Deviance in Childhood: Inbetween Structure and Agency

Wednesday, 13 July 2016
Location: Übungsraum 4A KS (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Distributed Paper
Chandni BASU, Albert-Ludwigs University of Freiburg, Germany
Sociological debate on structure-agency within the discourse of childhood recognises the inter-subjective zone of social structures and individual agency in which childhood remain embedded. It foregrounds children’s agential capacity thus forwarding their political recognition as equal partners in society. Such recognition however does not limit the scope of intersectional discrimination and its impact on the structure-agency formulation in childhood.

Incidents of deviance like reported cases of criminal offence involving children and adolescents (young people) as perpetrators within the juvenile justice system in India brings forth intersectional discrimination of young people at multiple levels. On one hand, increased reporting of incidents from peripheral locations of society perpetuates the projection of young people from such locations as deviants. Deviance is then associated as a class, caste, religion, gender specific phenomenon. In other words, intersectional discrimination results in increased criminalisation of young people from peripheral locations of society. On the other hand, an attempt to locate constructions of deviance within a postcolonial framework, as in the Indian context, urges one to interrogate functioning of the juvenile justice system. The recent set up of this legal infrastructure in India under the influence of contemporary international mandates brings forth neo-colonial aspirations of a global governance regime.

This paper aims to establish intersectional discrimination of young people as a determining factor which influences constructions of deviance along with their projection as perpetrators within the Indian juvenile justice system. A postcolonial lens helps to interrogate constructions of deviance as a colonial endeavour in its linkage with notions and practices of modern childhood. In this, the paper attempts to provide a critique of modern childhood based on the epitome of innocence. A suggestion for accommodation of deviance within the boundaries of childhood is laid forth thus forwarding an epistemological reformulation of childhood.