Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Education

Professor Christensen and Professor Prout keynote speakers at Sixth International Conference

16 May 2014 |

Entitled 'Values of Childhood and Childhood Studies', the Sixth International Conference was held at the University of Oulo.

Professor Pia Christensen spoke about “Ethnography with Children: Conversation, Movement and Imaginative Leaps”. Looking at the key challenges facing ethnographic analysis of children’s everyday lives, her presentation also raised questions relating to the employment of new technologies to the study of children and young people’s lives in the 21st Century. Her presentation was illustrated by ethnographic examples including her recent ESRC project that used an innovative mixed methodology strategy, combining ethnography and GPS tracking technology. She showed that GPS and mobile phone technology can be employed to overcome some of the problems of studying children’s everyday mobility patterns but emphasised that these patterns can only be fully understood by being underpinned by traditional ethnographic methods that focus on the everyday meanings and practices of children. Bringing these together, she argued, creates powerful new insights.

Professor Alan Prout addressed the theme of “Moving on from Social Constructionism”, arguing that, whilst the social study of childhood had greatly benefitted from deploying social constructionist perspectives, the limitations of this approach are becoming apparent. Drawing on Deleuze and Latour, he advocated developing a thoroughly interdisciplinary approach to studying childhood that brings together the social and the natural sciences (as well as the humanities), understanding childhood as a “hybrid” of culture and nature.

The conference was supported by the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies and the National Institute of Health and Welfare. It attracted a record number of 200 participants this year, with delegates primarily from the Nordic countries but also with participants from the UK, Turkey, Brazil, Canada, Australia, China, Austria, Switzerland and Italy.

Professors Christensen and Prout joined the School of Education at Leeds in 2013. Giving their key note addresses coincided with the publication of a new book, Key Thinkers in Childhood Studies (by Carmel Smith and Sheila Greene, Bristol: Policy Press). The book devotes a chapter each to their work and ideas. The book features 22 international scholars that have been influential in the last 30 years development of research with children.

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