The 2012 Inter-congress of International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) is a multi-disciplinary international conference on “Children and Youth in a Changing World”. We will examine childhood cross-culturally and historically to gain the richest and best-informed perspective for looking at children in the present and moving forward. The Inter-congress will be organised by the IUAES Commission on Anthropology of Children, Youth and Childhood in Bhubaneswar, India during November 26-30, 2012. The principal aim of this congress is to bring anthropologists in academia, governmental organisations, non-governmental organisations and agencies working on and with children from different parts of the world and offer them a common platform to address various emerging issues relating to children and childhood.
Long treated as of minor importance within anthropology, the study of childhood has blossomed in the last decade. Scholars interested in human evolution now acknowledge the importance of studying the role of culture and biology in shaping the life course. There is renewed interest in understanding culturally marked transitions and stages in children’s development. From analyses of the allomothering of the young to the study of rites of passage—both traditional and modern—anthropologists are re-examining and overturning many widely held asumptions about human development. While cross-cultural studies of children’s play have a respectable history yielding a large corpus of material, there has been a recent explosion in ethnographic studies of children at work. Work is now seen as a central organizer of children’s movement from toddler to competent adult. Archaeologists are now “finding” evidence of childhood in the past that had
previously been overlooked while significant contributions to our understanding of human childhood emanate from studies of non-human primates. There is greater recognition of children’s fundamental autonomy and that their associations or “play groups” generate unique linguistic and cultural patterns.
While anthropology is changing and enriching our understanding of basic principles of childhood, applied anthropologists are in the forefront of efforts to understand and aid children in stressful and rapidly changing environments. Ethnographers documenting children’s contributions to the household economy via sibcare or herding can contribute to the dialoge among those whose concern is with children as laborers. Medical anthropologists are making strides in areas as diverse as breast-feeding and infant nutrition to the mental health and reintegration of former child soldiers. In urban and urbanizing societies, cultural anthropologists bring their unique analytical tools to bear on children’s engagement with schooling, electronic media, warfare, and new family and kinship structures.
The conference organizers would also like to invite non-anthropologists to participate in the discussion of contemporary childhood. These would include, but not be limited to, aid workers, medical personnel, representatives of national, international and civil society intervention programs, as well those working with immigrant, refuge and displaced communities. We are particularly anxious to include advocates and spokespersons for minority or tribal groups.