CFP: Imperfect Children

Centre for Medical Humanities, University of Leicester, 5th – 7th September 2013

The core focus of this conference will be the concept of ‘imperfection’ as it relates particularly to children. The word itself is contentious whether applied in a contemporary or historical sense. It assumes normative standards of behaviour, physical appearance, mental capacity or way of living, at the same time as it means very different things in particular ethnic, geographical or historical contexts. Applied to children who are constantly developing their intellectual and physical capacities, physical appearance and other attributes, it is particularly contentious. During the conference we wish to explore the concept and language of imperfection. This process might include discussion of mental or physical impairment; the ‘look’ of children; cosmetic surgery; biological or eugenic definitions of imperfection; community, familial and societal reactions to imperfection; childhood imperfection in literature and art; or the construction of feral youth in contemporary and historical populations. We also, however, want to look explicitly at some of the ‘imperfections’ themselves. These might include, but are not limited to:

a.. Mental or physical impairment
b.. Physical appearance, and the desire to ‘improve’ children
c.. Learning development
d.. ‘Bad’ character and criminality
e.. The manufacturing of child identity in different cultures and historical contexts
f.. Children and the capacity to work or play
g.. Diagnosing and correcting imperfection

It is anticipated that some of the papers will have an historical focus or will link historical data/perception with twenty-first century concerns. In this context we regard ‘history’ as anything beyond the last decade! Our definition of children runs from conception (and the desire to create the perfect child) through to age sixteen. We hope that the conference will attract interest across the spectrum from History, Archaeology, Art History and English through the social sciences and to biological and engineering or physical sciences.

Suggestions for papers/themed sessions or queries should be addressed to or to Steven Taylor / Steven King at the Centre for Medical Humanities, University of Leicester by February 2013. We expect to publish the papers.

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