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Konferanse/CFP: Childhoods of Color

Childhoods of Color, an interdisciplinary conference

September 13-14, 2019, Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Keynote lecture by Prof. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, University of Pennsylvania

The Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture (http://www.wiscprintdigital.org/) is pleased to issue this call for paper and panel submissions to our 2019 conference, “Childhoods of Color,” exploring the various ways children of color interact with and are represented in print and digital media. Approximately half of school-aged children in the United States today are not white.1 This fact is not reflected by representations of children in print and digital culture. UW-Madison’s Cooperative Children’s Books Center (which has tracked data on race and children’s book publishing since 1985) shows that African American, Latinx, Native American, and Asian American characters have been continually unrepresented in the children’s literature industry.2 Children’s Literature scholar Philip Nel shows a similar trend in visual representations of characters of color, in the example of young adult fantasy and science fiction novels whose covers illustrations whitewash nonwhite characters, replacing them with white or ambiguously-raced figures.3 While replacing an earlier trend of racist representations of people of color in children’s books, this sort of whitewashing amounts to a more insidious form of literary segregation. Similarly, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop’s report on Diverse Families and Media argues that “educational media are not being designed and vetted with all families in mind.”4 Employing principals similar to those of the Children’s Television Workshop’s founders, the report traces research on families’ media use to make suggestions as to how media designers might better serve families of color, low-income families, and language-minority families. Responding to the need to shift media paradigms, recent academic and activist work has attempted to counter past exclusions and erasures by prioritizing childhoods of color. Academic articles, monographs, and presentations work in tandem with popular campaigns such as We Need Diverse Books and Raising Race Conscious Children, creating truly interdisciplinary and inherently political work.5 Our conference seeks traditional panel and roundtable proposals and welcomes non-traditional presentation forms on themes and topics related to “Childhoods of Color” as they intersect with print and digital cultures. Topics might include (though are, of course, not limited to) any of the following:

  • Children’s literature
  • Visual culture
  • Digital culture
  • Media studies
  • Education and pedagogy
  • Literacy education
  • Reading interests
  • Language/bilingualism
  • The achievement gap
  • Migrant, refugee & immigrant children
  • Children’s activism & child activists
  • Education and politics
  • Youth and intersectionality
  • Sexuality and sexual identity
  • Childhood health and wellness
  • Toys and commercialism
  • Imaginative play
  • Childhood and popular culture

Our keynote speaker will be Dr. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, of the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. Thomas has published extensively on children’s literature (particularly African-American children’s literature), the teaching of literature, history, and culture, and the roles of race, class, and gender in in K-12 classrooms. Thomas describes children’s and young adult literature as media through which “children and teenagers first form critical consciousness around issues of race, racial difference, diversity, and equality.”6


*Compiled panels and individual panel submissions should be submitted to chpdc@ischool.wisc.edu and are due by Monday, October 15th, 2018. (Notices regarding conference acceptance will be sent by the end of December.)

Individual paper proposals should be no more than 250 words each and should be accompanied by a one-page CV. Complete panel and roundtable proposals should include brief descriptions of each individual presentation as well as a 100-word overview of the panel. Complete panel and roundtable proposals should include one-page CVs for each presenter. Feel free to contact conference organization committee chair Dr. Brigitte Fielder with any questions, at brigitte.fielder@wiscmail.wisc.edu.

About the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture

The CHPDC promotes interdisciplinary study at the intersection of texts, technology, and culture with strengths in book history, print culture studies, and the digital humanities. Recent conferences have included “BH&DH: Book History and Digital Humanities” (2017) and “African American Expression in Print and Digital Culture” (2014). The Center’s book series with the UW Press publishes titles like Infrastructures of African American Print which is forthcoming in 2019. Each year, the Center awards the James P. Danky Fellowship for visiting researchers at the Wisconsin Historical Society. More information about CHPDC programs is available at www.wiscprintdigital.org

Submitted on behalf of the conference organization committee:

  • Brigitte Fielder, Assistant Professor, Department of Comparative Literature
  • Taucia Gonzalez, Assistant Professor of Special Education, Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education
  • K.T. Horning, Director, Cooperative Children’s Book Center of the School of Education
  • Dipesh Navsaria, Associate Professor of Pediatrics; Medical Director, Reach Out and Read Wisconsin; Primary Care Pediatrician
  • Jonathan Senchyne, Assistant Professor, Information School; Director of the Center for Print and Digital Culture

1 Kids Count Data Center. https://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/103-child-population-byrace#detailed/1/any/false/870,573,869/68,69,67,12,70,66,71,72/423,424

2 Cooperative Children’s Book Center “Children’s Books By and About People of Color and First/Native Nations Received by the CCBC*–US Publishers Only 2015 –” http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp

3 Philip Nel, Was the Cat in the Hat Black?: The Hidden Racism of Children’s Literature and the Need for Diverse Books (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 136-166.

4 Amber Levinson, Sinem Siyahhan, Briana Pressey, and Katie Headrick Taylor, “Diverse families and media: Using research to inspire design.” The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop (Fall 2015): 6.


5 See We Need Diverse Books https://diversebooks.org/ and Raising Race Conscious Children http://www.raceconscious.org/

6 Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, “African American Children’s Literature: Liminal Terrains and Strategies for Selfhood,” in Diversity in Youth Literature: Opening Doors Through Reading, ed. Jamie Campbell Naidoo and Sarah Park Dahlen (Chicago, IL: American Library Association, 2013), 37.

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