London Metropolitan University Research Institutes

Kerry Robinson

Visiting Professor

Kerry Robinson is Associate Professor at University of Western Sydney, Australia. She is a leading scholar in the field of childhood studies, and in diversity, equity and social justice in educational contexts. This is reflected through her competitive national ARC grants, the publication of her scholarly works in prestigious international journals and books published by leading commercial academic publishers, invitations to participate in the broader scholarly arena in significant ways, and through a distinguished teaching track record. Kerry is currently the Australian/New Zealand regional editor (invited) for the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, an ERA ‘A’ ranked journal. She is an invited reader/expert on the Australian Research Council; as well as an international reader/expert on the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Canadian national competitive grants scheme equivalent to the Australian Research Council. She is the recipient of a Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning Award for her innovative curriculum and transformative pedagogies that inspire and motivate students to learn, and scholarly research that enhances learning and teaching. She also received a NSW Minister for Education and Training & The Australian College of Educators Quality Teaching Award, a UWS Vice Chancellor’s Teaching Excellence Award, as well as a UWS College of Arts Citation Award for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning.

Whilst on sabbatical Kerry is keen share her theoretical insights and research expertise across various communities. To this end, a range of events will take place at London Metropolitan University including a research student seminar; a lunchtime seminar (sponsored by British Sociological Association); a high profile, outward facing one-day conference (sponsored by British Education Research Association); and a roundtable discussion aimed at academics in FSSH and the Social Professions. Further details of each are provided below:

1.      Research Student Seminar

‘Revisiting narratives of normative gender in childhood: A focus on gender diverse young children’ A Special Guest Lecture at the IPSE Research Student Seminar Series, 10th June 2013, 5-6.30pm. Room GCG-09. Free to research students across FSSH.

Informed by research with parents, educators and children, and narratives of gender variance in the media and popular culture, this presentation examines the experiences of gender diversity in children and how it is perceived and approached by parents and educators. Judith Butler’s gender performativity and Jack Halberstam’s female masculinities inform this discussion. Gender variance or gender diversity (also known as gender non-conformity) is becoming increasingly visible amongst children and young adults. Some young children enjoy, prefer, and feel more comfortable, in embodying and engaging in gender variant behaviours, despite the stigma and abuse often attached to transgressing gender norms. Gender variance is a term used to articulate expressions of gender that do not match that predicted by one’s sex. Gender variance can include a range of subject positions from the majority who wish only to have more flexibility in expressing or representing their gender identities, to a small fraction who identify as transgender in childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Despite this reality, ‘treating’ the ‘causes’ of gender variance has tended to dominate approaches to gender variance in children, rather than viewing this gender expression as a site of children’s agency. The anxiety on the part of parents and educators in regards to children’s gender variance is intensified when transgressions from gender norms in childhood are linked to potential transgressions from sexuality norms.

2.      Lunchtime Seminar

Exploring children’s sexual subjectivities: knowledge, desire, and the constitution of heteronormative subjects, BSA Childhood Studies Group Lunchtime Seminar, 13th June 2013, 1-2.30. Room TM1-44. Free, first come-first served, book places via David Osler (BSA Childhood Convenor).

Based on research with children (aged 4-9) and with their parents, this presentation examines children’s sexual subjectivities – how children have been discursively constructed as sexual subjects, how children view and constitute themselves as sexual subjects and how children regulate the sexual subjectivities of their peers within heteronormative frameworks. Utilising Judith Butler’s understanding of performativity, this discussion focuses on children’s understandings of relationships, love, intimacy, and how the discourse of marriage often frames their understandings of gender and sexuality. Many children from an early age have a strong sense of desire and wish to act on those desires, as they try to critically make sense of and sort through the information they receive about sexuality. Children actively engage in making meanings about sexuality and relationships from the limited information (often misinformation, stereotypes and myths) that they receive from families, peers, television and the Internet, observing others, and observing animals.

3.      One-day Conference

‘Schooling the ‘vulnerable’ child: Knowledge, innocence, and the construction of the normative citizen subject in the early years’ A Good Day for Stripes: a one day conference theorising childhood sexualities, 21st June 2013, 10am-4pm, GCG-08. Sponsored by BERA Sexualities SIG, ticketed booking via BERA.

Based on qualitative research with children, parents, and educators, as well as historical socio-cultural discourses, this paper explores the relationship between ‘childhood innocence’, children’s highly regulated access to knowledge of sexuality – often considered ‘dangerous’ to children – and the constitution of the (hetero) normative citizen subject. Incorporating a post-developmentalist framework and drawing on Foucault’s concepts of governmentality and power/knowledge, this presentation highlights how censorship and moral panic, reinforced through discourses of childhood innocence, operate in communities, families, schooling, and within children’s peer groups, to define and regulate ‘normative’ childhoods and adulthoods. Childhood is a critical period in which the child is interpellated as a particular kind of ‘future’ citizen subject. I argue that regulating children’s access to knowledge and knowledge production – associated with sexuality in particular – essentially in the name of protecting ‘childhood innocence’, operates to inscribe children as ‘vulnerable’ subjects. Building strong ethical and respectful relationships early in life, foundational to understandings of sexual citizenship more broadly, are dependent on children’s access to knowledge, to open and frank conversations about sexual subjectivity, and to the nurturing of agency. The potential of childhood as a ‘counter-public’ or ‘queer time and space’ (Halberstam, 2005) in which different ways of doing gendered and sexual subjectivities is possible is considered.

4.      ‘An Ethics’ Roundtable Discussion with Academic Staff

‘I was determined to do it differently from my parents, but…’: Parenting, children’s sexual subjectivities, and the transmission of sexual knowledge across generations’ Roundtable presentation and discussion to FSSH staff –date to be confirmed.

This paper focuses on parents’ practices around sexualities education with their children. When and how parents approach educating their children about sexual knowledge, is often influenced by dominant discourses of childhood and childhood innocence; their own childhood experiences; and the practices of their own parents. Based on qualitative research with parents, this discussion highlights the difficulties and anxieties they often experience around their children’s sexual subjectivities and sexualities education. Many parents, particularly mothers who are the primary educators in this area with children, wanted to start this education earlier in their children’s lives but generally lack confidence, or feel they lack the knowledge and skills, to do this education appropriately. Parents’ discussions of their own experiences as sexual subjects in childhood and adolescence highlight similar concerns, needs and practices as those expressed by their children, but in the parenting role, despite experiencing inadequate education about sexuality in their own childhoods and a wish to do it differently, certain practices were replicated in the parenting they engaged in with their children. Parents often felt immobilized through discomfort around talking with their children about sexual knowledge. Using a Foucauldian framework, this presentation highlights how parents’ practices in this area are also influenced by discourses of child protection, and frequently regulated and policed by institutions, like schooling, and by other parents; these technologies of power operate to re-inscribe discourses of the ‘normative child’ and the ‘good parent’, especially the ‘good mother’.

Furthermore, an itinerary of outings and visits has been arranged to include:

·         The Museum of Childhood;

·         Thomas Coram Foundling Museum;

·         A Sure Start Children’s Centre;

·         A ‘bog-standard’ day nursery

Kerry would be keen to attend/participate in any pre-existing events or celebrations that may be occurring within the faculty or the university more widely.




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