Children’s Culture and Children as Effigies

One of the things that struck me most at the beginning of the semester was how Beth pointed out that “make-out spots” aren’t included on maps, which got me thinking about how children’s culture is not recognized, or legitimized, by adults. Maps—a reconstruction of the landscape—tend to reflect wider societal mores and values, not a constantly changing and developing viewpoint of minors. Children’s culture, however, is important—it’s rooted in developmental years that shape a child’s world view—so why isn’t it recognized and legitimized?

I think that the concept of children as effigies might be able to partially explain this trend. Roach, in his explanation of the physical body performing as an effigy, mentions children in his list of examples. Effigies, he says, “produce memory through surrogation,” and they “fil[l] by means of surrogation a vacancy created by absence of an original” (36), meaning that a child’s body is a surrogate, which may be for their cultural forefathers, and thus parents socialize children into the cultures they are a part of. Children, therefore, are conscripted to perform their parents’ culture as a surrogate for those who can no longer participate, such as dead ancestors.

Children’s culture, however, is somewhat detached and separate from their parent’s culture. While children’s culture depends on the surrounding social landscape, parents tend to be observers, not participants, especially as children become adolescents. This exclusion of parents from children’s culture is twofold—parents don’t want to be bothered with “child’s play,” and children want privacy from parents. This space between generations breeds non legitimation of children’s culture—and thus children become an imperfect effigy. The child as an effigy remembers ancestors and forgets them all at once by performing culture on one hand, and forgetting or replacing traumas with newer and changing traditions on the other.

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