Global Childhoods

Home/ Global Childhoods
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSES2012134

Semester and Year Offered: 3rd Semester (Monsoon Semester)

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr Anandini Dar

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: NA

Course Objectives/Description:

In this course students will be introduced to the idea of childhood as a global phenomenon. To do so, the course will set up two key positions to understanding global childhoods. First, that there exist multiple childhood(s) across the globe. And second, that these childhoods are affected and informed by global processes – such as, colonization, imperialism, and globalization -- offering an interrogation of how global flows (of people, ideas, commodities, and institutions) transport and export some normative western, modern, and universal notions of childhoods to different parts of the world – both historically and in contemporary contexts. These exported and “universal” conceptions of childhood are manifest in sites, such as, educational institutions, early child care and development policies, children’s media, fiction, and children’s rights. Class readings, films, and discussions will engage with various figurations of local childhoods across the globe, particularly, child migrants, child labourers, and children of sex workers to better understand the complexities of children’s lives and educational realities in India and across the globe. Finally, this course aims to help students situate children’s lives, childhoods, and education in India in relation with global politics of childhood.


To offer an understanding of and critical awareness that:

  1. global flows and international standards produce universal but unequal childhoods;
  2. “universal” notions of childhood are exported through global flows to the global South, made visible in sites of schools, international policies, child rights discourses;
  3. children are agentic beings and their local and everyday practices reveals multiple childhoods in and across different historical, national, and cultural contexts.
  4. and, that politics of representation and rights underlie current debates about childhoods in the global South.


Course Outcomes:

On successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate knowledge of the concepts of globalization and childhoods.
  2. Identity, articulate and present key arguments of, and discussion questions for, the research papers studied in class.
  3. Problematize and articulate the meaning of multiple childhoods and the notion of ‘export of universal notions of childhood.’
  4. Make linkages between local and lived experiences of children and how global flows affect these daily experiences of young people.
  5. Recognize how “child saving” efforts within global humanitarian aid work obfuscates the agency of children and families.
  6. Demonstrate presentation skills and knowledge of issues affecting children’s lives in a globalising world today.


Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

The course is divided into four units:

  1. Globalization, colonization, and export of childhood (12 hours) :In this Unit students will be introduced to the concept of globalization in relation to childhood. Lectures and readings will highlight the “dark side” of globalization and how unequal the effects of the same are on different parts of the world, and in particular how globalization has shaped children’s lives and childhood, resulting in a notion of a “universal” childhood across the globe. This unit will also link how these universal conceptions of childhood and schooling have been prevalent in colonies, and even in contemporary times in global South countries. We examine this through early child development and welfare policies of the World Bank, and through research about schools in India and across the globe.                     
  2. Locating the ‘global’ in key sites of ‘childhood’: Schooling, Children’s Consumer and Media Cultures (8 hours) :In the second unit of the course, students will examine key sites that are present in children’s lives across the globe – such as, schooling, children’s fiction, and media and consumer culture – and explore how these influence children’s lives as well as the conception of “childhood.” Through the readings in this unit, students will learn how schooling produces a uniform experience of childhood for young lives in the global South, as a result of the influence of “western style” of schooling. Furthermore, there will be an examination of “global media” and consumer cultural practices of children, in the UK, US, Japan, and India, which will help students to understand the “global” influences that shape children’s lives in contemporary times.                                                                  
  3. Ethnographies of global childhoods: Growing up “local” and “global.” (12 hours) :Children grow up in a world where key sites they engage with influence and shape their lives, educational outcomes, and future trajectories as adults. At the same time, children’s everyday experiences, and realities, and ethnographic accounts reveal how children’s agency – and their local experiences – interact with and complicate the global influences on their lives. In this unit, students will be introduced to key ethnographies of children and youth growing up in a globalising era – particularly within India (in the state of Kerala and Varanasi), as well as in Sudan and Bolivia. These ethnographies engage with how categories of caste, class, and gender relate with global consumer culture and capitalism in youths’ daily life. By engaging with these ethnographies, students will gain a more nuanced understanding of how local and global interact and manifest in the realities of children’s everyday consumer practices and educational aspirations.                                                          
  4. Global politics of childhood: Humanitarianism and rights (16 hours):In this unit, students will engage with “images of childhood” that are employed by humanitarian aid organizations, rights based organizations, and social and humanitarian workers in an effort to “save” children from the conditions of living in the global South. Students will read critical papers that explore meanings of compassion and humanitarian work in a globalised capitalist society and consider how images of child saving obfuscate the realities and agency of the children on the ground. In examining the lives of children of sex workers and interventions made in their lives, students will have to critically question: how does humanitarian and global intervention in children’s lives affect their living conditions? In this way, this unit problematizes simplistic understandings of global aid, and global humanitarian work for children in the global South. This unit will further help students examine universal understandings of childhood in rights discourses through an in-depth examination of UNCRC and African Charter on Rights, and an exploration of the issue of child labour.


Assessment Details with weights:

  1. Attendance and Participation 10%
  2. Two In-Class Quiz 30%
  3. Global Childhoods Project 20%
  4. Presentations (on readings) 10%
  5. Final Paper based on a film 30%


Reading List:

  • Allison, Anne. (2002). “The Cultural Politics of Pokemon Capitalism.” Conference Paper. Pp 1-9.
  • Anderson-Levitt, Kathryn. (2005). ‘The Schoolyard Gate: Schooling and Childhood in Global Perspective’ Journal of Social History vol. 38, no.4, pp.987-1006.
  • Balagopalan, Sarada (2002). “Constructing Indigenous Childhoods: Colonialism, Vocational Education and the Working Child.” Childhood, 9(1), 19-34.
  • Bornstein, Erica. (2001). Child sponsorship, evangelism, and belonging in the work of World Vision Zimbabwe, American Ethnologist, 28, 3: 595-622.
  • Boyden, Jo. (1997). “Childhood and the Policy Makers: A comparative perspective on the globalization of childhood.” In James, A. & Prout A. (Eds.), Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood: Contemporary Issues in the Sociological Study of Childhood (Second Edition). London: Falmer Press. 290-214.
  • Buckingham, David (2007). ‘Childhood in the Age of Global Media’ Children’s Geographies, vol.5, nos. 1-2, 43-54.
  • Carvajal, Doreen (2005). Sesame Street Goes Global: Let’s all count the revenue. The New York Times, December 12. Accessible online: pp. 1.
  • Cole, Jennifer and Durham, Deborah. “Figuring the Future: Globalization and the Temporality of Children and Youth.” Pp. 3-11; 21-22.
  • Cross, Gary (2005). ‘Japan, the US and the Globalization of Children’s Consumer Culture’ Journal of Social History vol. 38, no.4, pp.873-890.
  • Fass, Paula (2005). ‘Children in Global Migrations’ Journal of Social History vol. 38, no.4, pp.937-953.
  • Hertel, Shareen (2006). ‘Child Labor, child rights and transnational advocacy: The case of Bangladesh’ in Unexpected Power: Conflict and Change Amongst Transnational Activists (Chapter 3), Ithaca: Cornell University Press. PP. 31-54.
  • Huberman, Jenny (2005). “Consuming Children: Reading the impacts of tourism in the city of Banaras.” Childhood, 12 (2), pp. 161-176.
  • James, Allison & James, Adrian (2012). “Children’s Agency.” In James, Allison and James, Adrian. Key Concepts in Childhood Studies. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Pp. 9-11.
  • James, Allison and James, Adrian. (2012). “ Cultural relativism” In Key Concepts in Childhood Studies. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Pp 40-42.
  • Katz, Cindi (2004). Growing up Global: Economic restructuring and children’s everyday lives. University of Minnesota Press. Chapter 2 & 3. Pp 23-56 & 59-108.
  • Kauffman, Ross, Zana Briski, Geralyn White Dreyfous, Pamela Tanner Boll, Nancy Baker, and John McDowell. (2005). Born into brothels. Santa Monica, Calif: Lion's Gate Home Entertainment.
  • Lukose, Ritty (2009). Liberalisation’s children: Gender, Youth, and Consumer Citizenship in Globalizing India. Duke University Press. Introduction (pp. 1-23), Chapter 1 (pp. 23-53), Chapter 5 (163-199), and Epilogue (pp. 200-206).
  • Manzo, Kate. (2008). ‘Imaging Humanitarianism: NGO Identity and the Iconography of Childhood.’ Antipode, 40(4): 632-65.
  • May, Helen, Kaur, Banljit, Prochner, Larry (2014). “‘A fine moral machinery:’ Infant Schools in British India.” In Empire, Education, and Indigenous Childhoods: Nineteenth-century missionary infant schools in three British colonies. UK: Ashgate. Chapter 3. Pp 111-148.
  • Monaghan, Katie (2012). “Early Child Development Policy: The colonization of the world’s child-rearing practices.” In Afua Twum-Danso Imoh and Robert Ame eds Childhoods at the Intersection of the Local and the Global.UK: Palgrave Macmillan. Pp. 56-74.
  • Nieuwenhuys, Olga (2001) ‘By the sweat of their brow? Street children, NGOs and children’s rights in Addis Ababa’. Africa 71(4) 539-557.
  • Sircar, Oishik and Dutta, Debolina. (2011). “Beyond Compassion: Children of Sex Workers in Kolkata’s Sonagachi” in Childhoods.18 (3), 333-349.
  • Sirohi, Seema (2005). “Zana’s Shutters.” In Outlook: The Magazine. 14 March 2005. Accessible online:
  • Stearns, Peter. (2012). “Globalization and Childhoods” in Heidi Morrison (ed.) The Global History of Childhood Reader. NY: Routledge. Pp 235-243.
  • United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child:
  • Film: Babies
  • Film: Santa's Workshop - Inside China's Slave Labour Toy Factories.



  • Appadurai, Arjun (1996). Modernity at large: Cultural dimensions of globalization. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Chapter 1.
  • Balagopalan, Sarada (2014). Inhabiting Childhood: Children, Labour and Schooling in Postcolonial India. India: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Bissel, Susan (2003) “The Social Construction of Childhood: A Perspective from Bangladesh,” in Naila Kabeer, Geetha Nambissan and Ramya Subrahmanian eds. Child Labour and the Right to Education in South Asia: Needs versus Rights? New Delhi: Sage Publications.
  • Burman, Erica. (1996). Local, Global or Globalized? Child development and international child rights legislation. Childhood, 3 (1), pp. 45-66.
  • Gibson, Kristina (2011). Street Kids: Homeless Youth, Outreach, and Policing New York's Streets. NY: NYU Press.
  • Grier, Beverly (1994) Invisible Hands: The Political Economy of Child Labor in Colonial Zimbabwe: 1890-1930” Journal of Southern African Studies, Taylor and Francis: London, 20 (1).
  • Prout, Alan & James, Allison (1997). A new paradigm for the sociology of childhood? Provinance, promise and problems. In James, A. & Prout A. (Eds.), Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood: Contemporary Issues in the Sociological Study of Childhood (Second Edition). London: Falmer Press.
  • Punch, Samantha (2007). ‘Negotiating Migrant Identities: Young People in Bolivia and Argentina’ Children’s Geographies, vol.5, nos. 1-2, 95-112.
  • Punch, Samantha (2007). Migration Projects: Children on the Move for Work and Education. Paper presented at: Workshop on Independent Child Migrants: Policy Debates and Dilemmas. Pp. 1-15.
  • Tripathi, R.C. and Sinha, Yoganand (2014). Psychology, Development, and Social Policy in India. India: Springer.
  • Vallargada, Karen (2011) “Adam’s Escape: Children and the Discordant Nature of Colonial Conversions” Childhood: A Global Journal of Child Research, Sage: London. 18 (3).