Constructing Childhoods: Age, Race, and Nationality in Latin American Courts

AHA Session 162
Conference on Latin American History 32
Friday, January 6, 2017: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Mile High Ballroom 4C (Colorado Convention Center, Ballroom Level)
Julia Ogden, Front Range Community College
Kathryn A. Sloan, University of Arkansas

Session Abstract

In the last two decades, historians of Latin America have explored the critical role that age-based categories, such as childhood and youth, played in shaping imperial and state projects in Latin America. While the resulting scholarship has provided a wealth of new insights into how adults viewed childhood and offers tantalizing glimpses into young people’s experiences, scholars have yet to tease out fully the ways that age intersected with and constructed other identities, such as race, gender, class and nationality.

 This panel advances the study of childhood, inequality and law in Latin America by exploring how legislative acts surrounding age intersected with judges’ understanding of race, class and nationality to create different "childhoods" in Latin America. Specifically, presentations demonstrate that legislators and judges utilized concepts of race, class and nationality to construct multiple meanings of childhood in Argentina and Brazil. Juandrea Bates’ presentation will demonstrate that immigrants’ inability to procure birth certificates and court approved guardians often deprived foreign-born youth the legal protection afforded native born children in turn-of-the-century Argentina. Julia Ogden’s paper investigates a related phenomena in the criminal courts of Buenos Aires at the same time. The failure of immigrant parents to provide birth certificates as proof of the age of their sexually abused children often lowered the sentences judges gave to accused molesters, resulting in different forms justice for foreign and native-born victims of assault. The panel highlights how laws and judicial practices surrounding family and childhood served as a powerful way to perpetuate inequality in Latin American history.

See more of: AHA Sessions