Imagining children's rights in Central Africa
: francophone fiction and international children's rights law

  • Catherine (Kate) Mackenzie

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)

Abstract

In recent decades, questions around the nature of childhood and children’s place in society have gained new attention, notably through the enunciation of children’s rights. At the same time, humanitarian and wider public discourse has focused on the threats faced by children growing up in situations of conflict and dislocation. The fictional child protagonist adds a further strand to this discourse. This thesis brings into dialogue representations of children in four francophone African novels – Petit Piment by Alain Mabanckou (2015), Johnny chien méchant by Emmanuel Dongala (2002), Notre-Dame du Nil by Scholastique Mukasonga (2012) and L’Aîné des orphelins by Tierno Monénembo (2000) – and in two international children’s rights treaties – the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC). The UNCRC (1989) and the ACRWC (1990) establish children as rights holding subjects within a framework of adult care, while the fictional texts position adolescent children as protagonists, deprived of adult protection amid violent conflict and social upheaval in Central Africa.

This thesis asks what conceptions of the child are revealed in the fictional and legal texts and how such discourses shed light on each other and on the idea of the child as subject and bearer of universal rights. Critical analysis of the fictional and legal texts is set within a wider discussion of theoretical understandings and material realities of childhoods. This thesis challenges the tendency to oppose literature’s expansive humanity to the supposed narrow rigidity of law. Instead, it suggests that the idea of the child is an imaginative thread which flows through both the fictional and legal texts and serves as a mechanism to confront wider questions around the nature of personhood in society, the workings of power, and the possibility of change.
Date of Award4 Dec 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorNicola Marie Hitchcott (Supervisor) & Elaine Webster (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • Childhood
  • Children's rights
  • Central Africa
  • Postcolonial
  • Rwanda
  • Republic of Congo
  • (Post)conflict
  • United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
  • Girlhood

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 6 July 2029

Cite this

'