The Promotion of Agency in a Conflict-Affected Context. the Social Participation of Children and Adolescents in the West Bank

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 11:05 AM
Room: Booth 65
Oral Presentation
Vittorio IERVESE , Department of Studies on Language and Culture, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Modena, Italy
One of the most challenging narratives in the past few years (and probably one of the most stimulating for the future) has been the importance of children’s active participation not only in terms of having the right to say, but of the right to choose among alternatives in communication systems, i.e. in terms of practicing agency rather than simply having voice. Supporting and improving children’s capabilities means promoting children’s participation beyond their right to speak and to be heard, to a wider concept of active citizenship, which means contribution to the structuring of social systems. In this approach, therefore, children’s capabilities assume the social form of children’s agency. In other words, the idea of agency emphasizes that children can condition the actions of their interlocutors in communication with them, above all in interactions and can, in this way, transform the social structures.

This presentation tries to examine how children's agency and participation can be promoted in a conflict-affected context. With this aim the chapter conducts an evaluative analysis of a project of international cooperation developed by Oxfam Italy and the Palestinian NGO Dci/Ps which is aimed to promote social participation and to raise children’s rights awareness among Palestinian children and adolescents.

The analysis is conducted by drawing on theoretical and methodological concepts from recent literature on social participation, sociology of childhood and Sen’s capability approach, and looking at 1. the structures that promote agency in communication processes, 2. the ways in which agency modifies the structures of communication processes. The analysis of videorecorded data permitted some conclusions about social conversion processes and factors of agency, which allow social change. Our datas show that social change can be enhanced through children and adults’ turns, but it is determined only in the self-organisation of a communication system.