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Gender, age, and agency: the construction of femininity in contemporary radical children’s fiction

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posted on 2023-08-30, 19:58 authored by Dima Wannous
This thesis investigates the construction of femininity and childhood in radical children’s fiction. It aims to extend the current debate surrounding radical children’s fiction by exploring contemporary radical picturebooks and animated TV series available on digital platforms and examining how they negotiate their radical and transnational position through their representations of gender and generational hierarchies. The research adopts a poststructuralist approach that understands femininity and childhood as ‘impossible’ categories that can only be constructed through discourse. It analyses a cross-section of contemporary radical children’s fiction that features female protagonists in order to highlight the discourses and themes that frame the discursive constructions of femininity and childhood. The poststructuralist approach tests the claims of the radical problematisation of assumptions about the natural and the conspicuous that breed the status quo. Foucauldian discourse analysis is employed to reveal the role radical children’s media texts play in (re)producing gender and generational hierarchies and demonstrate the subject positions made possible to female characters. The homogenous discourses of ecology and STEM revealed across the analysed texts evoke the mainstream media image of the young female activist and correspond to transnational qualities. The discourse of female agency is linked to Foucault’s theorisation of human capital to particularise the tie between the females’ ecological and STEM agency and neoliberal values to produce the hybrid female as an agentic figure. The hybrid female figure thrives in themes that promote economic enterprise and her emergence as human capital, thereby allowing a limited spectrum of privileged subject positions that mainly serve neoliberal capitalism. In this way, the hybrid female acts as a governing technology that silences the intersectional structural inequalities and depoliticises ecology and STEM domains, de-radicalising the female’s agency and shying away from constituting a profound resistance to gender and age.



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