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In her 2011 article "On Not Defining Children's Literature," Marah Gubar acknowledges that, although the concept of childhood is difficult to define, it does not follow that "we cannot know anything about the lives, practices, and discourse of individual children from different times and places." In speaking of children's literature, Gubar argues that we should abandon the attempt to create a narrow definition and should instead strive "to characterize our subject in ways that acknowledge its messiness and diversity" (212). Such an approach has value not only for those concerned with children's literature but also for those [End Page 107] working in the broader field of childhood studies. Given that the very notions of childhood and youth are complex and continually shifting, by recognizing their inherent diversity we can both expand and deepen our understanding of these categories.

In May 2011, the international conference on Mapping the Landscapes of Childhood at the University of Lethbridge showcased just how important and useful a multidisciplinary approach to childhood studies can be. The conference arose out of a recognition that many scholars on our campus were exploring issues related to childhood that ranged quite literally from A to Z: from anthropological to zoological approaches, with educational, historical, literary, neuroscientific, psychological, and sociological perspectives in between. The productive conversations engendered by this recognition of common interests inspired us to ask how childhood studies were conceived across Canada more broadly, and so the idea for a conference was born. The response to our call from scholars within Canada and from around the globe was enthusiastic and the conference itself a great success. It was apparent during the conference, in the discussions it stimulated and in the connections made, that our decision to "go broad" had inspired scholars not only to recognize the benefits of a pluralist approach in general, but also to view their own work, located within specific discourses and disciplines, as others might view it, bringing new, previously hidden insights to bear on their specific areas of interest. The development of the Institute for Child and Youth Studies at the University of Lethbridge as a direct result of the conference will, we hope, enable our pluralist approach to continue to flourish.

The themes at the heart of this forum represent our interests as scholars of childhood within our own disciplines of English (Galway), psychology (Barrett), and anthropology (Newberry). The obvious thread that links the three papers selected for the forum (by Kristine Moruzi, Kristine Alexander, and Natalie Coulter) is the notion of colonization; that is, all three authors are concerned with the creation of "good subjects," whether these be citizens of empire, members of a girls' club, or consumers of popular culture. These are ideas that link to our broader interests in exploring the idea that human identity is not fixed and self-contained but an ongoing process of construction. Ian Hacking has written cogently on the "looping effects" created by the construction of new "human kinds" within psychology, anthropology, and sociology (351). The constructions we develop through academic study and its subsequent filtering through society change how people come to see themselves, altering their ideas and lived experience to produce new kinds of people, which leads to changes in how these new kinds are realized, recognized, and studied in an ongoing cycle. In other words, human identity is a moving target. It seems clear that all of us who engage in the [End Page 108] academic study of childhood would do well to heed these points: whether we deal with the past or the present, the ways in which we interpret, dissect, and interrogate our subject matter has the potential to create particular "child kinds" that then influence perceptions of children beyond the academy. Specifically, the papers here deal with the manner in which the subjectivity of children is created by and through social practices (such as the Guiding movement, literature, television, advertising, and the "Disneyfication" of culture). Questions common to many scholars in the disciplines of children's literature studies, anthropology, and psychology pertain to how children come to know themselves, how they are socialized through the adult...


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