9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN04 Sociology of Children and Childhood

2009-09-03 09:00:00 2009-09-03 10:30:00 Thursday, 3 September 09:00 - 10:30 Opening Session Building II, C6.01

Childhood and Bio-politics: Researching children as "life-forms"

Rose (2006) identifies a traditional social scientific focus on the study of "forms of life" and argues that, in view of key bio-technological developments, attention should now also be given to the social scientific study of "life-forms". This paper will describe this "bio-political" strategy and explore implications for childhood studies.

It is far from obvious that "bio-politics" should interest students of childhood. After all, the founding gesture of many social science research programmes has been the "rescue" of topics from universalising, naturalising accounts. This gesture has been especially strong in childhood studies where the "bio" has so often been viewed as a universalising screen that needs to be removed to gain access to the diversity of childhood "forms of life".

This paper will argue that it now makes sense to view the "bio" itself as a site of diversity and so to develop a critical view of it as a potential site of intervention alongside the familiar range of "social" diversities (gender, class, ethnicity) and susceptibilities (socialisation, peer pressure). Illustrations will be drawn from current UK policy makers' "health behaviour change" agenda, an european debates on climate change and sustainability and bio-technology.