Children and Globalization
Bringing Children into Globalization Boy and girl prostitutes in Thailand hired by French tourists; child pornography on the Internet; five-year-old indentured textile workers in India making silk for American clothing; Eastern European adolescent girls assaulted and raped as they seek glamorous careers on Milan's runways: these are the startling images that confront us regularly now as the economy becomes a global network and as our means to communicate information penetrates into and out of every village and hamlet. We shudder at these assaults on the most vulnerable and ask ourselves if this is a portent of the future. As our planet shrinks in size, will we sacrifice children to the yawning and ever more visible gulf between the richest and poorest nations of the earth?
It is odd that children and childhood should be nowhere on the agenda of those who currently discuss globalization.1 Children are most definitely part of the Western sensibility about globalization, and childhood is a particularly sensitive node for cultural contention in the politics of globalization. It is my hope that an understanding of children's history will help to make discussions of globalization both more realistic, since many children are and will be affected and more attuned to the peculiar Western sentiments that are evoked in the media's coverage of the conflicts over globalization. Children are everywhere present in this debate, but never heard from or addressed.2
Childhood is at once a universal experience, and one of the most culturally specific. Every society must have and raise children to survive, and each seeks to protect them in some fashion. Each culture defines and divides childhood as a stage of development differently, while devising unique means to express its views of what children are like, and practices relating to children through which it fulfills the culture's vision of its own future. So too, each of us has experienced a childhood, and we are therefore strongly attached emotionally to an image of what childhood is and