Contested Childhood: Assessing the Age of Young Refugees in the Aftermath of the Second World War

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In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, identity documents and proofs of age were often lost or unavailable, bodies and behaviours had been marked by years of malnourishment and persecution, young people had learned to misrepresent their age for the sake of survival, and administrations routinely doubted age claims. The war had profoundly disrupted the system for knowing age that had become central to Western European regimes of recognition and rights such as citizenship, movement, and welfare. Using the resettlement of young Holocaust survivors to Canada after the war as its core case study, this article examines how state administrations, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations competed and struggled to determine age and consequently who should be considered as a child, and how young people themselves were affected by and navigated these struggles. It foregrounds the necessity to further historicize how power structures increasingly used childhood as a category and chronological age as a supposedly objective criterion to grant some lives more legitimacy than others.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)174-193
Number of pages20
JournalHistory Workshop Journal
Issue number92
Early online date12 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sept 2021

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute


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