Bath and Bristol Branch Seminar
Thursday 22 November 5pm.
The personhood of the child is axiomatic in childhood studies. But what happens if we consider the possibility that children are not actually human?
Georges Bataille’s anthropology situates the child as animal-becoming-human. He proposes the notion of childishness as an adult construct propaedeutic to the state of reason. Grown-ups induct newcomers into the characteristically human system of taboo, allowing children ultimately to become human.
But in late modernity human self-understanding is distorted: silence cloaks our other self, that ‘accursed domain’ outside the restrictions of taboo. It is in this context that Bataille’s concept of childishness opens interesting prospects for thinking about the pedagogical relationship.
Bataille is one of the least celebrated intellectual celebrities of the Twentieth Century. His understanding of the human condition fits within the accommodating frame of counter-modern thought that stretches from Romanticism to Surrealism. He draws down from De Sade, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Freud, and, in turn, was a significant influence on Barthes, Baudrillard, Deleuze, Derrida, Foucault, and Sontag. This is new territory for childhood and education studies: scholarly interest in Bataille’s thought only began some three decades after his death in 1962, and as yet no studies have been made of his concept of child or its pedagogical implications.