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Diverse bodies: a queer history of the representation and self-representation of children in popular media

Mahesh, Madhumita (2019) Diverse bodies: a queer history of the representation and self-representation of children in popular media. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The concept childhood is socially, politically, and historically constructed and has evolved with changing identity markets. Further, groups of people are inconsistently afforded a childhood based on gendered, raced, classed, and queered moderators. Through a number of interdisciplinary feminist research practices, I outline historical and theoretical understandings of the experience of childhood, with a specific focus on girlhood, and the influences of its moderators. To study the phenomenon of the variability of the experience of childhood, I detail an instance of inconsistent childhoods by analyzing those of child celebrities. I track celebrity representation in popular girls’ media outlets such as fan magazines and girls’ magazines, and compare them to contemporary representations on Instagram. I do this to highlight the shifts in agency of the individuals being represented. In this tracking, I find that the evolution of forms of representation into self representation allow for more agency for individuals to document and express visual experiences of childhood, while embodying identities that are historically and systematically known for their reduced or erased childhood experiences. I argue that increased agency in self-representation in popular media subsequently positively impacts the identity formation of its consumers. Finally, I conclude by rooting my research in Foucauldian theory by tracing a genealogy of iterations of Foucault’s foundational texts. My work exists in the intersections of queer theory, critical race theory, media psychology, and archival studies, and hopes to further interdisciplinary understandings of childhood.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairBeaulieu, Juliejrb107@pitt.edujrb107
Committee CoChairLovett, Lauralauralovettlauralovett
Committee MemberGuthrie, Meredithguthrie@pitt.eduguthrie
Committee MemberSanchez-Eppler,
Date: 29 April 2019
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 15 April 2019
Approval Date: 29 April 2019
Submission Date: 18 April 2019
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 76
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: David C. Frederick Honors College
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Girlhoods, Childhoods, Media Representation, Identity Formation, Girls' Magazines
Date Deposited: 29 Apr 2019 15:40
Last Modified: 29 Apr 2019 15:40


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