September 13, 2022
In the new work Children Crossing Borders, contributors explore the different meanings of the lives of borderland children in the Americas. This volume draws much-needed attention to the plight of migrant children and their families, illuminating the human and emotional toll that children experience as they crisscross the Americas. Exploring the connections between education, policy, cultural studies, and anthropology, the essays in this volume navigate a space of transnational children’s rights central to Latin American life in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Today we offer an excerpt of this important new work:
This book on children on the borders in the Americas was planned and structured before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it has been completed and will be published in a changed world, one in which considerations of the health and well-being of children in the Americas have become even more relevant and in which inequalities related to race, citizenship, ethnicity, social class, and gender have become even more intense and unavoidable. In 2020 millions of children in Latin America and the Caribbean suffered poverty, violence, and a lack of adequate health services. Over 154 million children in Latin America and the Caribbean were out of school during 2020. Serious consequences ensued for the most vulnerable, who depended on schools to access food and sanitary services as well
as psychosocial support (UNICEF 2020a). Many have been denied their
minimum needs and rights, such as food and adequate housing. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), owing to the impact of COVID-19, the number of children living in poor households will increase by 21.7 percent, from 71.6 million to 87.1 million children (UNICEF 2020b). At the same time, even those that enjoy relatively better economic positions suffer depression, isolation, and loneliness as rising unemployment, inflation, and the loss of millions of lives take a toll on all families across the Americas. Hate speech, racism, and intolerance have risen, too, amplifying the reverberation of racist and xenophobic discourses online as well as off-line (UN 2019). As a result many children in the Americas have experienced the same physical and psychological instability that migrant children suffer.
Migrants and refugees across the region have been particularly exposed to the virus, as practicing social distancing is challenging for vulnerable communities. At the same time, border closures and increasing xenophobia have left many migrant families and children stranded when they are in need of protection and humanitarian assistance. Just like migrant families, children experiencing this pandemic have lost their sense of security, challenged by economic, political, spatial, or educational instabilities.
This book intends to reflect on children on the borders in the Americas through theoretical as well as empirical perspectives; it seeks to serve as a toolbox for those who work with children on the borders and to point out and challenge ways in which the media, literature, legislation, public policies, and everyday practices construct and deconstruct migrant childhoods. We seek to provide theoretical and practical tools for better understanding the way in which refugee and immigrant children are represented in different kinds of cultural and literary productions. One of our goals is to offer tools to help educators, social workers, policy makers, and advocates accompany
immigrant children in their journeys of self-recognition, their searches for empowerment, and their struggles for rights and citizenship. We examine the way education, legislation, public policies, literature, and culture are potential tools for combating racism, nationalism, sexism, and xenophobia and for providing opportunities for children and their families to become aware of the experience of immigrants and refugees.
A Decolonial Perspective on Migrant Childhoods in the Americas
In this volume we approach migrant childhoods in the Americas through a decolonial perspective—that is, by considering the structure of social and economic inequalities that go back to the history of European imperialism and colonialism, which have shaped the circulation of children throughout the region at least since colonial times (Mignolo 2002; Rabello de Castro 2020). The main implication of this decolonial perspective is that we resist erasing differences between North and South or adhering to a notion of a prototypical (white, Anglo-Saxon, middle-class), definitive model of American or Latin American childhood against which other children would be compared. Our decolonial perspective on childhood migration in the Americas means that we seek to articulate North and South America through the unifying theme of migrant children, looking at children at the crossroads between colonialism and postcolonialism, diversity and oppression, invisibility and othering, and reappraising difference in migrant childhoods in the Americas in structural power relationships.
Our decolonial approach also has strong implications for our political
economy of knowledge production: we incorporate theories and scholarship written in languages other than English and situated in North and South, as we reject essentializing difference and avoid reaffirming preferences, themes, and concepts that already circulate in international knowledge markets. We seek to create an egalitarian, collaborative space in which horizontal political and epistemic relations are possible regarding the international division of scientific labor. Our book strives to create bonds where long-standing structural and imperial divisions between North and South America exist, ones that have separated and interconnected these parts of the world. Thus, we assume the costs of dissenting and producing theory on children from within North and South.
Alejandra J. Josiowicz is professora adjunta and Prociencia Fellow (2021–2024) at the Institute of Languages and Literatures of the Universidade Estadual do Rio de Janeiro (UERJ). She earned her MA and PhD from Princeton University and was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at the School of Social Sciences of the Getulio Vargas Foundation (CPDOC-FGV) in Brazil. She has published articles, chapters, and a book on childhood studies, children’s literature, and Latin American cultural studies.
Irasema Coronado received her bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of South Florida. She has an MA in Latin American studies and a PhD in political science from the University of Arizona. She is director of the School of Transborder Studies at Arizona State University and co-author of Fronteras No Mas: Toward Social Justice at the U.S.-Mexico Border and Políticas: Latina Public Officials in Texas.