Conference: Parenting and Personhood: Cross-cultural perspectives on family-life, expertise, and risk management

Thursday 23 and Friday 24 June 2016

Venues: The Cathedral Conference Centre, Canterbury (Thursday) and the University of Kent, Canterbury (Friday)

Optional networking afternoon and drinks reception, Wednesday 22nd June, from 2pm (University of Kent)

This conference is organised by Centre for Parenting Culture Studies, and the project Parenting Cultures and Risk Management in Plural Norway’ (ParCul), Uni Research Rokkansenteret (Norway).

With a comparative approach, stratified by class, migration background and gender, this project investigates whether and how parents in Norway are differentially concerned with risks. It is concerned both with parents’ own understanding and practices parenting and how ideas and ideals of parenting are constructed by civil society and governmental institutions in different settings.

At the conference, findings from the ParCul project will be presented by the research team. The conference however, will bring together researchers from various disciplines who are interested in the interplay between parenting cultures, personhood, expertise and risk management. Publication plans from the conference include a journal special issue based on selected contributions to the event.

The event is being held in Canterbury, Kent, making use of conference facilities at the both the University of Kent (where the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies is based) and Canterbury Cathedral. We hope to make sure that those participating in the event have the chance to present and discuss their research in comfortable surroundings, and we have aimed to develop a programme that allows for some time for participants to make the most of the venues.

Background to the event

As a result of ongoing global economic, social and cultural changes, new parenting norms, ideologies and practices are emerging around the world. In Western countries, for example, increasing migration and a growing segregation between the social classes has highlighted a greater differentiation in access to resources. In turn, this has emphasized the co-existence of different ideals around parenting. While middle class values and practices might be considered as the norm and ideal of parenthood, other groups of parents – such as minority parents and poor parents – are targeted as vulnerable and at risk.

For this event we have invoked the term ‘personhood’ in order to encourage new thinking about today’s parenting norms. Personhood, understood as the condition or state of being a person, is partly a cultural construction.  Although it is a lifelong process, the attainment of personhood is part of the socialization process which constitutes parenting. We hope this event can give participants the opportunity to think about what sorts of persons (as children or adults) are invoked in culture, in policy frames, and which shape the everyday practices of childrearing. We invite papers that are concerned with the making of specific parenting norms and practices in civil society and meeting points between potentially different parenting cultures. We also encourage contributions discussing the role of the expertise and welfare-state in the creation of parenting cultures.

Parenting cultures in the family

What can comparative research reveal about how being a ‘good parent’ is differently constructed? Which different values and norms are parents seeking to promote in their roles as parents, and how? What do they perceive as risks and how is risk-consciousness managed? What resistance towards dominant ideas of parenthood exists? What impact do ideas of gender relations play on perceptions of parenthood? Where do parents seek inspiration when they question their ideals, values or practices? How can we the study of parenting cultures cast light on our understanding of various forms of personhood? How are parents and other actors, such as trainers and teachers, performing their role in different spaces that relates to children in civil society? How are different parenting cultures interacting at a variety of social spheres and platforms?

Parenting cultures and expertise

How are nation-states’ ideologies and policy discourses around parenting being composed? How do policies and practices contribute to the perception of risk and to representations of majority and minority parenting? How do policy frameworks, parenting education and training intervention intersect with class, gender and migration background? What role is expertise assistance given in the performance of parenthood?