chapter  17
16 Pages

“I Thought I Lived in a Country Where I Had Rights”: Conceptualising Child Citizenship in the Posthuman Era

ByVICTORIA FLANAGAN

Technology catalyzes changes not only in what we do but in how we think. It changes people’s awareness of themselves, of one another, of their relationship with the world. (Sherry Turkle 13)

Little consideration has been given to what it means for a child to be a citizen. (Jacqueline Bhabha 91)

The relationship between child and state, and the nature of citizenship as it applies to child subjects, are recurring themes in contemporary sci-fi or speculative fi ction produced for adolescent readers. Within the genre referred to as young-adult (YA) fi ction, representations of future worlds where the boundaries of nations and states have been radically redrawn or reshaped have become increasingly prevalent. In their often dystopian visions of the future, these YA texts problematise traditional concepts of nation and nationhood. They do so by using the subject matter associated with biotechnologies, information networks, and digital worlds (such as virtual reality, genetic engineering, and increased levels of governmental surveillance) to explore and interrogate what it means for a child or adolescent subject to be a “good citizen.” The world as we currently recognize it has been dramatically altered in these narrative fi ctions,

creating an environment where the concept of what it means to be a productive member of society is inherently complex and uncertain. Owing to the dystopian fl avour of such literature, these texts also prompt readers to consider the question of how individuals can be “good citizens” in corrupt, destructive worlds. Futuristic novels written for adolescents can thus contribute a unique perspective to critical discussions about the relationship between childhood, national identity, and citizenship. These novels ask questions about the future of human beings and the societies in which they live, speculating about the consequences of current human behaviors, investigating the imagined effects of technological advancements, and advocating, where necessary, for social transformation.