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The Idea of Development and the Study of Children in Brazil as a Developing Society
Lucia Rabello de Castro Psychology Developing Societies 2012 24: 181 DOI: 10.1177/097133361202400205 The online version of this article can be found at: http://pds.sagepub.com/content/24/2/181

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Article Editors Introduction

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Psychology and Developing Societies 24(2) 181204 2012 Department of Psychology, University of Allahabad SAGE Publications Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC DOI: 10.1177/097133361202400205 http://pds.sagepub.com

The Idea of Development and the Study of Children in Brazil as a Developing Society
Lucia Rabello de Castro

Centre for the Study and Research on Contemporary Childhood and Youth Institute of Psychology, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Abstract Development has been for long an idea and an ideal that moulded the teleological movement of nations as well as that of individual self-realisation. The present paper looks at such a paradigm of development in order to examine its impact on the social science research agenda on children in Brazil. Looking at issues concerning the modernisation processes and national development engendered contradictions, as far as a childs position in a developing country was concerned. The seeming universality and taken for granted truth about development has concealed the relevance of evaluating its shortcomings, especially for those like children, who do not often benefit from its positive effects. The article questions whether there can be univocal value-directions and objectives whereby countries can envisage their futures. The effect of disembedding future cosmologies from given trajectories of development can have an impact on childrens research agenda as it opens up new ways to look at children and their social realities in developing countries.

Address correspondence concerning this article to Lucia Rabello de Castro, Institute of Psychology Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. E-mail: lrcastro@infolink.com.br Environment and Urbanization ASia, 1, 1 (2010): viixii

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Keywords development, developing countries, Brazil, children, social research The study of children in the field of social sciences is embedded in the fabric of the ample conceptions and understandings that a society produces about itself, its past and its future. How a society envisages its key social problems becomes intertwined with how childhood issues are rendered visible. In this sense, childhood and children constitute social constructions that reflect relevant values and cherished images of societies, in particular historical and political moments. My intention here is to look at the way that childhood and children have been studied in the social sciences field in Brazil, in order to articulate childhood issues with what seems to be the major challenges and afflictions of the Brazilian society in the past century. Stepping back from this overall panorama, I would also like to take an extrinsic point of view of the constitution of the field of childhood studies, in order to look critically at the contribution that social sciences have offered to the understanding of children, their living worlds and their problems. I would like to ask questions such as: how have social sciences in Brazil fared in highlighting childhood issues? Which other concerns, issues and problems on children and childhood should have been investigated, but were not, and why? What other research alternatives on children and childhood can and should be pursued? These questions hinge on taken-for-granted assumptions about childhood and children which make up the epistemological tenets and the grounding normative views that guide childhood research. As social scientists trying to understand the lives of children in our different societies we may embark on certain regimes of truth which veil the underpinnings of our research enterprise. By adopting a critical position it is possible to create some distance to what is established as seemingly conventional wisdom and authority in the field of child studies. Above all, such a critical standpoint seems necessary to grasp the complexities of specific cultural and political realities, such as those of developing countries. As many theories of childhood and children are produced in Western developed societies, it seems relevant to examine their relevance and applicability in different cultural and political contexts, rather than only Western developed contexts. This could be proved fruitful in a double sense: to

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render problematic certain notions which seem to have a universal application; and to broaden the scope of problems that affect children turning either more specific, or more general, certain analyses about childrens issues. As a caveat, one point is worth stating: by the rubric of social sciences I am taking into consideration, in the present work, the disciplinary fields of psychology, sociology, history, education, anthropology and political science, all of which are concerned with issues related to the social constitution of human subjects, their social relationships and the role of social groups and institutions. What is at stake here is that, increasingly, childhood studies have become a domain which draws upon diverse disciplinary contributions. On the one hand, this may bring about certain difficulties to validate concepts and theories across different disciplines; on the other hand, examining childhood issues in a transverse way may result in underscoring major aspects of the interplay between scientific knowledge about children and the values and projects that animate societies at certain points of their historical trajectories.

Social Sciences in Brazil and the Child Question (192080): The Invisible Child as the Epitome of a Modern-Nation-To-Be
Two major, yet distinct, academic trends have contributed to make visible the child question in Brazil: one stemming mainly from sociology and anthropology, of which the more recent systematic production dates from the 1970s showing a slight upward increment towards the end of the century; the other, mainly from psychology and education, of which the systematic production goes back to the 1930s.1 These trends show distinct research concerns about children, though they converge on the overall value-status of children, that is, their invisible and marginal position in society. In this sense, both trends reveal what Qvortrup (1993, quoting Kaufmann) has called the structural inconsiderateness of society vis--vis children as the latter remain peripheric social actors whose contribution to society is regarded as insignificant. Psychology owes much of its seminal inspirations about the study of children from Brazilian social paediatricians of the beginning of last

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century (Bomfim, 1926; Moncorvo Filho, 1926). The notion of the child as a developing creature reverberated the idea that living organisms have the capacity to grow (Tobach, 1981), as well as that historyontogenetic and philogeneticcould be conceived as a movement towards progress and evolution (White, 1983). Regarded as incomplete human beings who need to be socialised and educated, not yet capable to act rationally and responsibly, children became objects of social intervention in schools and homes. In the newly proclaimed Brazilian nation and republic,2 concerns about childhood converged on concerns about the construction of a nation-to-be: children were considered the future citizens, the advent of a modern society, whereby a self-conscious subject and citizen had to be fostered (Bomfim, 1932; Loureno Filho, 1940). Accordingly, psychology was the discipline that played a foremost role in the characterisation of the child as the under-socialised subject positioned in the irrevocable place of the learner (Loureno Filho a/b, no date). The discipline of psychologythrough its sub-field of developmental psychology in Brazil, and elsewherehas been heavily influenced by the works of the Jean Piaget whose main intellectual project consisted of understanding the progressive unfolding of cognitive capacities from birth to adulthood as a sequential, cumulative and teleological path of growing capabilities (Modgil and Modgil, 1980; Piaget, 1967). In this vein, psychology largely contributed to make up the national social imaginary about children, as developing creatures. The position of the child was characterised by its unfolding capacities as time elapsed and social/educational circumstances were favourable (Biaggio, 1970). Thus, programming the adequate social intervention in schools became crucial to lead children to their eventual plenitude of performance as capable adults. Handbooks of child development published in the United States came out in Brazilian editions (Bee, 1969; Mussen et al., 1977) engrossing the incipient Brazilian production on the developing child. As Rose (1989) has pointed out, following Foucault, the language and the practices of psychology, as a scientific discipline, served to produce the selfgoverned individuals required in modernity. Through technologies of government, whereby individuals willingly identify with forms of being and feeling, self-regulation could be produced. In this vein, modern children, under adequate educational intervention, were led to identify with, and introject, an image of learners and future citizens, willinglly Psychology and Developing Societies, 24, 2 (2012): 181204

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submitting themselves to their own process of development and selfrealisation. Childrens position of invisibility in Brazil during most of the 20th century stems from their dissolution in the privatised, thus not public and not socially relevant, position of not being ready yet (a sort of halfsubject-half human and half in-human), a subject-to-be preparing him/ herself to assume her full status of citizen (Castro, 1996). The deployment of a developmental paradigm which investigated ad infinitum the minutiae of childrens cognitive, emotional and moral under-achievements (as compared to adults) consolidated the scientific and ideological apparatus whereby becoming human would be apprehended as a linear and pre-determined trajectory of increasing abilities (McCall, 1977). By the same token, mirrorring the plane of human individual development, human societies were also teleologically oriented towards progress and evolution. Development coined the notion which stood as the taken-for-granted truth of what nations should strive for and secure (Riegel, 1972). Development materialised the ethos of modern societies as well as epitomised the ethical and psychological duty of every child (Broughton, 1987; Morss, 1996). Social knowledge produced within the disciplinary fields of sociology, history and anthropology in Brazil during this same period of time, focused on the notion of the poor child at risk. In an increasing number, children began to appear in the streets of big cities becoming a social problem and calling for the States attention. Data published by FUNABEM (1984), the federal agency for the assistance and care of minors, revealed the gravity of the situation. It was estimated that about 30 million minors (children up to 19 years of age) were in a situation of neglect in 1981, i.e., one out of every two Brazilians in this age stratum. During the first-half of the 20th century, a swelling contingent of nonqualified migrant workers coming from rural areas found that they became homeless and jobless in the big cities of Brazil. Bringing with them a bulging number of neglected children idled in the streets. Alvim and Valladares (1988) pioneered the very first mapping of the social sciences literature on childhood whose key aspects converged on the idea of child as the neglected victim of modernisation processes in Brazil. The social and economic context of Brazil in the first decades of the 20th century was that of a recently proclaimed republic based on a still predominantly rural and oligarchic society marked by three Psychology and Developing Societies, 24, 2 (2012): 181204

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centuries of African slavery, with no clear national identity except for the unifying language, Portuguese, spoken in its vast territory. Ribeiro (1995), a well-known Brazilian social anthropologist, notes in this respect that Brazilians had a difficult task as a recently independent republic to construct their national identy with no past ancestries, myths or heroes to rely on. At the same time, the three main ethnic groups, the indigenous Indians, the Portuguese and the Blacks of Africa, from which the miscegenated Brazilians descended, stood as others which provided no direct and immediate source of identification. As such, Brazilians suffered from nobodilessness, being cultural orphans in search of a national identity and a nation to be constructed. Macro issues related to the impasses of a wanting-to-be modern nation became the prominent focus of research in the social sciences, subordinating childhood issues to these foremost topics, such as the formation of social classes in Brazil, the state, social institutions like syndicates, and industrialisation and urbanisation and so forth. The emphasis lay on the States apparatus and its operation in favour of the lites and their hegemonic interests leading to an unfair structure of rewards where children of the lower classes were positioned at the bottom.3 The abandonment and neglect of children are then considered consequences deriving from modernisation processes in Brazil as a developing nation-state. Accordingly, lower class children became an object of concern insofar as they incarnated the perverse effects of Brazilian modernisation, with the installation of free as opposed to slave labour, intense urbanisation processes and industrialisation. Therefore, it is to the poor child that social sciences turn to as a convocation to provide relevant knowledge to those who make policies and deal directly with children (Alvim and Valladares, 1988, p. 15). Poor childhood stood as the most visible aspect of a nation which was not modern enough, some Brazilian social scientists would say a de-traditionalised society (Duarte, 1995). Brazilian childhood was definitely not modern as an enormous number of children countered the modern imaginary about childhood. Only better-off children could fulfil the role of the dutiful learner duly preparing him/herself in the recondite contexts of school and home. Along this period research topics of interest in the social science literature about childhood were: delinquency and criminality, child labour, legislation on the minor, the poor childs family, the institutionalised minor and its problems, socio-economic characteristics of the poor child, Psychology and Developing Societies, 24, 2 (2012): 181204

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street children, social policies for minors. Also, the discussion of the reproduction of educational institutions and their relationships with the State and the family became an important concern. The specificity of research on children envisaged a general concern with children as an object of protection in the modernized legal apparatus of the State which was seen as not fulfilling its corresponding duties with regards to most children. In this sense, social sciences scholarship stood as an important arena for debates on childhood issues, highlighting to a certain extent the contradictions of modernisation and development in Brazil. In this vein, some debates became prominent: (a) The conception of poor children as menacing and dangerous (the association between poverty and criminality); (b) the conception of street children as having no bonds with their families (the moral incapacity of the latter to care and protect); (c) the evaluation of institutionalisation measures as remedial for childrens criminal offences; (d) the view of child labour as a mere expression of exploitative class relationships overlooking its role as a socializing factor and a value for poor families and children. By and large, during this period, social sciences imagined children as captives of the modernisation effects of the recently formed nation-state. However, it was poor childrens realities which made explicit, very crudely, the contradictions of Brazilian development whereby modernity did not reach enormous contingents of people, children included, who, as powerless victims of the modern State, represented one of the dysfunctional aspects of the Brazilian republic.

The Child as Upholder of Rights: Rhetorical Prerogatives of the Modern Nation of Brazil?
The re-democratisation process of Brazil after 20 long years of military dictatorship (196484) and the promulgation of the new Constitution of 1988, set a new scenario for children as well as stirred a new impetus to childhood studies in Brazil. The Federal Law 8069/90, most commonly known as the Statute of the Child and the Adolescent (ECA), of 1990, was approved, establishing a juridical conception of children as a subject of rights. Accordingly, this legislation had the virtue of establishing Psychology and Developing Societies, 24, 2 (2012): 181204

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the judicial equivalence of all children, de-characterising, at least, de jure, the derogatory status of minors attributed to poor children, who, in the course of the 20th century, had been regarded as at risk, and possibly, delinquent. At least on a rhetorical level, Brazil, who signed the International Convention of Childrens Rights of the United Nations, was a modern nation. In fact, the ECA legitimated a thorough attack on all sorts of social prejudice against poor children, most often mulatoes and blacks, who idled around in the city surviving as best they could. However, the social imaginary about underprivileged children would not change by decree, but only if effective measures had been taken so as to improve the length and the quality of their lives. The fate of a great contingent of poor children, especially in urban areas, has not, up to our days, changed as the law publicly summoned, as several studies have shown (Castro et al., 2005; Craidy, 1998; Guimares, 1998; Kosminsky, 1991; Minayo, 1993; Rizzini, 1989, 1993; Sawaia, 1999; Zaluar, 1994). The paramount understanding of children under this new legislation was that they were developing subjects who needed special provision. Therefore, the idea of children in need of protection, guidance and tutelage from the adults is maintained as from the preceding period except in the sense that such a conception is extended to all children, irrespective of their social and economic status. The restructuring of the legal statute of the child, as a subject of rights, reverberated in the amplification of topics of social research on children. Issues like childrens citizenship, alternative institutional care for children, children and youths criminal responsibility, parental responsibility, violence against children, participation of children in civil society and children adoption are instances of the diversification of research childhood themes. A significant number of studies showed a more transdisciplinary approach to childhood studies on the above-mentioned topics, revealing a certain fluidity of discipline boundaries as far as concepts and methodologies are concerned. In the 2000s, novel theoretical perspectives on childrens issues were opened by anthropological studies of children (Cohn, 2005; Nunes, 1999; Silva, 1987; Silva et al., 2002), inspired by the recent relevance of the issue of cultural differences. Children represented a specific age status providing for particular ways and territories of social relationship and interaction began to be regarded as producing a culture of their owna peer culture (Faria et al., 2002) and a school culture (Faria Filho et al., Psychology and Developing Societies, 24, 2 (2012): 181204

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2004). A new outlook on children as competent social actors who contribute to mainstream culture transforming it as they learn and interact with adults was on the way. Anthropological studies are also responsible for systematic investigations concerning racial differences in Brazil and their implications in educational contexts, childrens ethnic constructions about peers (Fazzi, 2004; Ribeiro, 2006); a timely undertaking in view of the current governmental policies to bring about a debate around racial equality in Brazil. In addition to anthropologists, historians have also increasingly focused on childhood and children (Freitas, 1997; Marcilio, 1998; Priore, 1999; Venncio, 1999) providing growing scholarship on the history of childhood in Brazil in different historical periods from colonial times up to the present. In the favourable context of the upgraded status of children as a subject of rights, thus as recipients of public policies and financial investments, new social actors have come to dispute political space and resources with regards to children research. During the 1990s and 2000s a significant participation of international organisms like UNICEF, UNESCO, as well as a great many national and international NGOs, have exerted an influential provision in the delineation of child needs, realities and issues. Research topics financed by NGOs follow hot issues that circulate in the public agenda, especially in the media, enhancing their own institutional visibility. Big Brazilian financial institutions, like Bradesco and Ita, and private and state enterprises, like Petrobrs, Vale, Odebrecht, Votorantim and many others, have set up their own foundations for research on children as well as for provision of alternative care/education for those underprivileged ones, in response to what has been lately labelled corporate social responsibility. In some sense, the newly approved set of childrens rights has become attractive as new markets (Baxi, 2010) for a variety of social institutions and actors which take up the cause of children and their development as a new way to enhance their own social visibility and image. The advancement of NGOs, international and national organisms in the domain of childrens research and action is accompanied by the waning role of the state, which, increasingly, looks for partners to carry out its obligations. The re-dimensioning of the Brazilian state and the redirection of investments according to neoliberal policies puts in question the understanding that education, health and care for children and youth Psychology and Developing Societies, 24, 2 (2012): 181204

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should be carried out by state agencies and institutions. The conventional wisdom present in the earlier period of social science research, that the state should provide effective responses to the social issues relating to children, is now subtly contested by the avalanche of institutions and agencies that compete to define the agenda and share governmental and private resources for children. Therefore, during the 1990s and early this century, a more consistent picture of the research agenda of the social sciences on children emerges. The research perspective of children as a social problem demanding policies in terms of education or institutionalisation has been certainly widened and invigorated on account of the new representation of children as a subject of rights. Furthermore, anthropological and historical studies have taken up significant and up-to-date empirical studies, which, though not numerically abundant, were significant enough to establish a new research field in these discipline traditions. The combined value of these studies indicates an innovative conception of children as social actors and active contributors to their social worlds. The role of the child as a passive learner becomes increasingly problematic in view of the studies that focus on the capacities of children to re-create culture. Studies of consumer culture and its impact on children also highlight the position of the child as a learner preparing herself for the adults role of worker, and tend to emphasize childrens abilities of individual decision and agency (Pacheco, 1998; Souza, 2000). If, on the one hand, the research agenda on children was expanded and invigorated, on the other hand, adhesion to neoliberal policies concurred to a waning role of the State in terms of childrens care and protection. A multiplication of NGOs in Brazil, taking up many of the states functions with regards to children, has also contributed towards a more subservient role of the research agenda on children to short-term objectives and the social and political visibility of both government and the third sector. Childrens rights have been a foremost topic suiting the agenda of private foundations and NGOs. Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go to make effective real changes in order that the child can be a recognised contributor to social life. Thus, much more in a rhetorical way, children have been celebrated as a subject of rights, although, in fact, there are still uncountable situations of oppression affecting them. The proclamation of childrens rights did have a high sounding political effect to project a collective image of the nation as developed and Psychology and Developing Societies, 24, 2 (2012): 181204

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modern, though it has had insofar timid effectiveness to change the harsh realities of childrens lives.

Developing Children in Developing Countries: In What Ways has Developing Mattered in Such a Research Agenda?
Brazil, together with India, China and Russia, and now South Africa, make up a group called developing countries; a typology once created by hegemonic powers (nations and international corporations such as the World Bank) directed to highlight the underachievement of these countries in relation to various social, economic and cultural indexes in comparison to other Western/European/American national trajectories. Such a terminology is not politically or ethically neutral as it provides specific value orientations, models and guidelines which developing nations should strive to cultivate and attain. Therefore, development apparently constitutes the univocal horizon whereby countries can envisage their futures. This means that for these countries caught in this progressive arc of history positioning them as those which come after,4 or, are not yet there where they should be, such future cosmologies may entice their adhesion to values distinct from the predispositions cultivated in the traditions of these countries. In Brazil, the paradigm of development has assumed a universal validity in where human biography as well as societies trajectories is concerned. The developing child became a taken-for-granted truth as one who should be placed under the adults tutelage and protection commissioned to a long preparation in schools before eventually being seen as a legitimate actor in the public sphere. This representation has remained very distant from the lives and realities of a great number of Brazilian children. Indexes such as infant mortality,5 schooling,6 access to water and sanitary conditions of living,7 show that efforts to transform the status quo of children have been subordinated by the macro directives of the modernisation processes. The demands of modernisation have in fact been pursued in Brazil, like those of industrialisation, urbanisation, technologisation; contradictorily enough, they have brought about migration, urban poverty and

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anomie, processes which bore more heavily on childrens lives enhancing their social and economic disadvantages. A case in point refers to formal education, a cultural good that has not, to this day, been in fact universalised in Brazil. Although, Brazilian economy has been ranked as the ninth in the world in terms of its gross domestic product in 2010, participating with 2.7 per cent of the world economy (World Bank, 2010) the wealth of the country has not been converted into the long cherished value and public commitment to the younger generations development in terms of a universal public education for all.8 Thus, development has favoured multifarious projects which have increasingly accumulated the wealth of the nationmaterial and symbolicin the hands of the older generation, specially the lites, to the detriment of Brazilian children and youth whose entitlement to the cultural heritage has been so far a failed promise. Nevertheless, though children were tamed and invisibilised both by the developmental paradigm and by an outlook which regarded them as victims of society and the States neglect, many a times, children came forward to the public scene, as a social problem, disturbing the peaceful scenery of a nation wanting to be modern. Moved by the force of social disadvantages, children had to transgress the normative view which considered them privatised/emptied/powerless subjectivities as they went out to the streets to earn their living as labourers in the informal market. However, the struggle to counter the adverse conditions of existence and the positive affirmation of their own selves have been regarded as a deviance from the normative notion of the learner-child, approximating it to juvenile delinquency and parents moral incapacity. The developing child in the developing society stood as a univocal syntagma uniting both child and nation under the aegis of modernisation, although the burden of failing to keep the representation true concerned basically the children, specially the poor ones. Such a paramount worldview led to a constrained research perspective on childrens work. Inasmuch as relevant knowledge has been gained by understanding how deleterious some labours can be to children, it seems, however, that often childhood research has tacitly assumed the vileness of childs work evading to put into question its importance and positive contribution to childrens lives. Other positive meanings of child work came to be obliterated in childrens research, with very few exceptions, like the work of Dauster (1991), in Brazil. By the same token, Psychology and Developing Societies, 24, 2 (2012): 181204

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the deleterious effects of school work on childrens livesits irrelevance, its effect of domesticating childrens minds and lowering their self-esteem, plus its antagonism to work itselfseems to seldom catch research notice at all, both in Brazil or in other developing countries contexts (Behera, 2001; Dimenstein and Alves, 2003; Outeiral and Cerezer, 2005). In the late context of modernisation the universal notion of childrens rights has colonised the theory, the practices and the policies concerning children and childhood. The rights discourse has provided a most important frame for adult-children relationships leading to far-reaching effects on former practices of reciprocity that have sustained the normative basis of such relationships. Especially in the so-called developing societies the normative juridical basis of rights has many times collided with other consistent cultural/religious/collective sources of solidarity between different generations. Panikkar (1982), in his relevant discussion on the universality of human rights, has warned us, among other things, against making any conceptincluding that of human rightsa universal concept since all concepts reflect the conditions of the context from where they arose. Besides, continues Panikkar, the future of those non-Western societies which have had an altogether different basis, culturally and materially, may not necessarily be to follow Western standards. He claims that by having to declare rights something has been lost when Human Rights are declared; this is a sign that the very foundation on which they rest has already been weakened (Ibid., pp. 8889) this fortunate insight helps us to question whether children as upholders of rights have greatly benefited from such a more visible and relevant subject position. Have children become less peripheral in social life by the modernized rhetoric of rights? The modern regime of rights as a sort of necessary normative regulation of children-adult relationships in modern societies must be the target of analysis and scrutiny by the social sciences, especially in developing societies. Such an analysis would necessarily warrant an examination of former sources of social regulation, if and how they have been transformed and to what effects, once laws are made, they stand as the only legitimate basis to support fair practices and policies towards children. The production of knowledge about children and childhood, in the so-called developing countries faces the task of examining such universal notions about children and childhood against the backdrop of Psychology and Developing Societies, 24, 2 (2012): 181204

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our seemingly former non-modern practices. For instance, how can the notions of rightsand its levelling effects on hierarchical relationships such as those between adults and childrencan be supplemented by other notions, such as that of duty, so that it better suits other cultural contexts? Or, how can the notion of rights (individual rights) gain and be modified from a perspective of solidarity and other collective values? These are certainly questions that need to be answered by our research efforts. The paradigm of development has lately underscored the relevance of individual competence and performance, specially under the neoliberal policies of the globalised world (Apple, 2001). The Frankfurtian School through its prominent figures like T. Adorno and H. Marcuse have contributed to our understanding of how the emergence of the enlightened rationality that came to preside over processes of subjective construction in the West became entrenched with the capacity to conquer, dominate and calculate (Adorno and Horkheimer, 1970). The competent and the capable man is the one who can deploy his instrumental reason to control the course of events and manipulate them to his favour. Thus, the competence/capability model does not stand for a content-free model as far as ability or performance is concerned but glides to what has been proclaimed as the most valuable capacities of the modern subject: his rational command and his calculating quality. Furthermore, competence acquires a substantive, almost reifying quality, something that you have, or you have not, an attribute, a one or nothing subjective state. If we sideline the competence paradigm, I suspect that a more fruitful line of inquiry can be derived if we look at notions that seem to be closer to the Brazilian cultural heritage. Bakhtin (1997), the Russian critic and social theorist, pointed at the carnival as a literary element that introduces chaos, disorder and defiance to the world as it is normally seen. As a literary recourse, but not only, the carnivalistic mode indicates potential transformative powers of reality when movements of resistance to hegemony and the status quo are put forward and ideas and truths are contested bringing forth a jolly relativity of all things. The Indian political theorist, Kaviraj, has pointed to the fact that institutional arrangements in very different historical settings from those of the Western centres are conducive to unprecedented and unforeseen

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features, a process that he terms as improvisation (Kaviraj, 2010). Thus, improvisation and the carnivalesque remind us of the ever so present potential to depart from what is given and established. For, on the one hand, to improvise leads to go beyond the script, invent and go astray from what is prescribed and anticipated; on the other hand, the carnival reminds us of the subversive potential of not to conform. Both these notions invite us to envisage the human subject not in terms of anticipated performance, attributes and rationality, but of potentiality and creativity. Childhood research following the understanding of children as creative beings may prove indeed to be a promising line of research. It can focus on the process of becoming, and not on the anticipated or expected attributes and abilities that children must eventually show and be able to develop. Creativity has to do with action, as an on-going social process, that transforms and creates realities, the self and the others (Dalal and Misra, 2010, p. 135). Action is produced in the course of social interaction whose outcomes are unforeseen (Arendt, 1997). Modernisation processes in developing countries are enmeshed with contradictions and deviations leading to improvisation and doing things differently. In childrens research receptivity to the idea of creativity should help to focus on the different ways that children make use of their environment to solve their problems and find ways of coping with adversities. The focusing on childrens competence may reinforce the structural inconsiderateness of society vis--vis children, insofar as competence is, and has been, defined by adults who will necessarily defend their own interests in detriment of those of childrens. Competence echoes what adults are: their abilities and ways of behaving. The insistence on the stipulated developmental trajectory from childhood to adulthood, as a competence-acquisition paradigm, announces a model of future citizenship for children well known in developed societies of the West. Such a good-enough modern society, with its good-enough democracy and good-enough model of civilized and developed individual are bound to continue to feed social imaginaries about the necessary directions related to the future of developing societies, unless other understandings and values can be put forward to orient the agenda of childhood research.

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The Child Issue in Developing Countries: What Futures can be Envisaged?


In what critical vein, then, in what untamed spirit of judgement should then be the contribution of academic knowledge in face of past histories and futures to be? Is it possible that social knowledge can help us to envisage futures not yet given beforehand taking into account our strategic position of having come after? Are we, after all, in a particular position which, permitting us to see ahead, can unfasten the obliging commitment to do what must be done? To think what must be thought? Are we in a position to disembed our future from its apparently necessary course? The fact that children have remained privatised in the spaces of the household and the schools alludes to the relative small importance of childrens activities, their marginal contribution to society. The public sphere has been consideredin westernised societiesthe territory of liable actors, those who can be competent enough for the rational dialogue required in civic life. Ranciere (2001) ironically states that the public sphere has been regarded as the radiant luminosity of the public life of equals. Without any doubt, what is publicin the sense of what should be transparent to all, and all should know aboutis a question of political dispute. That children should be kept as powerless and unimportant subjects of our societies is as matter of political discussion, negotiation and decision. In this sense, changes in our present scenario, such as globalisation, consumerism, media and internet communications and such have introduced new elements in childrenadult relationships. Children are not what they used to be, and to some extent, intergenerational relationships have been upset by changes in value orientations affecting youth and children. These changesformerly limited to the space of the private sphere, of ones own decisionare increasingly taking the ground of public awareness. It is not just a matter of ones own decision and choice how one goes along to care about ones own children, since adults endeavours, as the older generation, can and should be accountable with regards to childrens welfare. Moreover, adults decisions can also be questioned from the point of view of intergenerational solidarity which means, taking the vantage point of children in order to highlight the adults governance of our common world. Many decisions which are Psychology and Developing Societies, 24, 2 (2012): 181204

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taken today, though bringing short term benefits, may radically jeopardize the lives of those who will live longer than todays adults. A key aspect of this dispute points to problems of development projects versus the preservation of the environment. Therefore, it is from the point of view of the younger generations that discussions and decisions about the future can also be understood and examined. Adults decisions that do not take into consideration their long term effects leading to the extinction of some future possibilities for coming generations should be considered morally flawed. Globalisation processes throughout the world impose a homogeneous world order demanding from all nations enormous investments of an increasingly sophisticated technological apparatus. Very often these processes pose painstaking dilemmas, especially to developing countries (Dasgupta and Pieterse, 2009). The claims of those groups who can be easily overruled by powerful corporate economic organisations should be in the agenda of public concern. But, it is the vantage point of childrenespecially, the younger generation of developing countries who are at risk of receiving their due in what development proclaimsthat must impact the political agenda and decisions. Thus, new public spaces of concern and discussion should be opened up, not only for childrens spokesmen and professional representatives, but also for children themselves. Differently from scientific knowledge, recent film production on childrenboth Brazilian and also from countries such as Indiahas captured moments of adult-child relationships which disturb usual ways to look at children. In the Brazilian film called Central do Brazil (1998, by Walter Salles), an old spinster earns her living in the centre of a big city writing letters for illiterate migrants. She cheats them because she never posts the letters to their destinations, and one day her life is turned upside down by the child whose mother, a migrant for whom she has just written a letter to her husband, is run over in front of her. This child becomes the old womans nightmare and bliss. The story unfolds to tell us the potency of this encounter, the harsh and deep transformation of both partners, woman and child, and the full-blown position of the child as a desiring, knowing and deciding human being who in a clear way commands the course of events. In the other film, Children of Heaven (1997) of the Iranian director Majid Majidi, children are on their own to solve their everyday problems, difficulties and existential dilemmas. It is not Psychology and Developing Societies, 24, 2 (2012): 181204

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that they are neglected by their parents, but rather are not regarded as powerless. Thus, they are left to solve by their own means and at their own discretion their everyday lives. A father exclaims to his son: Youre already 9 yrs old, youre not a child anymore. The Indian film Maya produced in 2002 and directed by Digvijay Sing, tells the story of a girl who as her menses appear is subjected to a collective rape ritual in her village. What is most touching is her brothers attitude, who, being just a little older than her, perceives the situation as morally problematic, becomes very restless on account of his sister and suffers with her. Father and mother, each on their own way, are conformed: this is how things should be in the village where they live, as if there were no alternatives except submission. However, resistance to the status quo comes from the boys unrest who shows us how human destiny can be changed, how things are never ever how they have to be, unless we choose so. In these film productions we are led to see the intense conflicts and impasses of adult-child relationships, but also of the potential and the strength of childrens action. We do not see them as subjects under the supervision of protecting adults, who, if, on the one hand, grant those rights, and on the other hand, take their initiative away from them by inscribing their action under a certain formal register of competence. In modernity, children have been regarded as those who come after adults and must follow their steps in order to integrate themselves in society. Such a univocal trajectory has safeguarded adult society and its adult-centred institutions away from transformation and criticism: does our democracy suit children? Is our educational system compatible with childrens interests? Can our economy be receptive to childrens demands? Are our cities child-friendly? The effective inclusion of children in society will necessarily lead to highlighting problems in our current institutions and way of living in order to include childrens ways of feeling, thinking and relating. By the same token, developing societies can make use of their strategic position on account of coming after. On the one hand, we know that childrens lives must be improved and their unnecessary suffering alleviated. Conditions of living, educational opportunities and access to the symbolic and material goods produced by societies have a thoroughly unfair distribution among social groups, and children, especially poor children, are among them. On the other hand, what directions should our societies take? If we take the word development as an empty signifier Psychology and Developing Societies, 24, 2 (2012): 181204

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(Zizek, 2000) that can tap whatever social and political practices of justice and equality (Kothari, 1990), and not necessarily the univocal horizon of values, principles and normative directions undertaken by the so-called developed societies, an expanded horizon of possibilities is ahead of us. This implies an effervescent and hard task of working out, from the point of view of our particular societies, principles and ideals to put into practice justice and equality. Inasmuch as childrens inclusion in society will depend on the transformation of adult-centred institutions, globalisation processes leading increasingly to a unitary and homogeneously developed world will only be mitigated, if developing societies undertake their role of resisting its seemingly necessary directions. Notes
1. For a more detailed discussion, see Castro & E. Kosminsky (2010). 2. Brazil became a republic and completely independent from the Portuguese domination in 1889. 3. The formation of urban working classes produced by an incipient industrialisation process stimulated studies about children socialisation (Fernandes, 1961) in the lower classes of urban workers. Unfortunately, such seminal inspirations were not followed systematically, providing no salient research guidelines for other researchers in the decades afterwards. 4. John Morss, in the context of human development, describes this situation as one where one partner (the adult) says to the other (the child): [W]e have a common path but Im ahead of you, Im your future, and you will be like myself (1996:150). 5. There is an average of 35.7 deaths per thousand infants from 05 yrs of age. 6. The fate of modern childhood as a stage of human life directed to cognitive, social and political preparation to adulthood to be carried out in the institutionalised context of schools has not yet reached universal dissemination in Brazil. Thus, the construction of such a universal child lags behind considering relevant figures of educational attainment. Considering the percentage of children in school by age strata, we have: 4 yrs (36.4 per cent); 56 (66.6 per cent); 714 (93.0 per cent); 1517 (73.3 per cent); 1819 (43.8 per cent); 2024 yrs (21.9 per cent) (IBGE/Brasil, 2010). Considering years of formal education: 20.4 per cent of those between 1517 yrs have less than four years of formal education. The combination of both the above statistics reveal that not only universal education still remains an unattended promise for all school age children in Brazil, but also that education (specially in state schools) is far from efficient in its role of retaining children in the system (20 per cent between 15 and 17 yrs have less than four yrs of schooling); or even,

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that education fulfils the task of transmitting the orthodoxy of basic skills, like reading and understanding what one reads, realising how to use numbers and mathematical reasoning, writing and the development of insightful understanding of nature and society. 7. Only 62.6 per cent of urban households in Brazil have proper sanitary conditions, including a drains system, access to water and garbage collection, though this figure conceals the enormous differences between the northern (poorer) and the southern (richer) parts of the country. Only 49.1 per cent of households have a telephone (IBGE/Brasil, 2010). 8. Taking the population of children from 10 to 14 yrs of ageabout 17 milllion children70 per cent only studies (approx. 11 million); 13.05 per cent studies and works (approx. two and a half million); 12.1 per cent does not study and works (approx. 2 million, in various types of work, paid or non-paid, rural or urban, domestic or not) and 2.7 per cent does not do anything of the previous (approx. 500,000) (Source: IBGE, 2010).

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Lucia Rabello de Castro is Ph.D. from the University of London, and is Professor of Child and Adolescent Development at Institute of Psychology, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She is founder and present Scientific Director of the Interdisciplinary Research and Exchange Centre on Contemporary Childhood and Youth (NIPIAC/ UFRJ). Her research interests are: childrens and youths social and political participation; research methodologies with children and youth; theories of childhood; the impact of cities on childrens and youths lives; cultural worlds of children and youth.

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