Children out of place with childhood: pupils’ assemblies, direct action, serious play and public space in youth’s autonomous horizontal politics in Cyprus

Christou, Georgina (2018) Children out of place with childhood: pupils’ assemblies, direct action, serious play and public space in youth’s autonomous horizontal politics in Cyprus. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Although children as active agents have been extensively studied within anthropology and social sciences in general, children as public actors –or as activists engaged with direct forms of politics and social movements- have been largely neglected. This thesis addresses this research gap by ethnographically exploring the politics of autonomous, self-organized youth and pupils in Nicosia, Cyprus and their processes of radical political subjectivization, as well as the role of public space in such processes of becoming. It further problematizes how national and international configurations of childhood and youth have been enabling or disabling this activism, and how they govern children and ‘minoritized adults’ through educational, gentrifying and other policies of the biopolitical sphere.

More specifically, the thesis critically explores how those perceived as minor subjects resist such governing through horizontal collective action and counter-cultural politics. Such politics involve the subversion of enclosed, ‘adult’ –nationalist, militarist, patriarchal, consumeristestablishments and notions of maturity in modernity, enhanced by Cyprus’s recent ethnonational conflict. Their subversion is achieved through playful tactics of street-partying, selfeducation, community formation and assembly, which are explored in this thesis, and through carving out temporal space for experimentation with alternative self-definitions. By exploring such politics my thesis significantly contributes to the anthropology of Cyprus through the study of politics beyond nationalism and ethnic-conflict frameworks as has overwhelmingly been the case so far.

Moreover, in my thesis, I treat youth and children as political categories beyond their sociocultural framing within youth anthropology and explore the categorical framings youth use to constitute themselves as political actors following larger movements like May 1968, Greek Autonomia and Alterglobalization movement. I further critically re-consider recen theorization on direct action and prefigurative politics from the vastly underrepresented perspective of children and pupils’ activism. I argue that a theoretical over-emphasis on direct action as prefigurative significantly obscures, on an analytical plane, the processes young actors go through in order to become horizontal anti-authoritarian activists. Such processes of becoming, however, form a great part of their activist practice.

An 18-month ethnographic fieldwork process further revealed the role of public space and urban commons in the reproduction of autonomous youth initiatives and in processes of reimagining the political and youth identity in late capitalism. By ethnographically exploring how a public square in Nicosia was produced into an alternative public sphere for youth anti- authoritarian politics, I demonstrate how underage autonomous activists sustain their capacity to act, given their exclusion from dominant public spheres and inability to purchase space. I, thus, contribute to emerging ethnographic literature on squares as key spaces of social movement action and on spatialized public spheres. My findings led me to conceptualize squares as destinations instead of crossing points, as places of stasis, and to argue that stasis in public space manifests multiple radical potentialities and becomes resistance to neoliberal governmentality.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Anthropology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The Family. Marriage. Women > HQ0503 The Family. Marriage. Home > HQ0767.8 Children. Child development Including child rearing, child life, play, socialisation, children's rights > HQ0792 Social conditions of children
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2018 15:38
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2019 12:11

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