fragments of a discourse on childhood


  • julio groppa aquino Universidade de São Paulo Faculdade de Educação


children, discourse on childhood, Michel Foucault.


Setting forth from some of Foucault's theoretical and methodological premises, this paper aims at problematizing the contemporary discursive automatisms imposed on childhood, which endow it with an aura of bliss and consecrate it with the role of sowing all things, while, at the same time, they apply to it the taint of incontinence, corruption and subservience, thus attempting against its errancy, originality and therefore its generativity. The procedure adopted is an unlikely interweaving of multiple vocalizations about childhood. In a Barthesian style, we chose an ensemble of discontinuous fragments of classical theoretical texts, journalistic accounts and literary works; all interspersed either by slogans fond to what is commonly called the industrial culture or by striking passages of popular songs. Together, such fragments finally compose a brief and unusual compendium of things actually said not only on childhood, but also for it, if not on its behalf. The strategy of textual composition carried out is that of the bricolage of such shared, ordinary childhood statements, aiming at shuffling the authorial sources. In other words, what interests us is a sort of distorted, hyperbolic, even monstrous repetition of certain discursive fulgurations about the world and the life of children, beyond or beneath the borders of their original enunciative territory. Moreover, it’s about rubbing such statements and, perhaps, making them short-circuit and, ultimately, raving them, in order to reverberate not only the movement of repetition present in them, but also their fissures, their blind or shaky spots; exhaustion spots; turning points, perhaps. We should also clarify that we do not intend either to describe, or to interpret the discursive contents that mark the childhood drumbeat routine; we only intend to bring out, once again, the circular and reiterative ingenuity which animates them. In doing so, we shall stoke their operating nerves and ridges, temporarily displacing the statements of their totalizing pretensions. Subjected to a forceful displacement of their enunciative jurisdiction, when caught in their arbitrariness, boastfulness and, ultimately, in their vulnerability, these statements perhaps start acting like circus mirrors which don’t reflect, don’t represent, don’t aim at being the herald of truth, but rather caricature the image of whomever stands in front of them in search of a revelation. This procedure is justified not by the resort to an allegedly unorthodox, fancy or clandestine method in relation to the protocols of "good manners" in expression, but by the invocation of an intemperate, eager manner of critical addressing to the robust and even crackly performativity of the type of experience handed down to childhood – taken this performativity not only as an automatic effect of a relentless dispositif, but precisely as a "focus of experience", according to Foucault’s concept of this term.

Author Biography

julio groppa aquino, Universidade de São Paulo Faculdade de Educação

Departamento de Filosofia da Educação e Ciências da Educação Chefe do Departamento



How to Cite

aquino, julio groppa. (2012). fragments of a discourse on childhood. Childhood & Philosophy, 8(15), 33–65. Retrieved from




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