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2013 - 14 Events

Centre of Latin American Studies


The Figure of the Child in Contemporary Latin American Visual Cultures

17 May 2014
Centre of Latin American Studies, University of Cambridge

This conference is generously supported by the Centre of Latin American Studies (CLAS) and the Society for Latin American Studies (SLAS).

Keynote Speakers

Dr Deborah Martin, UCL
Dr Carolina Rocha, University of Southern Illinois Edwardsville


For any questions, please contact:
Geoffrey Maguire, University of Cambridge
Rachel Randall, University of Cambridge

Conference programme

Event abstract

The figure of the child in contemporary global visual cultures has undoubtedly become a focus for academic debate in recent years. While much of the discussion has focused on Europe and North America, Karen Lury (2005) has called for the need for specificity when dealing with ‘childhoods and children represented via filmmaking in other areas of the world’. She writes: ‘Films produced in Africa, India and Latin America, could reveal a different emotional register at play in relation to the child on screen, and interpreting these and other films could produce a very different series of analyses, particularly […] in relation to the agency of the child protagonist’. This conference aims to provide a forum for the burgeoning discussion on childhood and adolescence in recent Latin American visual cultures; a discussion which is already beginning to address questions of nationhood, politics and past trauma, as well as challenging notions of gender, sexuality, corporeality, play and child ‘agency’.

The popular exploration of childhood and adolescence in contemporary Latin America, particularly in the portrayal of well-known marginal spaces, has been used to highlight a variety of socio-political concerns; a technique which, nonetheless, has provoked debates surrounding the ethics of employing the child as a political figure altogether. Particularly pertinent to a Latin American context is the deployment of childhood as a potentially cathartic space of memory in which to deal with past trauma or violent national histories. We would thus like to explore the way in which the child been used within the visual arts (film, photography, performance, graphic novels and other media) to (re)envision collective histories and imagine different national futures and/or social change, but also to consider the problems that can arise from staging the child as a redemptive figure. 

The conference thus aims to address questions including: is the child’s depiction within politically sensitive geo-historical contexts used as a fruitful means through which to address complicated cultural and political issues? Does the figure of the child elide the inherent complexities of such issues? How does the child or young person foreground the blurred boundary between the ‘private’ domestic domains and ‘public’ conceptions of childhood? What are the ethical concerns of representing orphanhood, child suffering and death? The conference will also provide an opportunity to consider questions specific to the cinematic and visual representation of childhood and adolescence, including the attempts of various Latin American filmmakers to evoke a child’s view of the world through aesthetic means. We aim to advance current debates arising from changing perceptions of gender, sexuality, corporeality and play in relation to childhood; themes which have received significant attention not only within Latin America but from recent film scholarship across the globe.


The full delegate fee is £20; the fee for postgraduates is £10. These prices cover the cost of lunch, refreshments and a wine reception. The conference dinner, to be held at Queens' College, will cost £35 for three courses, including wine and coffee. There are limited spaces available so please sign up as soon as possible if you wish to attend. We can accept payment online via the Eventbrite site or by cheque. Please see the registration website for details.