The child sensorium as privileged biopolitical resource: Sensory care and the burden of emotional control in middle class North American childhood

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Abstract

This article draws on ethnographic and archival material to examine a contemporary, neuroscience informed politics of care focused on the child sensorium (understood as an embodied neurobiological endowment and material and political resource). I frame care-taking practices focused on children’s sensory endowment, responsivity, and difference as a form of biopolitical regulation in which children, parents, therapists, and educators are implicated. As such, I examine how such care intersects with political, economic, and educational forces and circumstances that differentiate North American childhoods and reconfigure expectations of children and parent. In the process, I relate medicalized sensory difference to shifting skill demands for children that emphasize emotional control in public and educational contexts. Moreover, I highlight how privileged parental engagements with scientific knowledge and practices of therapeutic care focused on children’s sensory endowments and difference articulate with these new skill demands but also deploy embodied sensorial–neurological difference/neurodiversity as a means to transform dynamics of stigma and control within children’s and families’ lives and educational contexts. At the same time, I show how attempts to cultivate sensory capacities and engagements with medicalized sensory difference are implicated in broader biopolitical dynamic of exclusion that unevenly recognizes difference/disability.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Politics and Space
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2019

Keywords

  • biopolitics
  • care
  • child sensorium
  • difference/disability
  • Education
  • health and social care
  • politics

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