Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa
Conseil pour le développement de la recherche en sciences sociales en Afrique
Conselho para o Desenvolvimento da Pesquisa em Ciências Sociais em África
مجلس تنمية البحوث الإجتماعية في أفريقيا

25-26 August 2009, Douala, Cameroon

Number of visits: 1118

Child and Youth studies have in the last two decades experienced significant advances in theory, and these have contributed in a considerable manner to improving knowledge of the actual status of one of the most vulnerable strata of our societies. Significant progress has been made, notably in the area of research on children’s rights, the different characterisation and contexts of child and youth labour, the socio-cultural environment of child and youth socialisation, and the social, political and economic constraints challenging and hindering their self-development.

To assess the state of research on Child and Youth Studies in Africa, CODESRIA in collaboration with Childwatch International had organised a conference on the theme “Child Research in Africa”, held on November 21 and 22, 2006 in Dakar. The conference identified a number of bottlenecks in researching Children and Youth in Africa. More specifically, it allowed for an assessment of African research potential on the theme, the need and usefulness of creating a permanent network of researchers, as well as a measurement of organisational capacities for research focused on Children and Youths in Africa. The meeting was also an opportunity to discuss the professional skills of African researchers and the challenges of funding Child and Youth research. A CODESRIA-African Studies Centre organised a conference on the theme “Children in Global South: Religion, Politics and Future of the Youth in Asia, Africa and the Middle East” in October 2006, it was made clear that despite the advances recorded in Child and Youth studies in the last two decades, more still needed to be done to achieve a better understanding of these issues on the African continent.

The Douala conference is a follow-up to the series of conferences already organised by CODESRIA on research on Child and Youth in Africa, as it seeks to deepen reflections on the debates and issues previously raised. It therefore intends to motivate and stimulate discussions on the contributions of research to the improvement of children’s status on the continent. The emphasis this time will be on the content of research being undertaken in Child and Youth studies in Africa. The conference will seek to identify new research themes and the various challenges that need to be overcome in order to expand the frontiers of child and youth research in Africa beyond the present path-breaking and controversial levels, in order to remarkably advance the current knowledge on children and youth. It is therefore essential not only to revisit these themes, but also to identify new ones which are more likely to enlarge the boundaries of research by exploring new themes.

The 20th century has known significant changes notably in the areas of production, mass communication and new technology access. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have had an overwhelming impact on relations between the different generations and socio-professional categories making up the society. For instance, it has been admitted that the Web and cellular telephones have great influence on the lifestyle of the new generation. Youth sociability in a globalised world cannot be fully grasped without referring to the influence of these ICTs. They are perceived as a symbolic element of youth culture in contrast to other technologies. Besides, it is speculated that ICTs constitute a domain exclusive to youths.

There are therefore several pertinent questions that need to be answered: To what extent can these technologies free the new generations from their traditional and local ties? How do social standards influence the use of the new technologies? How does one’s location or theoretical orientation influence one’s comprehension of different aspects of the social conditions of children and youth? What challenges do social changes pose to social research in general, and child and youth research in particular? To what extent can the new generations create new life styles as they respond to and negotiate the new social realities of Africa? How important are the influence of global social change processes in understanding the reality of childhood?

These are questions to which research must try to find answers, as it is important to go beyond the description of the characteristics of education, labour and family to focus on issues that touch on youth subjectivity. The construction of such subjectivity and the individualisation processes characterising the behaviour of the new generation has an impact on the relations that the youth have with conventional political institutions. Instead of stigmatising the new generation for their loss of interest in conventional political life, it is important to deepen research work on the new forms of the youth’s adhesion to non-institutionalised domains in order to better comprehend the active participation of youths in their respective societies.

The conference will also provide the opportunity to revisit some key issues linked to the various approaches, concepts and tools of child and youth research such as “agent” and “voice”, “social generation” and “generational scheduling”. Finally, it will probe into the relations of power that exist between the researcher and youth in order to improve the theorisation of the power relations in youth research. The analysis of the latest research on this issue will receive special attention.

To see papers delivered at the conference, please click here.

June 16 2010