Department of Philosophy



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The Department of Philosophy Colloquium Series presents

Toby Rollo (University of British Columbia)

"Carceral Childhood: Exploring the Criminalization of Black and Indigenous Youth"

THURSDAY, February 9th, 2017

WATSON HALL, ROOM 517 @ 4:00 p.m.

Black and Indigenous youth are disproportionally exposed to violence in education, policing, and carceral institutions. Advocates contend that these youth are treated like adults and denied the protective innocence of childhood. Accordingly, efforts to combat racialized policing and incarceration tend to focus on re-affirming the status of black and Indigenous youth as innocent children so as to afford them the security and promise identified with the experience of white youth. Research presented in this paper, drawn from the history of European and colonial understandings of childhood as a state of criminal deviance, suggests that white youth are afforded protections not because they are understood as children but because they have been conceptually refigured as free adults. It is this new relocation of white youth into proximity with adulthood's presumption of freedom and innocence - a process that began in the late 19th century - which explains the relative security and promise that white youth experience. By contrast, the experience of black and Indigenous youth is rooted in their association with the inherent criminality of childhood. I conclude that caution must be taken so that efforts to have youth re-affirmed as children do not work counter-productively. Indeed, racialized incarceration may be better addressed through a direct challenge to the European colonial criminal-child/free-adult binary.


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