Empowering children by transforming norms
The Childism Institute aims to stimulate childist research across the academy, test and evolve the concept of childism, and inform childist social and political justice activism.
It does so by developing a range of projects including colloquia, workshops, conferences, speakers, collaborative publications, opinion pieces, special issues of journals, edited volumes, and books. It includes children and youth as appropriate in these initiatives. In addition, it formulates workshops and consultations for local, national, and international organizations run by both adults and children to understand how childism could inform – and be informed by – their work.
These cross-currents of theory development, scholarly investigation, and practical engagement enrich one another. In this way, the Childism Institute strives to develop an ongoing generative conversation about the lives of children that organically evolves new ideas and perspectives over time.
The Childism Institute is Co-Directed by Tanu Biswas, John Wall, and Hanne Warming and co-hosted at University of Stavanger (Norway), Rutgers University (United States), and Roskilde University (Denmark).
Childism is like feminism but for children. It has emerged in the academic literature as a term to describe efforts to empower the lived experiences of the third of humanity who are children through the radical systemic critique of scholarly, social, and political norms.
Beyond including children and young people as active social participants, childism challenges and transforms the historically ingrained adult-centered assumptions that underlie children’s systemic marginalization in the first place. It functions analogously to terms like feminism, antiracism, womanism, postgenderism, postcolonialism, decolonialism, environmentalism, and transhumanism. As such, it provides a needed critical lens for deconstructing adultism and patriarchy and reconstructing age-inclusive research and societies.
WHAT IS CHILDISM?
Founded by John Wall with an initial grant from Rutgers University in 2019, the Childism Institute grew out of discussions among childhood studies scholars at Rutgers University, Roskilde University, and Linköping University who wished to develop new approaches to critiquing adultist normative structures. In different ways, we felt there are limits to the idea of empowering children and children's experiences simply by understanding and encouraging their agency, voices, and participation. A similar shift seemed to be needed to that from second- to third-wave feminism, that is, from recognizing children's equality to adults to also questioning the underlying structural assumptions that define and enforce this equality in the first place.
An Advisory Board was created in 2020 and a strategic plan developed to focus on three areas: 1. childism theory (the big idea, how it can be developed, and how it needs to be critiqued and evolved); 2. childism research (interdisciplinary social scientific and humanistic studies); and 3. childism practice (finding ways to inspire collective reimaginings of politics, economics, education, families, communities, law, business, and power relations).
For its first three years, the Childism Institute's major endeavor was its tri-annual Transnational Childism Colloquium (TCC), an online discussion that brought together childism experts and scholars and activists interested in childism. As can be seen on our Events page, the TCC has explored a wide range of issues in childism theory and research, childism in relation to other -isms, and childism in practice. The 9 TCCs that took place from 2020 to 2023 involved a total of 67 speakers and an average of 71 participants per event from over 40 countries.
During this period, the Childism Institute also conducted book talks and mini-conferences and published numerous podcasts, blogs, and media. It developed active listserv, facebook, and X/twitter sites (to join or post, see below). And it collaborated on the publication of numerous scholarly articles, including a special issue on "Childism" in the journal Children & Society. We have also conducted online workshops and book discussions and undertaken a variety of consultations, presentations, types of activism, blogs, and other media.
Starting in 2023, the Childism Institute reorganized into a research and activism program Co-Directed by Tanu Biswas, John Wall, and Hanne Warming and co-hosted at University of Stavenger (Norway), Rutgers University (United States), and Roskilde University (Denmark). This tripartite hosting is designed to facilitate a new phase of work that focuses on more specific collaborations with other programs and individuals through a variety of forums including the TCC but also workshops, publications, consultations with child and youth organizations, and the like.
If you are interested in collaborating with us, please email us at the address below.