Conference on Narratives of Criminality, Punishment and Social Justice in Children’s and Young Adult Literature

Two Day International Children’s & Young Adult Literature Conference

Organizer: Department of English, Jadavpur University, in collaboration with The Association for Children’s Literature in South Asia

About the Conference

  • When: 5 and 6 August 2022
  • Deadline for Abstract Submission: 31st May 2022
  • Conference Location: Zoom

The very idea of childhood as a social construct in which boundaries legal, social, cultural are
deployed to identify, isolate, and compartmentalise childhood as a distinct stage in human development, implies the necessity of socialisation to facilitate the movement from “child” to
“adult’. As theo rised by Chris Jenks in Childhood (Second Edition 2005), this significantly involves the exercise of discipline via punishment and reward through the institutions of family
schools, social communities, who legally and socially exercise power and control over the life of a child even as the idea of childhood changes with time. Accordingly, what is considered appropriate punishments mutates too, which begs the question: if the concept of punishment exists in a state of flux, at what point cana punishment be a crime? As children garner recognition as vocal social agents away from the traditional places of quietness, child-protection laws undergo amendments with changing social norms. Hence the once recommended methods of corporal punishment by parents, educationists, and children’s literature authors, is now controversial and banned in multiple countries.

Punishment, as a method of discipline, exists not just in the physical space, but figures prominently in the literary and psychological space too, as seen in Pankaj Butalia’s Dark Room (2013). This becomes conspicuous in the representations of crimes which lead to severe punishment as seen in fairy tales, or as repercussions for infractions and perceived deviancies against recognised social and institutional rules and norms as in school sto ries. They exist to encourage socialisation into “good citizens” through didacticism and fear of the switch. As such, the vulnerable child and child reader may momentarily resist discipline, but must either succumb or create a new world order. Positioned against an antagonist who might be a teacher, a stranger, a family member, or a fellow child, they are exposed to “crimes” which can range from extreme, like death, to the psychologically scarring but technically legal, which calls into
question the abstract nature of crime itself. How harmful must an act be for it to be legally and socially recognised as a crime? In the definitions of crime, punishment and justice, who is being
excluded from seeking justice? What of the child trapped in an adult’s world?

Naratives of Criminality, Punishment and Social Justice in Children’s Literature, a two-day
online conference held by the Department of English, Jadavpur University, in collaboration with the Association for Children’s Literature in South Asia, invites pa pers which explore the ideas,
manifestations and representations of criminality. punishment, and social justice as they intersect and define one another in children’s and young adult literature. We encourage undergraduate and graduate students and early-career researchers to apply.

Possible topics for exploration include but are not limited to:

  1. Role of the law and juvenile crime
  2. The gendered and/or sexual body as crime in CYA Literature
  3. Punishment and childhood trauma
  4. The investigative child
  5. The psychology of crime and punishment
  6. Criminalising childhoods
  7. Crime and religious identity in CYA Literature
  8. Cybercrime in CYA Literature
  9. The child as casualty/accessory/witness in crime
  10. Hegemonic power and punishment as discipline
  11. Justice in mythological re tellings and folklore for children
  12. Justice and individual agency
  13. Punitive death in Children’s Literature
  14. Pedagogies of prisons and confinements

Please send in abstracts of not more than 250 words, 5 keywords and a bionote of 100 words in
two Word documents to by 31st May 2022 with the subject line: “Crime and Punishment in CYA abstract”.

  • The bionote should be in a separate Word Document along with the abstract title and should contain name, affiliation, and location
  • Do not include your name in the abstract
  • Responses will be sent out after 15th June 2022

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