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Children on the move: Unsettling narratives of care, childhood, and the migration ‘crisis’: A joint symposium between the Open University and UCL

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Dr. Sarah Crafter is working in collaboration with a team at UCL on an International Symposium focusing on the ways in which care, childhood and migration are conceptualised and how these have important implications for the provision of, and access to, necessary resources, infrastructures and relationships of care. They are inviting expressions of interest from established and early career scholars, doctoral students, activists and artists who are interested in taking part in this event.

13th March 2020

University College London (UK)

 Most children who migrate globally, with family members or separately, do so in a context where migration is increasingly framed as a political and existential crisis. Such crisis narratives often serve as justifications for rising xenophobic nationalism, enhanced border securitisation and hostile environments in receiving countries. As a result, migration regimes often set limits on care entitlements and children experience processes of everyday bordering in their encounters with education, health, social care, and even humanitarian groups as they seek care for themselves and to provide care to others. In popular discourse and much academic scholarship, migration is treated more generally as a crisis for children, viewed as essentially traumatising because of assumptions that 'good childhoods' are sedentary periods of dependency on local kin. Yet, migration scholarship makes clear that mobility is a part of the human condition, and that it is the conditions under which such movement is controlled, disciplined, and framed that cause politicised precarity for forced migrants. Equally, some children's movements, particularly those involved in South-South migration, continue to be rendered invisible both within and beyond crisis narratives, and those silent stories are also of interest. Indeed, their invisibility raises questions about when and why children's movement is or is not conceptualised and constituted as a 'crisis', by and for whom, and with what effect.

 The ways in which care, childhood and migration are conceptualised have important implications for the provision of, and access to, necessary resources, infrastructures and relationships of care. This one-day, inter-disciplinary and international symposium aims to unsettle the assumptions highlighted above through discussion of the following questions:

  • How is care recognised, understood, constrained, fractured, and practiced in the context of a multiplicity of "migration crisis" narratives?
  • How do diverse global understandings of care and childhood come into contact, conflict with, and/or amplify each other and "migration crisis" narratives?
  • What are the diverse and diffuse effects of the intersections of care, childhood, and "migration crisis" narratives for children and young people living migrating in and through diverse global contexts? 

We are inviting expressions of interest from established and early career scholars, doctoral students, activists and artists who are interested in taking part in this event. The symposium will be limited to a small group of participants and organised around a series of pre-circulated papers from invited presenters. Participants will be asked to read these nine short papers in advance of the symposium. The papers will serve as provocations for dialogue among all participants, with the aims of critically engaging with current debates on children, migration and care and generating new intellectual thinking in the field.

There will be opportunities for all participants to contribute to a variety of publications following the symposium e.g., edited book,  a series of short ‘talking head’ videos, short blogs and think pieces.

 The event is free and refreshments will be provided throughout the day (although travel and any accommodation costs will need to be met by participants). We will also have some bursaries available for those who do not have access to other sources of funding, with priority for activists, early career scholars, and those from the global south. Please indicate on your EOI if you are applying for a bursary.

 This symposium is convened by Rachel Rosen, Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, and Elaine Chase (University College London) and Sarah Crafter (Open University), and is part of the organisers’ broader research agendas including the ESRC-funded Children Caring on the Move project. The symposium is funded by UCL Grand Challenge of Justice and Equality and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at the Open University. 


If you would like to take part in this event as an active participant, please send a short statement of no more than 500 words outlining your interest in the themes of the symposium and what you feel you can contribute to the discussion.  Please send your EOI to Sayani Mitra (sayani.mitra@open.ac.uk) by 15th December 2019. We will contact you shortly after the closing date if you have been selected to participate

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Children Caring on the Move: Website launched for project looking at separated child migrants care of each other

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Sarah Crafter is pleased to announce the launch of the new website for the ESRC funded project which aims to examine how separated children care for each other as they navigate contradictory, complex, and changeable immigration and welfare systems in England.

It is always very exciting to embark on a new research project. At the beginning there are a flurry of important activities to undertake, such as setting up team meetings, submitting the ethics applications and recruiting for new researchers. However, one of the most exciting elements is seeing the new project website ‘go live’! So it is with a great deal of pleasure that I am sharing the launch of our new project website for ‘Children Caring on the Move’ (CCoM) with you. The website tells you about our project and what it involves, the investigative team and our Advisory group, and some of the news items and resources that we have begun to collate. You can also read my first blog for the project. 

The aim of this research project is to investigate how separated child migrants, and those involved in their care, make sense of, value, and take part in care relationships and caring practices within the immigration-welfare nexus in England. Little is known about how separated children’s care for each other as they navigate contradictory, complex, and changeable immigration and welfare systems. Nor do we know how separated children’s care for each other is understood and treated by relevant adult stakeholders, including social workers, foster carers, educators, youth workers, religious leaders, legal professionals, and policy makers. Placing separated children at its heart, this study asks: What are separated child migrants’ experiences of care and caring for others? How do various economic, social and political factors shape the care priorities of relevant stakeholders? What are the theoretical, policy, and practice implications of varying understandings and practices of care?

I think psychology has a curious relationship with the concept of ‘care’. In many ways ‘care’ sits at the heart of our psychological needs - to have a sense of inclusion, belonging, trust, growth, achievement, power and control of our lives. Yet there has been little direct conceptualisation within psychology of what it means to care and so the issue is often associated with other aspects of psychology. A good example is Bowlby’s discussion of the relationship between a mother and their infant, which is described as an ‘attachment’, whereby care is implied but not explicitly theorised. Wendy Hollway, a feminist scholar, provides the exception in her book on the ‘Capacity to Care’  which looks at care as both gendered and ethically subjective. She is interested in the psychological capacities to care, proposing that it is a dynamic set of practices that involves both ‘caring for’ and ‘caring about’. Even so, within this text, there is an emphasis on adults providing care and children receiving it. In our project, separated child migrants travel without their kin, and so we are interested in how children care for each other and how children's care for each other is largely absent from adult narratives and the implications this might have on further support, resources, and recognition for different forms of care.

We hope you enjoy the website and join us in following the progress of our project over the next three years

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