Barndommens kroppe: Konstruktion, handling og hybriddannelse

  • Alan Prout


Alan Prout: Childhood bodies: construction, agency and hybridity This paper explores the relationship between the sociology of childhood and the sociology of the body. Noting that the two fields are marked by mutual neglect, it reviews some of the theoretical issues that underlie the enterprise of bringing them together. Three key themes emerge from this discussion. The first concerns social constructionism. Both fields draw on this theoretical approach and, it is argued, both meet its limits. The paper argues that social constructionist accounts of both childhood and the body tend to exclude (or at least de-emphasize) the possibility that social life has a material as well as discursive (or representational) component. The second theme is that of children’s agency in the interpretation, negotiation and utilisation of their bodies. Seeing children as social actors balances a former emphasis on the socialization of children by highlighting the ways in which they are also agents, participants shaping as well as being shaped by society. However, it is argued that the sociology of childhood has tended to essentialise children’s agency rather than decentering it and analyzing it as an effect. The third theme draws on actor network theory in order to unravel some of the ways in which children’s bodies are inextricably interwoven with other aspects of the material environment – artifacts, machines and technologies. Children’s bodies emerge as hybrid entities. They are inseparable from, produced in, represented by and performed through their connections with other material objects. This line of enquiry feeds back into the question of children’s agency by reconstituting it less as an essential attribute of children and more as an effect of the connections made between a heterogeneous array of materials including bodies, representations and technologies.