Garlen, J.C., Hembruff, S.L.
Children as ‘difference makers’: viral discourses of childhood innocence and activism in #Blacklivesmatter
(2022) Children’s Geographies
Viral images on social media during the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 brought heightened attention to the debate over children’s political participation. Therefore, our inquiry sought to discover what the circulation of and response to viral images of children engaged in protest might tell us about the discursive landscapes of childhood in regard to children’s social and political participation. We describe the historical and discursive context that has positioned children’s agency in opposition to innocence. Informed by Foucault’s theory of discourse, we situate Internet virality as a social practice and analyze the videos and still images alongside the accompanying commentary from online news and social media. We ask what these viral image responses reveal about the socially and historically situated construct of childhood innocence and what implications these revelations might hold for adult perspectives on children as political actors and co-participants in social change. We explore themes of participation, privilege, and protection that emerged from a cross-comparison of the video commentary and consider how these themes could inform ongoing efforts to reframe childhood discourse in light of social justice. © 2022 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
child activism; child agency; Childhood innocence; social media