About the research programme

The Childhood Publics research programme grew out of the ERC funded Connectors Study.  The programme, based in the Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, is a continued experiment in the theorisation of the relationship between childhood and public life (broadly defined), and in the practice of multimodal ethnography with children. The programme is especially concerned with how circuits of social action in childhood are constituted through entanglements of social, cultural, material, affective and symbolic resources that cut across elements of space and time, private and public, personal and political, biography and history and which are used by children to influence their lives and their environments.

About us

The Childhood Publics research programme is co-directed by Melissa Nolas and Christos Varvantakis.

Melissa Nolas is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research areas include: human agency and lived experience, childhood, youth and family lives, civic and political practices across the life course, and publics creating methodologies. She is the Principal Investigator of the ERC Connectors Study and the co-editor of entanglements: experiments in multimodal ethnography.

Christos Varvantakis is an anthropologist, working at Goldsmiths, University of London. His research areas are: childhood, politics, contested urban environments and visual and multimodal research methodologies. He managed the ERC Connectors Study research in Athens and carried out the fieldwork there. He is the co-editor of entanglements: experiments in multimodal ethnography and the Head of Programming of Ethnofest, the Athens Ethnographic Film Festival.

About the network

There are a number of colleagues who have worked with us and/or alongside us in one capacity or another over the years and whose research aligns with the broad themes of the childhood publics research programme including thinking about children’s agency, children’s participation, social movements and politics as these relate to childhood. This loose network of researchers includes:

Vinnarasan Aruldoss is a Visiting Research Fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London. Previously, he held research fellowships at University of Sussex and Goldsmiths on the ECR funded Connectors Study. His research interests are in childhood, social policy, early years intervention, social theories and sociology of education.

Martin Bittner holds a PhD in educational science and is working as a PostDoc Researcher at the Europa-Universität Flensburg. In his ethnographies, he followed children in progressive primary education in Germany, learned about the practices of teaching in a private school in India and did research on such sensitive issues as the risk for sexual violence within pedagogical institutions. He currently works on a practice-based-theory of the institutionalization of social inequalities between the family and the school.

Perpetua Kirby is a Research Associate and School Tutor at the University of Sussex and co-convenes a European Perspectives module on the BA in Childhood and Youth Studies. Before her doctorate, she researched children’s participation within different sectors, including education.

Michalis Kontopodis is a Chair in Global Childhood and Youth Studies and Director of the Research Centre in Childhood, Education and Social Justice at the School of Education, University of Leeds. In a long list of books, edited volumes and journal articles, written in six languages, he explores the differences and similarities in the everyday lives of today’s young people in a variety of off-/ online, urban or countryside, educational and community settings around the globe. His research aims to tackle educational and social inequalities and global issues associated with the ecological, financial and geopolitical crises that children and young people are currently facing.

Rachel Rosen is an Associate Professor in Childhood at University College London. Her research explores the politics of children and childhood, with a focus on social reproduction under financialised capitalism and children’s political imaginaries and boundary struggles in everyday life including their relation to social movements. Working in the tradition of critical, public sociology, and taking inspiration from the Connectors Study, her work explores possibilities for intergenerational activism.

Thomas Stodulka is Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Freie Universität Berlin, Germany. His work focuses on childhood, adolescence and youth, and the interplay between affect, emotion, mental health and illness, stigmatization, critical epistemologies, and experience-based methodologies. Besides being involved in interdisciplinary research, he conducted long-term fieldwork with street-related children and young men in Yogyakarta, Indonesia between 2001 and 2015.

Rachael Stryker is an Associate Professor in the Department of Human Development and Women’s Studies at California State University, East Bay. Her current research uses affect theory to analyze the mobilization of suspicion and trust as part of Palestinian child and youth emotions. This includes the study of how Israeli occupation; Western NGOs; and a rapidly modernizing Palestinian family, political, and religious life shape their understandings and expressions of relating to other children, youth, and adults.

Catherine Walker is a post-doctoral researcher at the Sustainable Consumption Institute (SCI), University of Manchester. Catherine’s interests, spanning childhood studies, environmental sociology and human geography, centre on children/young people’s responses to lived and taught environmental concerns in different socio-spatial contexts. Catherine has researched in India, UK and Brazil on this topic. She is currently working with colleagues at SCI to develop research around migrant responses to sustainability governance in Global North cities.

Rebecca Webb is a Lecturer in Education at the University of Sussex. She currently co-leads an Masters degree and professional qualification in Early Years Education. She has been a teacher and local authority education adviser. She is an ethnographer and qualitative researcher with research interests in ideas of citizenship, democratic schooling, pedagogies and practices.

Other research programmes

Below is a list of other research programmes, networks and centres of interest whose work engages with ideas of (childhood) publics, (children’s) participation and public life.

Transform-in-Education is a new space for discussion and scholarship for all those interested in the public space of ‘the school’ and its purposes in providing education for children in the twenty-first century. It challenges the idea of an exclusive emphasis in children’s conformity, requiring that children are also given opportunities to creatively disrupt the ‘taken-for-granted’, including about what can be done and thought within a school day.

The ESRC/FAPESP/Newton-funded (Re)Connect the Nexus project (RCTN; 2016-2019) is a partnership between the Universities of Birmingham, Leicester and Northampton and São Paulo State University (UNESP), Guaratinguetá. RCTN brings together human geographers with energy, water and environmental engineers, using an innovative methodology inspired by nexus thinking to research the multiple ways that young people (aged 10-25) connect with food, water and energy in their everyday lives and educational trajectories.

The Listening Network: Cultures of Listening in Research and Practice The term ‘Cultures of Listening’ (Motzkau & Lesnik-Oberstein in prep) captures the idea that listening is more than the exposure to, or taking in of, auditory information/signals; rather listening implies and demands. The aim of this network is to link academics and practitioners from different disciplines and professional backgrounds who share an interest in listening.

Centre for Childhood, Education and Social Justice (University of Leeds) is an interdisciplinary research centre that serves as a focus for research and innovation in the field of Childhood and Youth Studies, bringing together expertise in fields such as psychology, anthropology, sociology, history and education to inform and challenge policy and practice, with a strong emphasis on stakeholder involvement.