Accepted Paper:

Urban child soldiering: boys' armies, urban cosmopolitanism and new cultures of violence in Indian slums  


Atreyee Sen (University of Copenhagen)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the impact of prolonged urban identity conflicts on poor children in violence-affected neighbourhoods. My ethnographic landscapes are Bombay and Hyderabad, where expansive slum areas remain the criminal strongholds of anti-cosmopolitan, anti-minority political parties amenable to violence.

Paper long abstract:

This paper argues that unguided and unguarded contact with diversity and syncretism can generate social and moral anxieties in marginalised children. According to the slum children in Bombay and Hyderabad, their search for

stable, insular and communal selves led them to organise violent collective resistance to cosmopolitanism, discourses on mutual tolerance and diffused

urban identities. From a theoretical perspective, this paper seeks to contribute to a growing corpus of research trying to uncover the problems of aggressive children principally through the concept of child agency. I take a

step away from the vulnerability paradigm to highlight the initiatives of children to survive marginalization in peripheral, urban 'warscapes'. My research also makes a contribution to recent studies on child soldiering, and

tries to rectify their limited impact on peace policies. Academic and activist literature on child militancy focuses primarily on forced or voluntary child

recruits within larger, self-styled militias, marginalising the accounts of local children's groups who operate as informal armies. The experiences of

the latter children need to be considered while negotiating peace, as failing discourses on violence and social exclusions get refreshed and rearticulated

through children's organised quest for survival in volatile social environments.

Panel W078
Mutuality's margins: contesting cosmopolitanism in the rescaled city