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Retribution and Rebellion: Children’s Meaning Making of Justice Through Storytelling


Contemporary social theory and the United Nations (1989) Convention on the Rights of the Child have forged current interest in the concept of children’s citizenship. However, what citizenship is and can be for young children is surrounded by much debate and ambiguity. This article discusses explorations of possibilities of children’s citizenship from a study of the author’s practice of social justice storytelling as pedagogy with a class of children aged five to 6 years of age. The study sought findings to what active citizenship is possible for young children; and who young children might be as active citizens, from children’s responses to performed social justice stories. Aesthetic encounters with story provoked affective responses. Retribution and rebellion, though paradoxical to metanarratives of young children and citizenship, were two significant themes amidst these responses. The significant nature of these themes is explored and explained through identification of possible narrative influence and identification of children’s initiated actions and comments as life stories of citizenship practice.


La théorie sociale contemporaine et la Convention relative aux droits de l'enfant des Nations Unies (1989) ont forgé l'intérêt actuel pour le concept de citoyenneté des enfants. Toutefois, ce qu'est et peut être la citoyenneté pour les jeunes enfants est entouré par beaucoup de débats et d'ambiguïté. Cet article discute d'explorations de possibilités de citoyenneté des enfants à partir d'une étude de la pratique de l'auteur relative à la narration d'histoires de justice sociale en tant que pédagogie avec une classe d'enfants de cinq à six ans. À partir des réponses des enfants à des histoires jouées de justice sociale, l'étude cherchait à trouver quel type de citoyenneté active est possible pour les jeunes enfants, et qui pourraient être les jeunes enfants en tant que citoyens actifs. Les rencontres esthétiques avec les histoires ont provoqué des réponses affectives. La récompense et la rébellion, bien que paradoxales pour les métarécits des jeunes enfants et pour la citoyenneté, étaient deux thèmes importants parmi ces réponses. La nature significative de ces thèmes est explorée et expliquée à travers l'identification de l'influence possible de la narration et l'identification des actions et commentaires initiés par les enfants en tant qu'histoires vécues de la pratique de la citoyenneté.


La teoría social contemporánea y la Convención sobre los Derechos del Niño de las Naciones Unidas (1989) han forjado el interés actual en el concepto de la ciudadanía de los niños. Sin embargo, hay mucho debate y ambigüedad alrededor de lo que es y puede ser la ciudadanía para los niños pequeños. Este artículo discute la exploración de las posibilidades acerca de la ciudadanía de los niños desde un estudio de la práctica del autor sobre la narración de la justicia social como pedagogía con una clase de niños de entre cinco y seis años de edad. El estudio intentó hallar descubrimientos sobre cuál ciudadanía activa es posible para los niños pequeños, y quiénes serían los niños pequeños como ciudadanos activos, a partir de las respuestas de los niños a historias actuadas sobre justicia social. Los encuentros estéticos con la historia provocaron respuestas afectivas. La retribución y la rebelión, aunque paradójicas a las metanarraciones de niños pequeños y la ciudadanía, fueron dos temas significativos entre estas respuestas. La naturaleza significativa de estos temas se explora y se explica a través de la posible influencia e identificación narrativa de las acciones y comentarios iniciados por los niños como historias de vida de práctica ciudadana

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  1. Throughout this article the feminine pronoun is used to imply both males and females. For many hundreds of years the practice has been to use the male pronoun to refer to both genders; this is a small effort to bring balance to this practice.

  2. Nussbaum adopted this idea from Booth (1988), who suggested viewing a literary work as a friend.

  3. All children in the study self-selected pseudonyms.


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Correspondence to Louise Gwenneth Phillips.

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Phillips, L.G. Retribution and Rebellion: Children’s Meaning Making of Justice Through Storytelling. IJEC 44, 141–156 (2012).

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  • Aesthetic encounters
  • Citizenship
  • Children’s rights
  • Metanarratives
  • Social justice
  • Stories
  • Storytelling