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Suzanne van der Beek

Suzanne van der Beek

1) Title: Re-imagining Children in the Anthropocene

Abstract: Our common understanding of children is directly connected to notions of futurity. Clémentine Beauvais’ influential The Mighty Child (2015) proposed that the socio-political relation between children and adults is most significantly impacted by their temporal relations: adults derive power from their experience of the past while children derive power from their upcoming experience of the future. In this common line of thinking, the future is portrayed as an open-ended domain that is free to be shaped by the creative energies of children. However, in light of a growing awareness of the destructive consequences of the Anthropocene this optimistic understanding of the future is quickly changing. The future starts to appear less as an open-ended realm of possibilities and is instead becoming a more closed-down period of uncertainty. On the one hand, it has become clear that the unfolding Climate Crisis will dictate the way humans can live their life on our planet for several generations to come. It serves as an important reminder for many that nature is not, in fact, under human control. On the other hand, there is a growing awareness that technology might be moving outside of human control as Artificial Intelligence surpasses humans in intelligence and capability of overseeing and controlling the world. Both forces are impacting our cultural imaginary of the future. Importantly, this shift undermines our understanding of children’s citizenship as outlined in existing theories on childhood that base their understanding of children in relation to an open-ended future. How can we still understand children on a planet that seems to deny them a meaningful future? This presentation proposes that we re-imagine children as future techno-ecological citizens of this planet. This re-imagination is found primarily in children’s literature and media – a field that is directly concerned with the representation and the construction of children’s position in society – but can only be understood when this field is placed in conversation with disciplines regarding the socio-political implications of climate change and technological revolutions.

    Keywords: Children; Futures; Citizenship; Climate Change; Artificial Intelligence; Children’s Media

    2) Roundtable title: Children’s Literature and Culture Scholarship in/of the Anthropocene: Towards New Bonds and Crossovers 

    Discussants: Marnie Campagnaro, Macarena García-González, Irena Barbara Kalla, Suzanne van der Beek & Aliona Yarova

    Abstract: Over the last twenty years, children’s literature and culture studies has developed a strong orientation towards ecocriticism, ecopedagogy, ecopoetics, animal and plant studies, posthumanism, and new materialism (see e.g. Dobrin and Kidd 2004, Gaard 2008, Echterling 2016; Goga et al. 2018; García-González, Deszcz-Tryhubczak 2020; Oziewicz and Saguisag 2021, Yarova 2021, Campagnaro and Goga 2022, Duckworth and Guanio-Uluru 2022, van der Beek and Lehmann 2022). In this roundtable, a group of international scholars following these approaches in their work on children’s culture share reflections on the field’s current and forthcoming engagements with the Anthropocene (see e.g. Oziewicz et al. 2022) and with the scientific, pedagogical, cultural, and socio-political debates around it. Some of the issues we intend to address include:

    – the emergence of the concept of the Anthropocene as radically changing how we think of and research childhood, children, and children’s culture

    – children’s culture creators’ responses to the Anthropocene

    – practices of learning about the Anthropocene with and from children

    – challenges of teaching about the Anthropocene to students of children’s culture, including developing students’ ecoliteracy and fostering their environmental activism

    – pressures of the researcher’s/educator’s obligation to propagate hope for a better, post-Anthropocene future (Braidotti 2019).

    We believe that this exchange of questions and insights will encourage both ourselves and the audience to consider children’s literature and culture scholarship as an important contribution to interdisciplinary conversations about the Anthropocene. This roundtable is convened under the aegis of the Erasmus Mundus International Master: Children’s Literature, Media & Culture.

    Bio: Suzanne van der Beek is an Assistant Professor of Children’s Literature and Online Culture at Tilburg University (NL), where she coordinates the master’s program Jeugdliteratuur. Her current research projects studies the ways children’s citizenship is imagined in the context of developments regarding climate change and Artificial Intelligence. Her work has been published in Children’s Literature in Education, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, International Research in Children’s Literature, Yearbook of the German Children’s Literature Research Society, Filter, and Sexualities.