Ambivalent Childhoods

Speculative Futures and the Psychic Life of the Child

2021
Author:

Jacob Breslow

Explores childhood in relation to blackness, transfeminism, queerness, and deportability to interrogate what “the child” makes possible

Ambivalent Childhoods brings together critical race, trans, feminist, queer, critical migration, and psychoanalytic theories to explore the role of childhood in shaping and challenging the disposability of young black life, the steadfastness of the gender binary, the queer life of children’s desires, and the precarious status of migrants.

This is a landmark achievement. Rigorous and lyrical, urgently political and achingly personal, Ambivalent Childhoods braids together scholarly approaches to childhood that center Blackness, transgender, queer sexuality, and migration in order to show how each twists through ambivalent, fraught, and necessary claims to the protections of childhood innocence.

Rebekah Sheldon, author of The Child to Come: Life after the Human Catastrophe

The concept of childhood contains many contested and ambivalent meanings that have extraordinary implications, particularly for those staking their claim for belonging and justice on the wish for inclusion within it. In Ambivalent Childhoods, Jacob Breslow examines contemporary U.S. social justice movements (including Black Lives Matter, transfeminism, queer youth activism, and antideportation movements) to discover and reveal how childhood operates within and against them.

Ambivalent Childhoods brings together critical race, trans, feminist, queer, critical migration, and psychoanalytic theories to explore the role of childhood in shaping and challenging the disposability of young black life, the steadfastness of the gender binary, the queer life of children’s desires, and the precarious status of migrants. Through an engagement with “the psychic life of the child” that combines theoretical discussions of childhood, blackness, transfeminism, and deportability with critical readings of films, narrative, images, and social justice movements, Breslow demonstrates how childhood requires sustained attention as a complex and ambivalent site for contesting the workings of power, not only for the young.

Ambivalent Childhoods is a forward-thinking and intersectional analysis of how childhood affects activism, national belonging, and the violence directed against queer, trans, and racialized people.

Jacob Breslow is assistant professor of gender and sexuality at the London School of Economics.

This is a landmark achievement. Rigorous and lyrical, urgently political and achingly personal, Ambivalent Childhoods braids together scholarly approaches to childhood that center Blackness, transgender, queer sexuality, and migration in order to show how each twists through ambivalent, fraught, and necessary claims to the protections of childhood innocence.

Rebekah Sheldon, author of The Child to Come: Life after the Human Catastrophe

A highly engaging, timely, and forward-thinking interdisciplinary and intersectional exploration of how childhood shapes activism, national belonging, and the violence transacted against queer, trans, and racialized people. Jacob Breslow successfully weaves these differing fields and movements together to show us something vital but seemingly unnoticed about the role of the psychic life of the child in American fantasies about the political and citizenship.

Jules Gill-Peterson, author of Histories of the Transgender Child

Contents


Introduction: The Wish for Childhood


1. Disavowing Black Childhood: Trayvon Martin, Adolescent Citizenship, and Anti-Blackness


2. Transphobia as Projection: Trans Childhoods and the Psychic Brutality of Gender


3. Desiring the Child: Queerness, Motherhood, and the Analyst


4. Undocumented Dream-Work: Intergenerational Migrant Aesthetics and the Parricidal Violence of the Border


Afterword: Ambivalence and Loss


Acknowledgments


Notes


Bibliography


Index