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25 Years

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

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 a 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.

Check out the edited volume by our facilitators, Professors Levison, Maynes, and Vavrus! 

CCYSC Awaaz Podcast on "Children and Youth as Subjects, Objects, Agents" 

Article on YaSOA's co-sponsorship of the 2020 exhibit on "Seeing Child Labor through the Photography of David L. Parker" - January 28, 2021

Sara Musaifer, YaSOA Member and PhD Candidate in OLPD, touring "The ABC of It: Why Children's Books Matter" exhibit in the Andersen Library, UMN, May 2019

Article on YaSOA featured in the Society for History of Children and Youth (SHCY) Commentary Series - January 21, 2019

Jessica Taft, University of California-Santa Cruz, March 2, 2018

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 his/her 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.

Yared Zeleke, Filmmaker, January 23, 2017


Deborah Levison
Humphrey School of Public Affairs

MJ Maynes

Fran Vavrus
Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development

Spring 2021 Course Offering

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

GCC 3035 & GCC 5035

Professor Deborah Levison, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, dlevison@umn.edu

Professor MJ Maynes, History, mayne001@umn.edu

Spring 2021, 3 credits, Tues/Thurs 1 - 2:15 pm (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

Daughters of the Forest Film Discussion, December 9, 2016