Event Date: 25 January 2012
Room B04, 43 Gordon Square,
Birkbeck, University of London
The Birkbeck Institute for Social Research presents
Professor Cindi Katz (CUNY) Superman, Tiger Mother: Aspiration Management and the Child as Waste
Contemporary capitalism is in the throes of crisis precipitated by over-accumulation and the effects of decades of privatization, commodification, and financialization, each sieved through the other. These crises have profound and uneven consequences for the present and future that can be seen in the shifting discourses and material social practices around children and childhood. This paper builds upon my ongoing project, ‘childhood as spectacle,’ to examine what is at stake in the accomplishment of social reproduction—and its failures—in turbulent times and heterogeneous spaces. Looking closely at the ways aspirations for the future are defined, managed, reached, and deferred in and through the family and schools, I will take stock of contemporary social reproduction and its anxieties. Drawing on three popular and contradictory cultural productions of the past year, the films Race to Nowhere and Waiting for Superman, and the best selling book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua this presentation will address some of the ways the lives and wellbeing of some children—middle class and wealthier children—have been fetishized while others—the vast majority of children—suffer the consequences of a disinvested public sphere and a radically reduced social wage. As the sense of precariousness stemming from the financial crises of the past decade widens and infiltrates everyday life more deeply this situation becomes more acute. In this context aspiration and its management can be framed as a cultural politics ripe for unpacking; a structure of feeling whose drives and effects may illuminate the present as a political moment.
Introduction by Dr Rosie Cox .