CHILDHOOD AS A ‘QUEER TIME AND SPACE’: ALTERNATIVE IMAGININGS OF NORMATIVE MARKERS OF GENDERED LIVES
Pp. 110-139 (30)
Kerry H. Robinson
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.
Childhood, innocence, queer, time, space, moral panic, Bill Viola, gender,
sexuality, heteronormative, adulthood, citizenship.
University of Western Sydney.