Child As Metaphor: Colonialism, Psy-Governance, and Epistemicide

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Brenda LEFRANCOIS, Memorial University, Newfoundland, Canada
China MILLS, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom
This paper explores the often-used framing of colonized people, and mad and intellectually disabled people, as being like children, and deconstructs the mutually reinforcing metaphors of the child, cognitive impairment, madness, and the ‘primitive’/’savage’. To be child-like is a metaphor that is used to denigrate, to classify as irrational and incompetent, to dismiss as not being knowledge-holders, to justify action on others’ behalf – in their ‘best interests’, to deem as un-developed or wrongly-developed, and, hence, to subjugate. For Ashis Nandy, (2007) the Western worldview of childhood as an imperfect transitional state on the way to adulthood is embedded in ideologies of colonialism and modernity, meaning ‘the use of the metaphor of childhood [is] a major justification of all exploitation’ (p. 59). The ways in which this metaphor contributes to the shaping of the material and discursive realities of racialized and colonized others, what Erica Burman (2008) calls the ‘infantilization’ of the global South, as well as those deemed mad, will be detailed. Furthermore, the paper will explore the material and discursive impact of this metaphor on children’s lives, and particularly children who are racialized, colonized, and/or deemed mad. We argue that complex adult-child relations, sane-mad relations and Western-majority world relations within global psychiatry, situated firmly within pejorative notions of what it means to be child-like, and reproduce multi-systemic forms of oppression that silence children and all those deemed child-like.