Subjects, Objects, Agents: Young People’s Lives and Livelihoods in the Global South (YaSOA)

The goal of this collaborative research circle, started in 2013, is to bring together an interdisciplinary group of faculty and doctoral students to explore the lives of children and youth in the Global South.

The group was originally comprised of scholars whose main focus is the contemporary world. We have since expanded our thematic focus temporally and geographically to include relevant historical scholarship on all geographic regions. More specifically, the circle examines the ways in which children and youth are constructed as individual subjects in various theoretical frameworks and development discourses, as objects of policy intervention, and as active agents who act on the world and make meaning amidst conditions of social and economic marginalization.

Through regular workshops in which participants present their own ongoing research, as well as through interactions with visiting speakers and reading group sessions, the members of YaSOA seek to bridge the divide between theoretical and empirical research on children and youth, and to cross disciplinary borders in doing so. Each member is currently engaged in scholarship relevant to their discipline, but the thematic focus of the group is reflected in a set of overarching research questions:

  • How are children and youth conceptualized in social theory and how are they understood as agents in demographic, economic, and educational discourses that involve them (e.g., policies addressing work, fertility decline, economic growth, or school completion)?  
  • To what extent do policies and program aimed at the improvement of the lives and prospects of young people and the protection of children’s rights recognize the intersectionality of childhood and youth with other forms of potential marginalization (including but not limited to class, gender, race, disability status, and sexual orientation)?
  • How do children and youth themselves understand their own situations and options and what strategies do they employ in different contexts to acquire an education or secure a livelihood for themselves and their families, and to make the transition to adulthood?

We use these central questions to guide the selection of invited speakers and discussions of our own research.

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Course Offerings

Spring 2021

CHILD LABOR: Work, Education, & Human Rights in Global Historical Perspectives

GCC 3035 & GCC 5035


3 credits, Tues/Thurs 1:00–2:15 p.m. (remote, synchronous)

It seems obvious that we should oppose child labor. Or should we? This course challenges students to think critically about the many angles that need to be considered in deciding whether any particular type of children's work should be opposed or permitted. Drawing on contemporary and historical scholarship in the interdisciplinary arena of childhood and youth studies, this course takes on ethical and human rights as well as economic analyses; it reflects upon child development and legal perspectives; it examines cases ranging across the globe and across recent centuries. It may very well change the way you think about kids, forever.

Recent Events

  • Photo Exhibition, "Seeing Child Labor through the Photography of David L Parker," Spring Semester 2020
  • Winter 2019 Member Writing Hunker
  • Speakers, Fida Adely, Georgetown University and Betty Anderson, Boston University, "Youth Navigating the 21st Century City of Amman, Securing Education and Livelihoods"
  • Fall 2019 Workshop
  • Spring 2018 Book Workshop 
  • Speaker, Jessica Taft, Latin American and Latino Studies, University of California-Santa Cruz, "The Kids are in Charge 'but' Adults Talk Too Much: Age and Power in the Peruvian Movement of Working Children"
  • Winter 2018 Member Writing Hunker
  • Fall 2017 Workshop
  • Speaker, Samia Khatun, College of Liberal Arts, Bangladesh, "Power and Protest: Bengali Textile Workers' Resistance Narratives"
  • Workshop with Monica Grant, Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin, "The Consequences of Parental Death and Divorce for Offspring Divorce in Rural Malawi"
  • Film Screening of "Daughters of the Forest"
  • Film Screening of "Lamb"
  • Speaker, Elena Albarran, Department of History & Global and Intercultural Studies, Miami University, "Little Voices, Big Questions: Working with Child-Produced Sources in the Historical Archive"