Suffering children, dead babies and the appeal of the universal child

O'Dell, Lindsay (2008). Suffering children, dead babies and the appeal of the universal child. Annual Review of Critical Psychology, 6



Images of vulnerable or damaged children are common in media invocations of ‘natural’ disasters and military conflicts around the world. The suffering of children invokes strong feelings in those witnessing the image, where the face of the injured or damaged child ‘personifies injustice’ (Thorne, 2003:261), for example in anti-war demonstrations in 2003 during the Iraqi war, a commonly used image was of a badly injured child with the text ‘This is the face of collateral damage’ (Thorne, 2003). The increasing (but partially experienced) effects of globalisation and mass media serve to compress time-space (Harvey, 1989, in Ackroyd and Pilkington, 1999) so that events around the world become experienced as immediate. In this short paper, I will discuss the British media’s daily reporting of the elevated ‘Middle East’ crisis at the end of July 2006, and the ways in which dead and damaged children were powerfully used in the reporting. I will illustrate some of the arguments of critical psychology in the construction of childhood to discuss my concerns with representing universal childhoods to explain contextualised children.

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