Rethinking Children’s Citizenship

Negotiating Structure, Shaping Meanings

In: The International Journal of Children's Rights
Kate Bacon University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK,

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Sam Frankel Independent writer and consultant and Director of Act 4

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Exploring the meaning of citizenship presents an opportunity for considering the extent to which it embraces children’s role as meaning-makers. To what extent are children acknowledged as persons who have a role to play in defining values associated with citizenship? This paper examines some theoretical conceptualisations of citizenship and draws attention to children’s capacity to generate and negotiate social meanings. We argue that in order to effectively respect children as meaning-makers there needs to be some recognition that citizenship values are not simply a product of structure, a pre-defined status, shaped and managed by those in power, but also a product of agency. One important aspect of children’s participation and involvement in society is the contribution they make to defining and negotiating norms and values.

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