Professor Erica Burman, University of Manchester, UK
This talk extends an analytical approach I call 'child as method' formulated as a contribution to pedagogies of and for decolonization. Here I read the position accorded 'the child'/children as constitutive of the production and justification for racism, taking a key (but little discussed) psychoanalytic text that explores the dynamics of (self and other) misrecognition, with corresponding exclusionary effects. Octave Mannoni's (1969) essay, 'I know well, but all the same', explores how cultural rituals involving the deception of children are pivotal to forms of socially shared, apparently wilful, adherence to convictions that are recognised to be untrue. This motif not only underlies much racist discourse but also accounts for its intractable deniability and so persistence. After outlining Mannoni's argument I, first, apply this to contemporary illustrations of racism and nationalism, before, secondly, mobilising an anticolonial sensitivity informed by the work of Frantz Fanon (who vigorously critiqued Manonni's work), to show how Mannoni reveals himself to be subject to the same (racialised) dynamics he identified. However, mobilising a psychoanalytically-attuned 'pedagogy of failure' (after Fanon), such 'mistakes' can be fruitful. Indeed Mannoni's account prompts a re-reading of Fanon's claims about children and childhood. Reflecting on all this, I discuss how 'child as method' resists the traditional modern and Western abstraction of the child from sociopolitical relations that position it as 'other', showing instead the mutual configuration of generational and racialised attributions that underlie differential entitlements, including the dynamics of othering.
Erica Burman is Professor of Education at the University of Manchester, and a United Kingdom Council of Psychotherapists registered Group Analyst. She trained as a developmental psychologist, and is well known as a critical developmental psychologist and methodologist specialising in innovative and activist qualitative research. She is the author of Deconstructing Developmental Psychology (Routledge, 3rd edition, 2017), Developments: child, image, nation (Routledge, 2008), and co-editor (with Dan Cook) of the SAGE Encyclopaedia of Childhood Studies
(forthcoming). Her research has focused on critical developmental and educational psychology, feminist and postcolonial theory, childhood studies, and on critical mental health practice (particularly around gender and cultural issues). She has co-led funded research projects on conceptualising and challenging state and interpersonal violence in relation to minoritised women and children, and on educational and mental health impacts of poverty and ‘austerity’.