Ultimate Tests: Children, Rights, and the Politics of Protection

Global Responsibility to Protect
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  • 1 Canada

Whether in the rhetorical strategies of the campaign to ban landlines, appeals for famine relief, or the present historical apex of mass refugee migration, deployed images of abject childhood are central to the visual economies of humanitarian crisis. As the quintessential innocents deemed in need of protection, children are constructed outside of meaningful subjecthood and objectified as the evocative ‘scenery’ of the politics of protection. As such, children’s place in these visual economies together with their relative voicelessness are particularly revealing of how the concept of protection is beset by a paradox it cannot resolve: simultaneously imperative in consequence of diminished political subjecthood and itself demeaning of that same subjecthood. Tracing the problematique of children’s agency and subjecthood through the un Convention on the Rights of the Child and applicable aspects of legal regimes in Canada both beholden to the Convention and charged with care and protection of children, this article offers insights relevant to but perhaps less immediately apparent in the context of the R2P regarding the tricky and fraught intersections of childhood, subjecthood, and protection.

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