The misidentification of “orphans” as a category for development and humanitarian intervention has subsequently been misappropriated by many Western individuals and charitable organizations, resulting in an ‘orphan industrial complex’ that problematically commoditizes children as targets for charitable intervention—particularly in the global south. The discourse and practice of “orphan rescue” drives the “production” of orphans as objects for particular kinds of intervention that are counter to established international standards of child protection. In this presentation, Cheney will explain the concept of the orphan industrial complex, how it works and what its consequences are for children, families, and child protection systems.
Kristen Cheney is Senior Lecturer in Children & Youth Studies at the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, Netherlands. Her current research interests centre on issues of AIDS orphanhood, the political economy of intercountry adoption and surrogacy, child protection and deinstitutionalization, and the impact of young people’s sexually explicit media exposure/usage on sexuality education and SRHR in developing-country contexts. She specialises in child- and youth-centred and participatory qualitative research methods primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. She is the author of Crying for Our Elders: African Orphanhood in the Age of HIV and AIDS (2017) and of Pillars of the Nation: Child Citizens and Ugandan National Development (2007).
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