Our members Rachel Rosen (University College London, UK) and Sarah Crafter (Open University, UK), and their co-editors Elaine Chase (Oxford, UK), Valentina Glockner (University of Miami, US), and Sayani Mitra (Liverpool, UK), talk about their edited collection, Crisis for Whom? Critical Global Perspectives on Childhood, Care, and Migration // ¿Crisis para quién? Perspectivas críticas internacionales sobre la infancia, el cuidado y la migración (UCL Press, 2023).
Children feature centrally in the ubiquitous narratives of ‘migration crises’. They are often depicted as essentially vulnerable and in need of special protections, or suspiciously adult-like and a threat to national borders. At the same time, many voices, experiences, and stories are rarely heard, especially about children on the move within the global South.
This bilingual book, written in English and Spanish, challenges such simplistic narratives to enrich perspectives and understanding. Drawing on collaborations between young people on the move, researchers, artists and activists, this collection asks new questions about how crises are produced, mobility is controlled, and childhood is conceptualised. Answers to these questions have profound implications for resources, infrastructures, and relationships of care.
Authors offer insights from diverse global contexts across five continents, painting a rich and insightful tapestry about childhood (im)mobility. They stress that children are more than recipients of care and that the crises they face are multiple and stratifying, with long historical roots. Readers are invited to understand migration as an act of concern and love, as well as dispossession, and to attend to how solidarities between citizens and ‘others’, adults and children, and between children, are understood, forged, and sometimes fractured.
We set out on this project with a realisation that narratives of ‘migration crisis’ or ‘childhoods in crisis’ have become rhetorical tropes which shape and are reproduced by politicised responses to children on the move. These typically reflect a sedentary or national bias which, as they intersect with generation, draw on normative ideas about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ childhoods and rigid assumptions about children and care.
Consequently, children on the move globally, whether with family or separately, and those who remain in place when family members migrate, do so in contexts where migration is typically framed as a political and existential crisis for rich countries and associated with trauma and pathologisation for ‘migrant’ children. Equally, some children's movements, particularly those involved in South-South mobility, are rendered invisible, as protracted displacement and ongoing historical crises are normalised.
Indeed, these silent stories raise questions about when and why children's (im)mobility is or is not constituted as a 'crisis', by and for whom, and with what effect for infrastructures and practices of care – questions which fundamentally motivate the contributions to this edited volume.
Rather than viewing crisis, care and childhood (im)mobility as three separate phenomenon, however, or, more problematically, fixed objects of study which were knowable in advance, our project has been to remain attentive to the ways in which these phenomena are generated through their interactions. In so doing, contributions shed light on the ways in which some crises come to matter while others are erased; the diverse ways that care is understood, constrained, recognised, governed, fractured and practised as well as its vacillations between control, support and solidarity; and the sorts of children and childhoods produced at these interstices.
From the beginning, our concern has been unabashedly emancipatory: how we analyse these relations has an important bearing on efforts to counter dehumanisation through crisis narratives and to challenge violence perpetrated in the name of care and justified through processes of minorisation.
‘What world is this that forces us mothers into a position where taking care of some children means to abandon others?’ Daniela Rea, a Mexican journalist, recounted from a powerful conversation with a young Honduran mother displaced by violence in her country.
To this we might answer: ‘It is a world in which children take care of themselves and others, amid and despite, recurring crises and exclusionary migration regimes. It is a world where there seems to be greater determination to produce technologies and spaces to deny children’s capacities and motivations to care, than to recognise their right and ability to do so, whether they are on the move or staying in place. It is a world where caring with, by and for others is fraught with impossible choices, intense longings and sometimes brutal violence.’
Indeed, if there is anything that becomes most clear through a careful reading of the chapters in this volume, it is the complexities of care. We could ask how it is possible that one thing, one set of practices, can contain so many different meanings and experiences; and, in many ways, it is this abundance that both offers us hope and causes us to flag care’s risks. On the one hand, care is visible throughout this book as an overflowing bundle of love, concern, empathy and reciprocity, and a core ethic and value of life. As a result, however, to name a practice as ‘care’ is to almost remove it from questioning, assuming it is inherently ‘good’. But to do so misses the other sides of care, which may also, simultaneously, appear in both intimate and institutional settings: cruelty, control, instrumentalisation, subordination, obligation and so forth…
When analysing the practices of power which children on the move are subject to in border and minorisation regimes, we find that state violence is euphemised as care. It is not simply that targeting particular social groups as deserving of care serves as a rationale for denying care, border crossing or belonging to others. Border regimes produce categories such as ‘unaccompanied minor’ or ‘separated child’ to justify the implementation of systems of care and protection that hide the violence that occurs through the deprivation of liberty through camp life, imposed placements and impoverishment; family separations; deportation; and detention. The border regimes that produce such estrangement by portraying child mobility as a ‘crisis’ are the same regimes that stigmatise young people’s rebellions against the violence and precariousness that haunts them in their places of origin and which they resist, including by migrating. These border regimes are the same ones trying to stop children’s mobility to ‘protect’ them and ignore their wishes, needs, autonomies and agencies – that is, their humanity and dignity – by criminalising their (im)mobility and hypocritically calling it a ‘crisis’.
If dispossession, detention and nativist exclusions done in the name of caring for the child amplify such violence and work through the denial of humanity (whether on national, ‘racial’ or generational terms), do we silence our demands on states to provide caring conditions and do we abandon care’s potentials against injustices? Our answer to this question is an emphatic ‘no’… Children’s caring practices offer a basis for generating and sustaining alternative ways of being and knowing through processes of imagining otherwise; forms of radical connectivity; and emergent solidarities that expose borders for their fabrication and offer hope that reworks conditions of existence. The ‘crisis’, then, is not that children take care of others, something that has always happened in human communities, but rather that they have to do so in the ways they do – in response to migration and minorisation regimes that seek to annihilate the possibility of imagining a different world and obstruct the right to migrate, as well as the right to return or remain.