University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Violence and Conflict Graduate Workshop, Faculty of History > Constructing Childhood: Adjudicating Juvenile Offenders in Wartime China, 1937-1945

Constructing Childhood: Adjudicating Juvenile Offenders in Wartime China, 1937-1945

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“At the turn of the twentieth century, as major Western powers coped with the aftermath of the First World War and later the Great Depression; China was an isolated nation, where after two thousand years of imperial rule, a republic was established and the monarchy overthrown by a group of revolutionaries. The outbreak of China’s War of Resistance against Japan (1937-1945), more commonly folded into the Pacific component of the Second World War, in the first half of the twentieth-century served as a catalyst to an increase in criminality involving juveniles.

Drawing upon on a series of previously unexamined legal case records of juvenile offenders adjudicated by the collaborationist Shanghai District Court for the First Special Area from 1940 to 1941 as a case study, this paper examines the social impact war on urban juveniles in Shanghai brought about a new legal and social understanding of children and childhood in twentieth-century China. This paper aims to show how the Court attempted to challenge the liminal space occupied by juveniles within the legal sphere that once marked the parameters of childhood and adulthood in the eyes of the law. As a collective body, the Court’s position on children could clearly be identified through an analysis of its legal reasoning towards juvenile offenders during this two-year window. The aim of this paper is to demonstrate how the war crystallised the attempts by the Court to introduce the process of a “legal construction of childhood” through an analysis of its legal reasoning towards juvenile offenders under wartime conditions.”

This talk is part of the Violence and Conflict Graduate Workshop, Faculty of History series.

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