Queer and Subjugated Knowledge

Queer and Subjugated Knowledge

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Queer and Subjugated Knowledges: Generating Subversive Imaginaries makes an invaluable contribution to gender and sexuality studies, engaging with queer theory to reconceptualize everyday ...
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CHILDHOOD AS A ‘QUEER TIME AND SPACE’: ALTERNATIVE IMAGININGS OF NORMATIVE MARKERS OF GENDERED LIVES

Pp. 110-139 (30)

Kerry H. Robinson

Abstract

Taking up Judith Halberstam’s call for alternative imaginings to current ways of being, this chapter explores childhood as a potentially queer ‘counterpublic’ (Fraser, 1992). Childhood is perceived as a time and space in which performances of gender and “the conventional logics of development, maturity, adulthood and responsibility” (Halberstam, 2005, p. 13) can be disrupted, allowing a space in which more flexible and fluid ways of being the child, as well as being gendered and sexual subjects more generally, are potentially possible. However, children’s normative behaviours are highly regulated and policed in their everyday lives by adults and other children. Moral panic often prevails when normative values, especially heteronormative values, are transgressed. Childhood is thus a critical period in which the characteristics of the ‘appropriate’ and ‘good’ adult citizen are instilled and nurtured—discursively constituted in white, middle-class, heteronormative, Christian morals and values. It is argued that childhood innocence is an essential commodity in this process, as well as in the construction of child and adult subjects, in maintaining the boundaries between the adult and the child, and in constituting socio-cultural relations of power. Consequently, alternative imaginings of childhood and alternative performances of gender in children are rendered highly problematic. Based on focus groups with children and interviews with early childhood educators, childhood is highlighted as a time and space in which children are interpellated as heteronormative subjects and heteronormative gendered discourses associated with love, marriage and relationships are consolidated and perpetuated. Sue Saltmarsh provides a response to this chapter.

Keywords:

Childhood, innocence, queer, time, space, moral panic, Bill Viola, gender, sexuality, heteronormative, adulthood, citizenship.

Affiliation:

University of Western Sydney.