Keynote: Smoke and Mirrors? Challenging Categories in Global childhood and Youth Research

Professor Virginia Morrow - University of Oxford, UK - In this presentation, I draw on experiences of working on Young Lives, an interdisciplinary international study following children over 15 years, in Ethiopia, Andhra Pradesh & Telengana, India, Peru and Vietnam,(, to explore what I have termed ‘smoke and mirrors’[1] in childhood and youth research. Through this metaphor, I will explore some taken-for-granted categories that are used globally, generated by institutions in the Global North, in research, policy and practice: (a) notions of age (birth date, numerical age); (b) family (structure); (c) adolescence/transitions to adulthood; (d) education, work and learning/child development (e) children’s agency/ ‘voice’.  The  assumptions underpinning these are the ‘smoke’ in the title; the ‘mirrors’ are the ways in which universal assumptions underpinning these concepts are reflected and refracted back to the Global North. The presentation concludes by attempting to explore possibilities for moving beyond binary divisions, by looking for possibilities for the South to be generative and to transfer ideas and values to the North. This involves (a) recognition of the limits of global North theorizations and valuing of local understandings and categories, and (b) exploring lines of enquiry that transgress geographical boundaries - relating to poverty,  inequality, migration, displacement, globalization, and sustainable development  (relating to the new Global Goals/SDGs and beyond). [1] (Wikipedia: Smoke and mirrors is a metaphor for a deceptive, fraudulent or insubstantial explanation or description

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  1. Curious. When I tried to post comments that were contrary to Go#g;e&o39ls preferred view, they vanished. I guess you can post comments only if you agree with Google. You are morphing into another Microsoft — and that's not meant as a compliment.

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