The Ramifications of the Andean Working Child as Ahistorical

Janice Stiglich, Rutgers University

The historical figure of the working child has been so often placated by Northern conceptualizations that suppose all forms of labor as exploitative, such that the image of dignified work for children in global South countries like Peru, appears as taboo. Current imaginaries of work for children pit child labor against child-led efforts for dignified conditions, often silencing the very children that protectionism attempts to ‘save’. Though international bodies of influence like the ILO have addressed minimum age requirements (Convention #138) and the worst forms of child labor (Convention #182), many of these efforts ignore the realities and interests of working children in global South contexts. Dignified working children’s silencing, calls into question their historical validity as contributing laborers in society and agentic beings with the capacity for work. Children’s agentic participation cannot be discounted due to its lack of record or past occurrence. Their life worlds as working children have always existed, even if along the grain of secondary sources. As historical texts continue to be primarily written by adults with race, class, and gender privileges, their appearance is typically appropriated, or all together deemed ahistorical. Due to this invisibility, their legitimacy as laborers are questioned in international trade regulations and are discounted as a relic of the past that must be corrected. In this paper, I hope to argue that the ahistorical working child has weight in current discussions of children’s right to participation in the labor force.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 54. Questions of Silence and Children’s (In)visibility in the Archives