Title

Nothing changes : dangerous childhoods and the 'unprotecting' of children in Western Australia

Date of Award

1-1-2008

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of International, Cultural and Community Studies

Faculty

Faculty of Education and Arts

Abstract

The problem under investigation in this project is the apparent continuity in the social, cultural and historical acceptance of dominant claims to truth which position children as variously vulnerable, dependent and passive social actors-in-waiting: constructions which produce limitations in the conditions of possibility for their 'protection'. My aim has been to consider critically whether these fundamental and taken-for-granted assumptions have been discursively (re)produced in a select few of Western Australia's child protection policies. The central disciplinary discourses through which the problem is examined are: 'familialisation', 'futurity" 'within the child's best interests', and 'participation'. To uncover the implications of these assumptions I have approached the investigation from within a child- centred framework, wherein I seek to focus at all times on how conceptualisations of the social categories 'child' and 'children', and their location within the structural space of 'childhood', are (re )presented, positioned and understood within these key discursive sites. The purpose of taking a child-centred approach is to investigate the extent to which discourses about children and childhood constrain, or, expand, conditions of possibility for the continuation, or amelioration, of deleterious, disrespectful and/or unfair representations of them. In order to achieve this aim, I have applied a critical discourse analysis to the chosen policies, engaging, with postmodern debates located within understandings of discourse and its relationship to power, knowledge and identity. This analysis has also been supported and augmented by the 'new' social studies of childhood, studies which expand, both theoretically and empirically, social, historical, and cultural understandings of children and childhoods, and age categories and relations. The findings, explicated in the analyses Chapters, Five to Eight, and discussed in Chapter Nine, support the assumptions residing within the problem: children are constrained by the very discourses which not only produce particular constructions of them but are productive of a system of power relationships, and institutional and societal structures and conditions which, together, reinforce their assigned inferior and subordinate social status in a differentiated and separate world of childhood.

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