What is a Child?

21st February 2022 : 17:00 - 18:30

Category: Public Seminar

Speaker: Chair: Dr Catherine Sloan, Speaker 1: Dr Peter N. Stearns, Speaker 2: Siân Halcrow, Speaker 3: Professor Marilyn Fleer

Location: Zoom Webinar

Convener: Leon Feinstein

Audience: Public


Part of a seminar series interrogating the concept of rights of the child and implications for research, policy and practice

Article 1 of the UNCRC defines a child as an individual below the age of 18 years. This definition is now used and adapted across countries and contexts. However, this definition of a child is specific to the 21st century; different eras in history defined the child in different ways. Furthermore, while the UNCRC identifies this definition of the child as universal, different cultures (used to) define the child and childhood in different ways. This seminar looks at different definitions of the child as understood through histories and cultures to interrogate the nature of ‘child’ and how it is socially dependent. 

About the speakers:

Chair: Dr Catherine Sloan is a social and cultural historian of nineteenth-century Britain at Hertford College, University of Oxford. Her research focuses on the changes to education, youth, and childhood in this period, with a particular interest in young people’s role in shifting the direction of these changes. She is currently the co-ordinator of academic skills support for undergraduate students at Hertford, as well as a Career Development Fellow in History. 

Speaker 1: Dr. Peter N. Stearns served as Provost at George Mason University until 2014 where he was also a Professor of History. His currently University Professor, Provost Emeritus in the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University.  He has taught previously at Harvard, the University of Chicago, Rutgers, and Carnegie Mellon; he was educated at Harvard University. Professor Stearns has written widely on world history, including two popular textbooks. Other books include The Industrial Revolution in World History, Gender in World History, Consumerism in World History, Western Civilization in World History, Childhood in World History, and Global Outrage: The Evolution and Impact of World Opinion. He edited the Encyclopedia of World History, 6th edition. 

Speaker 2: Siân Halcrow is a professor at the Department of Anatomy, University of Otago. Siân’s research interests lie in understanding major human transitions in the past through the experiences of the most vulnerable people in the population: infants and children. Her work interrogates central archeological questions of the intensification of agriculture and human responses to this seminal time in prehistoric Southeast Asia, East Asia and South America. She also contributes to topical issues in her discipline through her work on the ethics of the study of human remains. Since 2007, Siân has had more than 100 peer- reviewed publications, and has gained grants from the Marsden Fund, Australian Research Council, FONDOCYT, Fulbright NZ, Wenner-Gren Foundation, and National Geographic.

Speaker 3: Professor Marilyn Fleer holds the Foundation Chair of Early Childhood Education and Development at Monash University, Australia, where she has been the research leader since 2001 for Child and Community Development. As former President of the International Society of Cultural-historical Activity Research (ISCAR) and recipient of the Vygotsky Institute medal for contributions to advancing cultural-historical research, she is passionate about developing different forms of knowledge. She has been a visiting research fellow for the Ministry of Education, Singaporean Government, and at Beijing University, University of Garvle Sweden, University of Copenhagen Denmark, Bergen University College Norway, and was the Erskine Fellow, Canterbury-Cambridge, New Zealand.