prominently in the literary and psychological space too, as seen in Pankaj Butalia’s Dark Room
(2013). This becomes conspicuous in the representations of crimes which lead to severe

punishment as seen in fairy tales, or as repercussions for infractions and perceived deviancies
against recognised social and institutional rules and norms as in school stories. They exist to
encourage socialisation into "good citizens" through didacticism and fear of the switch. As such,
the vulnerable child and child reader may momentarily resist discipline, but must either
succumb or create a new world order. Positioned against an antagonist who might be a teacher,
a stranger, a family member, or a fellow child, they are exposed to “crimes” which can range
from extreme, like death, to the psychologically scarring but technically legal, which calls into
question the abstract nature of crime itself. How harmful must an act be for it to be legally and
socially recognised as a crime? In the definitions of crime, punishment and justice, who is being
excluded from seeking justice? What of the child trapped in an adult’s world?

Narratives of Criminality, Punishment and Social Justice in Children’s Literature, a two-day
online conference held by the Department of English, Jadavpur University, in collaboration with
the Association for Children’s Literature in South Asia, invites papers which explore the ideas,
manifestations and representations of criminality, punishment, and social justice as they
intersect and define one another in children’s and young adult literature. We encourage
undergraduate and graduate students and early-career researchers to apply.

Possible topics for exploration include but are not limited to:

1. Role of the law and juvenile crime
2. The gendered and/or sexual body as crime in CYA Literature
3. Punishment and childhood trauma
4. The investigative child
5. The psychology of crime and punishment
6. Criminalising childhoods
7. Crime and religious identity in CYA Literature
8. Cybercrime in CYA Literature
9. The child as casualty/accessory/witness in crime

10. Hegemonic power and punishment as discipline
11. Justice in mythological retellings and folklore for children
12. Justice and individual agency
13. Punitive death in Children’s Literature
14. Pedagogies of prisons and confinements
Please send in abstracts of not more than 250 words, 5 keywords and a bionote of 100 words in
two Word documents to by 31st May 2022 with the subject
line: “Crime and Punishment in CYA abstract”. The bionote should be in a separate Word
Document along with the abstract title and should contain name, affiliation, and location. Please
do not include your name in the abstract. Responses will be sent out after 15th June 2022.

Conference website: