9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN04 Sociology of Children and Childhood

2009-09-03 13:30:00 2009-09-03 15:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 13:30 - 15:00 Everyday Life in Day-Care and After School Care Building II, C6.01

Childhood, subjectivity and power in science fiction

The theme of this essay is the interrelationship between representation, technoscience and childhood explored through the image of the cyborg. In so doing, I analyze Steven Spielberg?s famus movie Ā«Artificial IntelligenceĀ», where the central hero is a cyborg child. Drawing from Foucault, I apply discourse analysis in order to claim that the boundary figure of the cyborg is important in both childhood studies and cultural studies because it provides new ways of thinking about the relationship between culture and machine, people and machine, etc. Through the image of the cyborg I will point out different aspects in sociology of childhood concerning the relationship between childhood, scientific subjects and the material worlds of artefacts and natural bodies, which have traditionally been cast in the role of passive objects.
This reading of ?Artificial Intelligence? raises interesting questions about ?childhood?:
Do cyborg images reproduce cultural stereotypes about childhood? Do they reflect dominant beliefs about what a child is and what it is supposed to be? Do cyborg children inhabit conventional children roles (passive, dependent, irrational, imature)? Can the childhood essentialism of fictional cyborgs be transformed into a non ? essential image for contemporary children? Is there any way that the cyborg image could be used strategically to intervene in childhood studies?
Cyborg images are already interpretations. My paper is yet another. My interpretation of cyborg images seeks to show how these images claim to render the problematic combination of human and machine unstable, yet in effect fail to do so. My reading shows that the dominant representation of cyborgs reiserts us into dominant ideology by reaffirming western bourgeois stereotypes of childhood, gender, human and machine. The cinematic imaging of cyborg child might suggest new visions of unstable identity, but often does so by upholding childhood stereotypes.
To this end, the challenge is to think about how we can examine identity in such a way that the on ? going process of its constuction will empower children?s place in our era.