I’ve just returned from the 2019 SHCY Conference, held at the Australian Catholic University in Sydney, Australia. My paper, entitled “Encounters and Exchanges: The Promise of Generational/Relational Analysis in the History of Children and Youth”, introduced relational analysis as a means of avoiding the analytical and conceptual “traps” associated with a focus on children’s agency in historical interpretation. Here is an excerpt from the paper that offers a glimpse into the methodological argument I want to explore further in my work:
“I use the term relational analysis to focus interpretive attention on the multilayered and porous interactions amongst women and girls under the auspices of the ECS. This approach enables the historian to hold different interests and perspectives across generations, and other categories of analysis, in productive tension with each other simultaneously. In so doing, we might avoid the confining the analysis to a binaried interpretive framework, perhaps too simplistically juxtaposing adult actions and perspectives against those of children and youth.
A more explicitly relational framework, conversely, one that can accommodate, and theorize, young peoples’ complex social and cultural relationships in the past can move our attention beyond questions of agency and towards a clearer understanding of what being young meant in the past, and how this changed over time, on its own terms. In turn, valuing youthful experience in this way, can empower historians of children and youth to challenge traditional conceptions of what constitutes “historical significance.”
Stay tuned as I explore these new conceptualizations!