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A Year of Commentaries

2019: A Year of Commentaries

Compiled By: Carla Joubert

Welcome to Day 3 of A Year in a Week. This week we will explore the SHCY’s first full year of content since shifting to our new website in the winter of 2018. On Day 3 we look back at the commentary contributions of SHCY membersTune in on Friday for our review of the SHCY Conference in Sydney, Australia, which we reviewed through our Featured Commentary section. Coming up tomorrow: A Year of Books.

Our commentaries in 2019 ranged in scope from theories of childhood studies, to play and toys as sources of analyses, to an assessment of institutions of power in the shaping of childhood and youth experiences. Click the titles to view the original commentaries.

Children and Youth as Subjects, Objects, and Agents

Elena Jackson Albarrán provided us with our first featured commentary of 2019. In collaboration with Kelly Condit-Shrestha, Dr. Albarrán reported on the conversations, outcomes, and goals of a two-day workshop hosted by the University of Minnesota’s Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change.

The workshop tested ideas for a potential collaborative and interdisciplinary volume on childhood studies, broadly defined. The workshop worked towards an edited volume tentatively titled Children and Youth as Subjects, Objects and Agents: Approaches to Research in a Global Context. Their intellectual collaboration concluded on three points of consideration, as they moved forward with their research and writing (quoted here from the original post):

  1. Scholars of childhood tend to privilege children as agentic only when they are being transgressive
  2. Childhood studies epistemologies are overwhelmingly Western
  3. The nature of childhood studies methodologies uniquely accentuates the positionality of its scholars

Seeing Age in Early American Sources; Or Considering A Visual Culture of Age

Next up in our featured commentaries of 2019 was this post by Holly N. S. White. Holly is the assistant editor of Publications and Digital Projects at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, as well as the assistant producer of Ben Franklin’s World: A Podcast about Early American History. She completed her PhD at the College of William & Mary.

Holly’s commentary explored how age was a viable category of analysis, alongside race, gender, and class, in early American history. She argues that the law discriminated according to age, in terms of accessibility, oversight, and accountability. In addition, she discussed that age was not as rigid a structure as presentist assessments of age would have us assume, and was often malleable in its presentation to structures of law and governance. In consequence, age had the potential to be socially performative in conversation with appearance, rather than prescriptively designated. 

Vicarious Formations: The American Military, Identity and Children’s Literature

In April, we read Paige Gray’s commentary on the history of West Point Military Academy as a defining centre of idealised American boyhood and masculinity. Dr. Gray traced the role of West Point in shaping the imagined American identity, in part because of its military operations and in part because of it influenced conceptions of masculinity for generations of Americans. 

To analyse the influence of West Point on American culture and society, Paige looked at conceptions of West Point in the public statements of prominent political figures, as well as its manifestations in American literature. In that capacity, her commentary was as important for its analysis of West Point itself, as it was for its assessment of the power of children’s literature to shape political and cultural identities. 

Dr. Gray is professor of liberal arts at the Savannah College of Art & Design, Atlanta campus.

Education and Care Professions: The Contribution of Historical Knowledge

Our fourth commentary came to us care of Christel Radica and Patrizia Guarnieri, who reviewed the Education and Care Professions: The Contribution of Historical Knowledge symposium, which ran from 5 to 6 November 2018 at the University of Florence in Italy.

Christel and Patrizia reviewed the two days of the symposium, which was opened by keynote speaker Paula Fass. Day one of the symposium was “to cure and to take care of children and adolescents in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.” Speakers explored topics related to state sponsorship of child care and attention, and the early to mid-twentieth century struggles of children who faced sexual exploitation and victimisation.

Day two was “Public history of Education First National Meeting: considerations, evidences, experiences.” It geographically centred itself in Italy, and focused on the broad reach of the public history infrastructure on education.

Verbs of Violence: 19th-Century Jigsaw Puzzles, Otherness, and American Childhood

This featured commentary by Mahshid Mayar sought to untangle the at-times fraught history of visual representations of geography. Mayar traces the link between the visual cutting up of territory on political geographic maps, to the cutting up of picture jigsaw puzzles at the beginning of the nineteenth century. 

Mahshid shows how jigsaw puzzles conveyed the same racist and Eurocentric narratives that were preeminent in early cartography. Both visual mediums sought to reinforce white supremacy as it functioned in the United States throughout the nineteenth and into the twentieth centuries.

Mahshid Mayar is an assistant professor of American Studies at Bielefeld University in Germany.

Revisited Commentaries

In addition to all of these unique contributions, we also revisited various commentaries from over the years. The revisited commentaries included:

The New World Should be Built Not Only on Children – But with Children (originally published 9 October 2016)

The History of Sexuality (originally published 1 February 2016)

Childhood and Politics (originally published 7 August 2015)

Violence and Generational Relations: Violence and Power part 2 (originally published 22 June 2015)

Violence and Generational Relations: Violence and Power part 1 (originally published 7 June 2015)

Becoming an Historian of Childhood (originally published 18 May 2015)

The Challenges of Childhood History (originally published 23 March 2015)

Nailing Jelly to a Wall (originally published 11 March 2015)

Ireland: Reading Childhood Comparatively (originally published 17 December 2014)

About Carla Joubert

Carla Joubert is a PhD Candidate at the University of Western Ontario. This is her third year as the Digital Fellow for the SHCY. She is also a digital research assistant for London's Hear, Here public history coordinators. Her research is centred on the role of white women in the settler colonization of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek and Alberta in the nineteenth century as comparative case studies. You can follow her on Twitter. She has presented at the European Conference on African Studies on the relationship between Groot Trek leader Louis Trichardt, his trek party, and the Dzanani Venda in the Transvaal region. That presentation will be included in a workshop at Africa 2020, celebrating 60 years of independence for 17 countries on the African continent at the University of Leiden, which is slated for publication. She has also submitted an article to the South African Historical Journal, "'Tradition Falsifies': The Mfecane and the Groot Trek as Settler Colonial Origin Myths in South Africa." In 2020 she will present “Hunting on the Frontier: The Relationship between Gendered Roles and the Environment in Percy Fitzpatrick's Jock of the Bushveld” in a workshop that she organized for the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians. She will also present on "The Women of Wetaskiwin: Gender and Empire in Wetaskiwin, Alberta from 1892-1905" at the Canadian Historical Association Annual Meeting.