CFP – Organizing Childhood

Gender, Work and Organization
10th Biennial International Interdisciplinary Conference
13-16 June, 2018, Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia

GWO 2018 Call for Abstracts

Organizing Childhood

Convenors
Carolyn Hunter, University of York, York, UK
Nina Kivinen, Åbo Akademi University, Turku, Finland
Deborah Brewis, Kingston University, London, UK

While the study of “childhood” is a developed field in sociology, media studies, the humanities and even marketing, it is with, a few recent exceptions, relatively underexplored in organization studies (see exceptions: Russell and Tyler, 2002; Kavanagh, Keohane and Kuhling, 2011; Kavanagh, 2013; Griffin, Harding and Learmonth, 2016; Kenny, 2016; Hunter and Kivinen, 2016). While significant theoretical contributions have been made, more could be done to develop empirical studies where the complexities of childhood play out. Gender has been a central theme in the study of childhood in other fields, and we propose that it provides a key lens through which to expand discussions to how childhood is “organized” both as a set of discourses and the variety of occupations and industries associated with products and services for children. This call for abstracts aims to engage with thinking on the intersections between organizations, childhood and gender, through exploring the way in which childhood features:

a. in industries that centre around products and services for children,
b. in relations where childhood is produced, consumed and assembled
c. or as ideas, discourses and ideologies that relate to our adult selves.

The organizing of childhood may be considered in relation to gender, through the production and consumption of products and services aimed at the children, including pre-school, middle and young adult or “tweens” categories (Siegel, Coffey, and Livingston, 2004; Steinberg and Kincheloe, 1997). Russell and Tyler (2002) and Griffin, Harding and Learmonth (2016) explore dimensions of gendered children’s products, while Hunter and Kivinen (2016) note the link between these gendered products and services and the gendered identities of the workers involved in delivering them. Representing a wide array of products and services, the children’s industries are characterized by significant variety in types of labour and the quality of working lives. Some of these industries represent particularly precarious or low paid work, in which women are overrepresented. We already know that in industries like nurseries and childcare, women far outnumber male employees in the UK, with the number of men averaging only 2% of the workforce (Department for Education, 2013). Further research could explore whether gender segregation in the workforce is a symptom of, and/or reinforcement to, notions of women’s reproductive role in the economy, the marginalization of women’s labour, and whether this intersects with other social markers such as race, age and disability.

We might also consider how labour in these industries target children by engaging in aesthetic or emotional labour that may be characterized as “feminized” work. For example, Russell and Tyler (2002) explored how a teenage retail store became an aesthetic space, a “retail theatre,” of feminine “tweenie” dreams. Working on products or services for children may provide insights into the experiences of emotional and aesthetic labour, where nostalgia, development and fantasy come together (Langer, 2004). How are concepts of childhood entangled into expectations of emotional management by employees, as well as the organization of employees’ and children’s bodies within these space? Are assumptions made that working in these spaces is less skilled or meaningful than working for products for adults? We might consider, in turn, how such assumptions influence employees’ identities, motivations and sense of purpose. Equally, authors may consider whether work within the children’s industries offers insights into alternative ways of organizing, for example through collaboration and working in home environments. These industries frequently breakdown the divide between the public and the private, for example if the work is undertaken within the private space of the home alongside other (unpaid) work such as childcare and domestic activities. Similarly children may come into the public spaces of organizations, such workplace crèches and “babies at work” policies. In addition children can work legally (age restrictions varying by state in Australia and set at 13 in the UK for example), and younger in the industries of television, theatre, and modelling, providing an alternative “productive” narrative to childhood. The call aims to engage with these different dimensions of childhood, including the potential oppression and alienation in these experiences.

Finally, we invite explorations of how childhood becomes organized as a set of ideas (Cook, 2004). On one hand, one might consider the relations of production and consumption from the perspective of children themselves (Martens et al., 2004), through their experiences of the emotions and affect that become attached to the commodities of childhood; and through the framing of children’s desires, and responsibilities via traditional broadcast media and new social forms of media. Children also learn to consume management and business concepts early on (Rehn, 2009) although more could be done to assess if this learning is gendered. On the other hand, we might consider how adults, too, consume childhood, fables and fairy tales, developing narratives of self through their careers, authenticity, and identities; or through memory (Ingersoll and Adams, G. B, 1992). The worlds of management and childhood cross: for example management guru Marshall Goldsmith turned his bestseller business book into a comic book with the help of a children’s illustrator. Other management gurus have directly drawn on childhood to discuss creativity, innovation and “child-like” play.

This call asks for abstracts which explore either childhood as an organizational phenomena or as empirical setting, in particular making connections between childhood and gender including femininities and masculinities. We welcome papers from a variety of disciplines and perspectives, including feminist, postcolonial, and queer critiques of the gendered nature of work in relation to childhood.

Themes:

  • Nostalgia and historical discussions of workers in the children’s industries
  • Emotions, affect and emotional labour related to childhood
  • Theorization of the production and consumption of childhood
  • Associations of childhood with femininities and masculinities, as well as other theorization of gender around queer theory, identity theory, critical race theory and post-colonialism
  • Feminist critiques of childhood
  • Gendering of products or services for children
  • Childhood in the narratives and metaphors of management and business
  • Childhood in concepts of career and authenticity
  • Children becoming part of organizational space

For stream enquiries please contact Nina Kivinen: nina.kivinen@abo.fi

Papers from the stream will be selected for a special issue proposal of the Gender, Work and Organization journal.

How to submit:

Abstracts of approximately 500 words (ONE page, Word document NOT PDF, single spaced, excluding references, no header, footers or track changes) are invited by 1 November 2017 with decisions on acceptance to be made by stream leaders within one month. All abstracts will be peer reviewed. New and young scholars with “work in progress” papers are welcomed. Papers can be theoretical or theoretically informed empirical work. In the case of co-authored papers, ONE person should be identified as the corresponding author. Due to restrictions of space on the conference schedule, multiple submissions by the same author will not be timetabled. Please submit abstracts through the conference abstract portal at https://www.mq.edu.au/events/gwosydney.

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