In this podcast, Dr Afua Twum Danso-Imoh, Lecturer in the Sociology of Childhood, discusses diversities in contemporary childhoods in Sub Saharan Africa.

Both academic and popular discourses on childhoods in Sub Saharan Africa (and elsewhere in the Global South) focus on children in difficult circumstances, which have led to portrayals of childhoods that are in stark contrast to the global hegemonic ideal. While these are valid, too sharp a focus on differences encourages binary thinking in terms of “them” as opposed to “us”. Thus there is a need to explore the full range of childhoods within countries on the continent, in order to foreground the diversities that exist.

These diversities are a result of factors such as:

• Economic growth of some African countries in the past decade, which have led to the increasing visibility of middle class professionals and their families, in particular the children in these families and their experiences of childhood;

• Activities of colonial governments and missionary organisations in much of the region from the late 19th and early 20th centuries; and

• More recent intensification of global processes, particularly in the media.

These developments problematise notions such as ‘Global North’ and ‘Global South’ or ‘Western’ and ‘African’; and should encourage us to adopt a broader historical and global view in researching childhoods in Sub Saharan Africa.

This podcast argues that such an approach, will allow us to:

• Develop a more holistic understanding of contemporary childhoods in the varied contexts within the region, marked by not only differences to the global ideal, but also commonalities;

• Enable us to reveal the state of inequality in specific contexts by highlighting not only childhoods characterised by lacks, but also those informed by relative abundance; and

• Force us to further scrutinise the continuing utility of the binary of the Global North and South in how we study childhoods and (other issues) in this moment in time.

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