Research on how children’s culture strengthens children’s status

Many children spend several hours a day on culture. Music, literature, tv programmes, films and digital media - children’s culture varies enormously. What is common to all these channels is that they influence children’s development. Work at the Centre for the Studies of Children’s Culture (CBK) at Stockholm University focuses on promoting a cultural life that allows children to grow and make their voices heard, both in the areas of culture and in society as a whole.

Children’s culture is a far-reaching concept covering everything from graffiti painting and computer games to theatre and dance performances. The purpose of the CBK’s work is to gather, disseminate and promote research within the multidisciplinary field of children’s culture. The CBK has its 40th anniversary this year and Moa Wester, administrative director of studies at the CBK and responsible for the cooperation with Bibu, describes a complex yet important area of research.

There’s an intrinsic set of problems involved in adults producing culture for children, as it’s done with a notion of what adults deem children to need as well as what is suitable. Ideas about what is good for children to experience often involve a moral or pedagogic agenda. Is it correct, for instance, to allow adults to smoke in a children’s book, or to depict children playing on a jetty without life jackets? Is it acceptable to talk about children’s sexuality, or discuss suicide? These kinds of questions always arise in the debate around children’s culture. At the CBK we feel it’s important to listen to how children themselves experience different impressions of theatre and art. It’s not until we know how children actually feel about culture that we can understand it’s potential and significance, explains Moa Wester.

Opinions on children reflect in children’s culture
There is a clear historic connection between children’s culture and society’s opinions about children. What has been shown, and what has not been shown? Which children have been regarded as role models in books and on stage, and in what contexts are they shown? Today’s cultural offering deals with children escaping oppression, children’s relationship with the internet, and matters concerning the environment. Completely different subjects were in focus twenty years ago. According to Moa Wester, it is important that research on children’s culture analyses and challenges the current offering, thus accumulating knowledge in readiness for future productions. But she also highlights the significance of research in improving the status of children in society as a whole.

Children are unfortunately a marginalised group in society. For them to become satisfactory citizens, they are entitled to an equally rich and stimulating cultural life as adults. The children of today often spend several hours a day on culture of different kinds, and much of their own cultural creativity takes place on the internet. By promoting research within children’s literature as well as social media, and by demonstrating that this is important, we can therefore improve children’s status. If a YouTube clip has several thousand views by children and young people, adults must show an interest in that, asking the children what it is about the content that makes it so good, instead of dismissing it as uninteresting, says Moa Wester.

Exciting programme at Bibu 
A biennial that puts theatrical art for children onto the map is completely in line with the CBK’s work. During this year’s Bibu festival in Helsingborg, the CBK are therefore the proud organizer of five items on the programme. See below.

- Bibu demonstrates the importance of children’s culture and is a popular event in the industry. The cultural world is tough for everyone but those working with children’s culture often have the toughest position of all. Visiting Bibu and experiencing the fantastic theatrical art created for children and youth in our country is hugely inspiring, says Moa Wester.


CBK’s program activities at Bibu 2020:

Challenges, pranks and paid cooperation 
Young influencers in dialogue with their surrounding world.
Participant: Ylva Ågren, Ph.D. in child and youth science at Gothenburg University.

Researcher relay 
Mainstream researchers into children’s culture present ongoing and recently completed research projects in the form of mini lectures.
Participants: Karin Helander, professor of theatre science, Malena Janson, Ph.D., film and children’s culture researcher, Ylva Lorentzon, Ph.D., researcher at the CBK, and Rebecca Brinch, Ph.D. in theatre science, and others.

Children’s reflections and wisdom in “När då då”
Young at the Opera’s work on theatrical art for the youngest school children. 
Participant: Margareta Aspán, Ph.D. CBK/Institute of Child and Youth Science at Stockholm University.

Bibu-babbla with the Centre for the Studies of Children’s Culture
Bibu involves days with many meetings and ultimate impact. What impressions have been made? During the seminar, a simple toolkit is presented for analysing children’s culture.
ParticipantMoa Wester, MPhil. in children’s culture, active at CBK, and Ylva Lorentzon, Ph.D., researcher at CBK.

Playing with the city
A lecture whose starting point is how sub-cultural groups are approaching cities. 
Participant: Erik Hannerz, assistant lecturer in sociology at Lund University.

All lectures above is only presented in Swedish. 

Temaspåret FORSKNING is a collaboration between Bibu and the Centre for the Studies of Children’s Culture at Stockholms university and made possible with support from Event in Skåne.

Text: Anna Bergling

Temaspåret FORSKNING genomförs med stöd från Event in Skåne.

Published: 2020-02-10