The UNCRC and Global Childhoods: Transdisciplinary Reflections from Nepal
Key Words: Transdisciplinarity, child and youth studies and child rights
Globally, humans are facing numerous socio-economic, cultural and environmental problems while being threatened by ever more complicated and complex issues. In such contexts, disciplinarily-focused research and pedagogies often constrain our ability to move beyond institutional and bureaucratic mind-sets and create change in complex local systems impacting children. During the years of its evolution from a sub-discipline of psychology, the international field of child and youth studies has sought common ground for interpreting these more complex concerns. Many authors now argue for a transdisciplinary approach to address these disciplinary tensions, and to not only re-integrate epistemologies of global North with global South, but to apply new analytical and methodological tools aiming towards praxis – the Greek word for translating theory into practice (Giroux & Searls-Giroux, 2004). Montuori (2008) notes four key dimensions to this “new way of thinking” (p. xi).
- An inquiry-driven focus rather than discipline specific.
- A stress on the construction of knowledge through an appreciation of the meta-paradigmatic dimension. Disciplinary knowledge typically does not question its own paradigmatic assumptions.
- An understanding of the organization of knowledge, and the importance of contextualization and connection.
- The integration of the knower in the process of inquiry, which means that rather than attempting to eliminate the knower, the effort becomes one of acknowledging and making transparent the knower’s assumptions and the process through which s/he constructs knowledge.
To these common dimensions, some recent transdisciplinary authors include Indigenous knowledge systems (or IKS), for example, Christie (2006), DuPlessis, Sehume and Martin (2014), Leavy (2011), and Mitchell and Moore (2018). Transdisciplinary research transcends the usual gap between academia and the broader public by acknowledging the value of knowledge obtained from diverse, non-academic stakeholders in the community, government, and business (Somerville & Rapport, 2000). In addition, such approaches in child and youth studies offer us new possibilities in translating and understanding the local/global implications of implementing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child (UNCRC, 1989), and the vast differences in the experiences of childhood amongst and between various socio-economic, cultural and political contexts in recognizing their own rights in situ. Moving beyond adult-focused and Eurocentric understanding of much of the childhood literature (and of their human rights), this paper reflects on our experience working with 90 young people affiliated with the Lalitpur Metropolitan City (LMC) Child Clubs and observing their participatory planning process for the annual budget in Nepal. In response to the growing complexity throughout all regions of the world, we consider the historical, political and cultural experiences in Nepal within this transdisciplinary approach to child-centred scholarship. Our paper details the learning and transitions from being ‘academic researchers’ and ‘observers’ of a participatory, child- and youth-focused budgeting process to collaborators and co-constructors of knowledge with key stakeholders themselves – the children and young people of Lalitpur, Nepal.