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  • Author or Editor: Manfred Liebel x
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The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has strongly influenced the worldwide debates about what is suitable for children and what children are to be entitled to. In these debates, the Convention is not unanimously welcomed. In addition to those who question children's rights in general, because children are (supposedly) not capable of rational thinking, even children's rights advocates stand for at least two opposing positions. While some consider the Convention as a milestone on the way to a better childhood and only complain about the lack of implementation, others see it as an imperial Eurocentric project that globalizes the Western notions of childhood despite cultural diversity and imposes it on the ‘rest of the world’. This chapter goes beyond these controversial positions leading to a more differentiated assessment. Since children's rights are understood as human rights, the most pressing question is how the universal claim of these rights can be assessed. The chapter explores the main dilemmas in the realization of children’s rights in their postcolonial contexts. It challenges them with reference to concrete cases from some Asian countries (Vietnam, India and Indonesia) and one Latin American country (Bolivia) and discusses possible ways out.

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With 70 per cent of people under the age of 30, more than 450 million children and adolescents under the age of 18, including approximately 150 million children under the age of 5, Africa is the ‘youngest’ continent. Research on children and childhoods in Africa has rarely addressed post- and decolonial issues. Contrasting the common picture of Africa as backward, disaster ridden continent, this chapter outlines how the situation of children and the characteristics of childhood in Africa are influenced by postcolonial power and childhood policies. It concentrates on three aspects. On the one hand, it discusses the changes that follow the establishment of schools according to Western patterns. Secondly, the debate on the appropriateness and implementation of children's rights, especially with regard to particularly marginalized groups of children in precarious living conditions. Thirdly, the relationship between children and adults and their limitations and opportunities to play an equal and participatory role in their societies is considered.

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This chapter follows some of the debates conducted in social childhood studies, such as the question of whether a ‘global childhood’ has developed during the processes of globalization and discusses the scope and limitations of Eurocentric childhood patterns. It explains what postcolonial constellations and postcolonial childhoods mean and illustrates these concepts with some empirical data. Finally, the chapter looks at the manifestations of children’s agency in the Global South and how agency can be conceptualized.

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This chapter outlines the basic ideas of postcolonial theory and presents some of the most important contributions from Africa and Latin America. It introduces different currents of postcolonial theory known as Subaltern Studies, Postcolonial Studies, Southern Theory, Philosophy of Liberation, Ethnophilosophy, Coloniality of Power, Coloniality of Knowledge, De-Coloniality/Decolonization, Epistemology of the South or Ubuntu, and discusses their significance for the analysis of childhoods in the Global South. Although postcolonial thought has not taken children and childhoods into consideration, the chapter takes it up in order to acquire a better understanding of children in their respective living contexts and their potentials for action, by which childhoods are placed more precisely in their historical and geopolitical contexts.

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In order to gain a concept of childhoods in the Global South, it is necessary to understand the connections between colonialization and childhood. This chapter conceptualizes childhood as a form of being and engages in a discourse on the same. It shows how the history of childhood is closely intertwined with changes in the modes of production and reproduction of societies. Particularly with the development of the capitalist mode of production in the modern European era and the rise of the bourgeoisie to the ruling class. In the first part, this chapter discusses the mental connections between the emergence of the European bourgeois childhood pattern and the colonialization of foreign continents. In this context, it traces the dialectic of education or literacy and power in the colonial and postcolonial relations. In the second part, this chapter explains how, in the 1960s and 70s, the discourse on the colonization of childhood arose and finally was linked with post- and decolonial theories. In conclusion it sheds light on some ambivalences of European-bourgeois childhood constructions with regard to colonialization and decolonization.

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The colonization of the subcontinent, now called Latin America, was at first a severe form of exploitation of land and people. Over the massive immigration of European migrants and the recruitment of slaves from Africa, the colonies in the subcontinent have gradually changed to settler colonies. The conquest of the Southern subcontinent went hand in hand with an extensive biological intermarriage between the colonists on the one hand and the indigenous and African descendent populations, predominantly their women, on the other. This mixing continued after the formation of independent Latin American republics starting in the beginning of the 19th century, but without alteration of the supremacy the descendants of the white conquerors have had. This chapter presents different practices, which can be traced back to similar causes. First, the racist violence against so-called illegitimate children, secondly, the treatment of children of indigenous and African descendent populations in order to ‘civilize’ them. These practices are based in part on the racist convictions of the colonial potentates and continue to take place today in Latin American societies.

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Generally, a national State is considered the guarantor of protection and safety of the people living within its borders or who are subjected to its sovereignty. Yet history is full of examples in which State authorities not only neglect their responsibility toward at-risk people, but also actively contribute to threatening and endangering the lives of the latter. This is especially manifest within State policies referring to people considered ‘foreign’, or whose benefit towards society is questioned. This chapter reviews some historical examples, in which poor and indigenous children have been affected by such violent, exclusionary and discriminatory policies with racist connotations, of which consequences can still be felt today. Particularly, it reconstructs cases from the British Empire and from States emerging from settler colonies, namely United States of America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

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From Exclusion to Dignity
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European colonization of other continents has had far-reaching and lasting consequences for the construction of childhoods and children’s lives throughout the world.

Liebel presents critical postcolonial and decolonial thought currents along with international case studies from countries in Africa, Latin America, and former British settler colonies to examine the complex and multiple ways that children throughout the Global South continue to live with the legacy of colonialism.

Building on the work of Cannella and Viruru, he explores how these children are affected by unequal power relations, paternalistic policies and violence by state and non-state actors, before showing how we can work to ensure that children’s rights are better promoted and protected, globally.

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When aiming at characterizing the quasi-colonial or adultist relationship between adults and children, the concept of paternalism is often applied. The term is used in different ways, and this chapter intends not only to present it, but also to determine to what extent it is really apt to analyse, qualify and design the relationships between adults and children in different social and cultural contexts. To this end, it places particular emphasis on issues of child protection and child participation. First, the chapter explains the concept of paternalism and questions the arguments with which the so-called pedagogical paternalism or soft paternalism is usually justified. Secondly, it analyses to what extent the rights of children and certain variants of paternalism can be compatible or contradictory. Then the chapter explains with regard to several examples of child protection and child participation, how they are marked by paternalist thought patterns and how these can be overcome.

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Citizenship of children implies that they can assume political co-responsibility in society on an ongoing basis, as well as influence societal processes and political decisions, not only in the future, but in the present. To understand children as citizens means that they can do so in a particular, but equal and equivalent way as adults. This must be accompanied by the development of a culture of children's rights in society that takes children seriously as legal subjects and grants them, in particular, participation rights, which enable them to make their own decisions in all areas of life and in society including questions, which touch the interests of adults. This requires not only the recognition of the children's competencies, but also the creation of conditions, which enable children to develop their agency competencies and use them practically. First, this chapter outlines what can be understood by citizenship in general and what problems are associated with the term. Then it discusses concepts of citizenship that relate directly to children and their relatively impotent social status. Finally, with regard to children, it explains what the term citizenship from below means, and how this can emerge from social movements of children, principally those from the Global South.

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