CFP – Linking Childhood and Old Age

LINKING CHILDHOOD AND OLD AGE
International workshop organized by the Platform for a Cultural History of Children’s Media (PLACIM)

Dates: 21-22 May 2015
Location: University of Antwerp, Department of Literature and Linguistics, Belgium

The romantic pairing of childhood and old age is a trope that has appeared in various media and genres in Western culture. In positive terms, children and the elderly are suggested to be ideal companions because both groups are exempt from paid labour and thus have the time to indulge in play, storytelling, gardening, tending to animals, and so forth. The time they spend together is cast as a kind of intergenerational bonding that enriches both age groups. The children find in elderly relatives or friends patient companions who grant them the attention and understanding that their parents sometimes fail to provide, and vice versa, the children keep the elderly vital, bring them joy and prevent them from feeling useless and lonely. The perceived abundance of leisure time means that children and adults are the objects and targets of marketing campaigns that exploit the ideal intergenerational bonding in order to sell them toys, books, tickets to theme parks, and so forth. In more negative terms, children and the elderly are constructed as physically and economically vulnerable groups that can be governed and patronized by the generation in between. In this discourse the two groups are characterized by lack – of power, social status, intellectual capacities, physical ability, and so forth. Contemporary age studies critics argue, moreover, that the alliance between the old and the young is an ageist stereotype, through which the child’s weaknesses are projected onto the old and the elderly’s age, experience and adult status are denied. Metaphors like “one’s second childhood” – a euphemism for dementia – are thus considered ageist.

PLACIM is the international Platform for a Cultural History of Children’s Media, funded by the Dutch Research Council NWO (see www.placim.org). In the fourth PLACIM workshop, we treat the idea that “children are like old people, and vice versa” as a basic conceptual metaphor (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980) to investigate the intermedial and international mobility of this childhood trope. We compare its appearances across media (picture books, children’s novels, comic strips, motion pictures, radio plays, TV series, digital games, images, children’s own visual production) in North-West Europe, the United States and Asia in particular. Building on media convergence theory, we argue that different media do not operate in isolation from each other (Thorburn & Jenkins, 2003) and that the circulation of images between media assumes the shape of repetition-with-a-difference. This process of renewal and adaptation also occurs when cultural products travel transnationally and are “glocalized” (Robertson, 1995; Kjeldgaard & Askgaard, 2006). “Glocalization” suggests an interactive local-global dynamic when cultural products are exchanged between cultures, which in the case of children’s media productions, affects the basic tropes of childhood. We want to investigate how the basic conceptual metaphor that links childhood and old age changes when it becomes the subject of adaptation and glocalisation processes between Eastern and Western cultures, especially in the light of the different family values and attitudes towards childhood and old age in these cultures.

We invite papers on the following topics:

  • Metaphor theory: how universal/culturally specific/linguistically specific are basic conceptual metaphors, and how easily can they be transferred from one culture or medium to another? How are metaphors glocalized when they travel between Western and Eastern cultures?
  • Age studies: the presence of the link between childhood and old age in various media and discursive practices (cultural products, marketing, politics, gerontology)
  • Asian studies: intergenerational bonding (or lack of) in Asian culture, in particular Japan and Taiwan
  • The cultural history of childhood and childhood studies: how exactly is the bonding of childhood and old age cast in children’s media in different historical periods? We invite detailed case studies that trace the evolution of this trope, both in Eastern and Western cultures.
  • Adaptation and glocalization of children’s media: how is the connection between childhood and old age transformed in children’s media and its international adaptations? We invite detailed case studies that trace the adaptation and glocalisation of children’s media products as they travel between Eastern and Western cultures.
  • Children’s consumer culture: How is the link between childhood and old age performed in marketing and advertising of commodities, in consumer activities, and the organization of consumer culture?
  • Reception studies, including ethnographic and sociological inquiries into the users of today’s media: how they do perceive of the bonding of childhood and old age? We welcome field work, interviews, and studies of the reviews of children’s media products.

If you are interested in participating, please send a 300 word abstract and a 300 word CV to: vanessa.joosen@uantwerpen.be and Lies.Wesseling@Maastrichtuniversity.nl, before 15 January 2015. Please relate your problem statement explicitly to one (or more) of the six topics delineated above. We work with pre-circulated papers, as we aim to publish an intellectually rigorous volume of essays as a result of this workshop. You will receive notice of acceptance before 15 February 2015. Deadline for the first version of your workshop paper: 15 April 2015.

Bibliography

Kjeldgaard, D. and S. Askegaard, 2006. “The Glocalization of Youth Culture: The Global Youth Segment as Structures of Common Difference.” Journal of Consumer Research 33.2, 231-247.

Lakoff, G. and M. Johnson, 1980. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: Chicago UP.

Robertson, R., 1995. “’Glocalization’: Time-Space and Homogeneity-Heterogeneity.” In: M. Featherstone et al., eds. Global Modernities. London: Sage, 25-45.

Thorburn, D. and H. Jenkins, 2003. “Introduction: Towards an Aesthetics of Transition.” In: D. Thorburn and H. Jenkins, eds. Rethinking Media Change: The Aesthetics of Transition. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1-19.

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