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THE MULTIPLE LIFE CYCLES OF CHILDREN’S MEDIA : CHILDHOOD NOSTALGIA IN CONTEMPORARY CONVERGENCE CULTURE - Call for papers

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International workshop organized by the Platform for a Cultural History of Children’s Media (PLACIM)

Dates : August 31-September 1, 2012 Location : University of Reading, Centre for International Research in Childhood (CIRCL), Reading, UK

Nostalgia has shaped the cultural construction of childhood ever since Romanticism, but it seems to have undergone a significant change in the late twentieth century. Nowadays, childhood is no longer exclusively associated with a pre-lapsarian state of nature that we are irrevocably cut off from as we are socialized into language and culture. Rather than the lost paradise it once was, childhood is increasingly identified with the toys, games, and media products of one’s youth. Putting it bluntly, childhood seems to change from a special frame of mind into a specific set of commodities. Through shared practices of cultural remembrance (collectors’ communities, fan practices), these commodities are imbued with new symbolic significance. This shift implies that our childhood is not as lost anymore as it used to be within the Romantic paradigm. Not only do the commodities of childhood remain accessible as collectors’ items, but commercial companies also stimulate the nostalgia for childhood by reissuing the books, comic strips, radio and TV programmes, music recordings, films, and toys that used to be sold to previous generations of children and adolescents. This is not just done with a view to attracting new generations of consumers, but also to cater to adults (second-time consumers) who want to recapture the experiences of their youth. This cycle can in principle be repeated again and again.

This international PLACIM workshop wants to analyze and evaluate the renegotiation of childhood nostalgia in contemporary convergence culture. We invite papers on the following topics :

1. theoretical perspectives on nostalgia : a. Conceptual analysis : how can childhood nostalgia best be defined ? Should we distinguish between different types, and if so, which ones ? b. Critique : Is childhood nostalgia necessarily a retrograde, escapist, emotionally immature and politically irresponsible mind-set ? Can nostalgia also serve more constructive cultural, social and political purposes ? 2. issues pertaining to the cultural history of childhood and childhood studies : how exactly is the Romantic concept of childhood transformed in contemporary convergence culture ? How does contemporary nostalgia impact on the shifting border between childhood and adulthood ? To what extent is today’s convergence culture really different from early twentieth century or nineteenth century consumption politics pertaining to children’s media ? Besides historical comparisons, we also invite detailed case studies that trace the multiple life cycles of individual children’s media through time. 3. reception-studies, including ethnographic and sociological inquiries into the users of today’s media : what, exactly, motivates contemporary media users to return to the products of their youth ? To what extent are the cultural practices that constitute today’s media really different from earlier periods ? We welcome field work, interviews, and studies of the reviews of recycled children’s media products. 4. nostalgia and remediation : how does nostalgia influence remediations of a given work ? Which possibilities and constraints does nostalgia create for remediation ? How do nostalgia and the need for innovation interact when childhood commodities are re-issued ? 5. childhood nostalgia, remediation and globalization : contemporary Western societies have all incorporated migrant groups that import their own cultural legacies into their country of destination. To what extent do the cultural contributions of migrants facilitate movements beyond childhood nostalgia and remediation ? 6. metahistorical reflections : what are the implications of the multiple life cycles of children’s media for the ways in which we attempt to write the history of childhood ? How do they impact on periodization ?

This is the second in a series of three international workshops, organized by the Platform for a Cultural History of Children’s Media (PLACIM), which is based at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Maastricht University, The Netherlands and funded by a competitive research grant from the Dutch Science Foundation (NWO). This platform facilitates the exchange between children’s literature scholars and media experts.

If you are interested in participating, please send a 300 word abstract and a 300 word CV to : Lies.Wesseling@Maastrichtuniversity.nl, before February 1, 2011. Please relate your problem statement explicitly to one (or more) of the six topics delineated above. We will accommodate up to 20 contributions to this workshop. We work with pre-circulated papers, as we aim to publish an intellectually rigorous volume of essays on contemporary childhood nostalgia. You will receive notice of acceptance before March 1, 2011. Deadline for the first version of your workshop paper : June 1, 2012.