Beyond “Children’s Agency” and “Children’s Cultures”: Insights from Anthropological Research in Argentina on Mapuche Childhood
Along these lines, I will also present a critical perspective of the concept of “children’s cultures” which—replicating to a certain degree the interest in youth cultures of the 1970s—stems from the idea that children inhabit a world with distinctive social meanings (Caputo, 1995) and constitute an “ontology” by their own right (Jenks, 1996).
Though children’s social agency and their capacity for cultural production are important, I have noticed a problematic use of the notion of culture in works such as these. Perhaps inadvertently, they replicate the isolationist component of the classic notion, where culture was bound to colonialism and attempted to establish discrete, internally coherent units, sealed off and isolated from one another (Wright, 1998). Under these terms, the idea of children’s culture reifies and “exoticizes” children. Drawing on both anthropological tradition and on the Mapuche’s conceptualization of childhood, I instead propose analyzing children’s cultural productions in conjunction with the myriad institutions and social discourses that condition the social space of childhood. From the periphery, perspectives like these can contribute to the debate on ways of theorizing childhood.