Children, politics and citizenship in contemporary democracies

The fact that children are citizens and have rights today appears as a matter of course - but what rights do children and young people have in practice, what rights do they claim and how can the lens of childhood spur new theoretical and empirical inquiries into our understanding of what citizenship and rights means? In my research and teaching, I am interested in how children and young people are made objects of politics and how themselves act as political subjects and make claims in contemporary democracies in matters of voting rights, migration and education.

My research can be divided into two main strands; children, migration and claims of asylum and children's political representation. Common to these strands is that they both aim at studying societal challenges about children, citizenship and politics. Children make up about 30% of the world's population, thus forming a significant part of the people who are affected, and participants in, national and international politics. In my research, I want to contribute to our knowledge of how children are made objects of politics and how children and young people act politically and raise claims to political representation in local, national and global contexts. 

Children, migration and claims of asylum

The increasing amount of child migrants seeking asylum has by recipient countries like Sweden been met by increasing efforts to enforce deportations. In turn actors of the civil society have been taken political action to claim rights for non-citizen children through anti-deportations campaigns. In this strand of research I am today particularly interested in the political strategies, repertoires and protest movements that are driven by children and youth themselves in interplay with other actors of the civil society for non-citizen children’s right to stay.

In my dissertation project, Children at the Borders, focus is put on legal, political and ethical aspects on children´s rights to asylum in a Swedish context. In the thesis I conduct empirical studies of how legal norms and precedents regarding children´s rights have developed in the Swedish Migration Court of Appeal and how children´s rights to asylum has been discussed in anti-deportation campaigns reported in Swedish media over the last years. This is combined with a theoretical interest of children as political subjects in contemporary debates within political philosophy about citizenship, rights and borders.
Children at the Borders

In fall 2018, I start a post-doc project: Non-citizen children and anti-deportation campaigns: Political strategies and mobilization for the right to stay (Funded by the Swedish Research Council) One purpose of this project is to scrutinize the involvement of children and youth in anti-deportation campaigns and their use of political strategies and different repertoires. Another purpose is to develop methodological and theoretical tools to make possible international comparisons. 

Children’s rights and political representation in contemporary democracies 

How have children been considered and created themselves as political subjects in time and space? In this strand of research, I have in the last years been interested in rights of children, citizenship and political representation in recent, historical and political philosophical perspectives. In addition to my dissertation work, I have along this line together with colleagues arranged two international conferences on Children’s rights,

  • The Troublesome Children's Rights (2014, funded by the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working life and Welfare)
  • Children's Rights: origins, normativity, transformations and prospects (2016, funded by the Swedish Foundation for the Humanities and Social Sciences)

One output of this work is an forthcoming special issue on Child Rights Governance in the journal Childhood in 2019 that will be edited by me, Bengt Sandin (Linköping University - Tema Barn) and Anna Holzscheiter (Berlin Frei Universität).

In this special issue we would like to explore the origins, logics and effects of child rights governance. Interest are paid to how the idea of children’s rights, and the principles and institutions associated with the idea of children’s rights, through different historical legacies and contemporary political challenges increasingly have become part of the mechanism, systems and instruments that are commonly associated with governance.  Children’s rights have become an instrument, not only to protect and emancipate children from oppression, but also to govern, regulate and control children and define appropriate types of childhoods in differen local, national and international contexts.

In fall 2018, I will, together with Bengt Sandin and five other researchers, begin a four-year project funded by the Swedish Research Council: Universal suffrage? voting restrictions and disenfranchisement in Sweden after 1921. The project is the first systematic survey of the Swedish voting restrictions and extensions after 1921 and the “democratic breakthrough”, thus highlighting aspects of the Swedish democratization process that until today has been virtually unexplored. My and Bengt Sandin's subproject is specifically concerned with the political debates about changes in voting age during the 20th century. The empirical studies moreover raise a number of important theoretical questions about how we historically and today understand children and young people's political representation.

Teaching

In recent years, I have taught and been course director for several courses at basic and advanced level at Linköping University such as Children’s rights and Children, School and Education at the International Master Program in Child Studies. I have regularly been contributing with lectures and seminars at the Teacher Training Program in courses on education policy, education history, migration and school development. I am today the course director for UK 4, Education history, the school's societal role and value base and Political Theory 2 at the Department of Political Science. I have previously been course director Ethics A in Religious Studies.

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