Seen But Not Heard? The Spatial, Emotional and Material Sites of Childhood and Youth from Antiquity to Modernity

The Seen But Not Heard conference brought together research from scholars and academics from all research and career stages, and from all disciplines, at the University of Sussex in January 2017. One of our main reasons for seeking funding from CHASE for our project was to enable as diverse a cohort of research topics as possible, with funding for speakers’ conference costs so that those without access to university funding would be able to submit proposals. We placed emphasis in our call for papers for new research, particularly from postgraduate and early-career researchers to present and discuss their work in childhood and youth from across disciplines, from antiquity up to the present, and from a range of geographical locations.

These are currently key research areas within the numerous disciplines which focus upon childhood. The volume of applications that we received enabled us to fulfil our objective of selecting a conference schedule that explored the spatial, material and emotional sites of childhood across a diverse geographical and temporal locations. As such our conference brought together a cohort of rich, diverse and often intersected set of new ideas alongside leading researchers in these fields, with keynotes from Dr Hester Barron, Professor Pamela Cox, Professor Colin Heywood, Dr Laura King, Professor Claire Langhamer, and Dr Lucy Robinson.  As a relatively small cohort – fifty speakers across three days – we were able to become acquainted quickly, and the intimacy provided for a particularly rich and inclusive environment where ideas and questions were shared fluidly and freely. It also made speaking easier for those of us who gave their first paper at the event.

The input that CHASE had in the process made the organisation of the event much easier than it could have been, and we would like to thank Shelley Jenkins again for the amount of help that she gave us. That CHASE helped us with ordering very specific catering, and venue requirements enabled us to take control of the attendance and programming of the event. By paying close attention to correspondence and detailing attendees’ requirements well in advance, we were able to fulfil them with ease. We would recommend that future conference planners who benefit from CHASE funding ensure that paying attention to the early stages of the organisational process and to ensuring that accessibility, dietary and technical needs are fully catered. We would also urge organisers to consider funding food and attendance or factoring in some bursaries for independent or self-funding researchers to enable the broadest possible applications. Because we did so, we were able to host both at the conference, and we all agreed that it significantly enriched the experience.

Our conference encouraged the use of Twitter during the event, and we trended at #47 in the UK during the last Sussex keynote panel. The Storify of the hashtags is hosted on our website, alongside all of the programme information. The conference has opened up a close network of researchers of childhood from many disciplines, and we anticipate that many of the papers will be published in a special edition of a journal.