J. Marshall Beier Ed. 2011. the Militarization of Childhood: Thinking beyond the Global South

By Chen, Kai | Canadian Journal of Sociology, Summer 2014 | Go to article overview

J. Marshall Beier Ed. 2011. the Militarization of Childhood: Thinking beyond the Global South


Chen, Kai, Canadian Journal of Sociology


J. Marshall Beier ed. 2011. The Militarization of Childhood: Thinking Beyond the Global South. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. 297 pp. $95.00 Hardcover (978-0230115767).

A significant portion of children in the world today face impacts posed by the militarization of childhood. Theoretically, the militarization of childhood has two broad meanings. First, it refers to the recruitment of children in state or non-state forces, represented most obviously through child soldiering. Secondly, it refers to children's "involvement in preparation for war" (63); this might include exposure to "militarist ideologies" or a normalization of violence more generally. In the current global world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the militarization of childhood, partly due to numerous high-profile campaigns aimed at preventing child soldiering in the global South; these have attracted some attention from the international society, especially academics in anthropology and political sociology. The scholarly literature on this phenomenon, however, is largely one-sided. Although child soldiering in the global South has drawn significant attention, there has been little discussion about the militarization of children in the global North.

The Militarization of Childhood challenges this asymmetry within the academic literature on militarized childhood. This timely collection of analytical essays corrects the major deficiencies in existing literature on child soldiering (an extreme aspect of militarized childhood) in the global South (especially Africa and Latin America). Academics have been mostly divided on why and how children get involved in armed conflict and take on the adult role of armed combatant. Whereas most works use a primarily "rights-based framework" (7) to explore child soldering in the conflict-affected areas of the global South, showing less concern for theoretical exploration of the connections between militarization and childhood generally, Beier's volume explores everyday militarized childhood across a range of global contexts. Among other things, it highlights the impacts of militarist ideologies and the normalization of violence in the global North.

Beier's edited volume consists of an introduction and twelve chapters, written by established and emerging scholars from multiple disciplines, including: international political sociology, childhood studies, gender studies and international relations. In my view, this interdisciplinary collection succeeds in filling much-needed gaps in the literature of militarized childhood. It includes analyses of the factors that create militarized childhood in the global North and reviews of the many negative consequences of militarized childhood. Additionally, the contributions provide useful comparisons of militarized children in the global South and North.

The diverse contributors highlight various militarist ideologies and form of violence normalization in the global North. For example, in the view of Helen Brocklehurst, "military literacy" (e.g. War on Terror) has been presumed through educational material in the global North. Along similar lines, J. Marshall Beier argues that "militarized pedagogies operate through aspects of everyday life in ways both visible and unseen" (109). In the case of the United States, comic books and Hollywood movies play important roles in the militarization of childhood, especially the latter. In the view offered by Lori A. Crowe, popular superhero movies (most of which are ultra-violent) increasingly focus on deadly military weapons, which are "seemingly celebrated, glorified, and made downright sexy" (120). Many digital war games, especially MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role-playing games) encourage participants to think of war and killing as entertainment; indeed, this has become an important element of the normalization to violence in everyday life for many children. …

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