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The Age of Conflict: Rethinking Childhood, Law, and Age through the Israeli-Palestinian Case

Viterbo, Hedi (2012) 'The Age of Conflict: Rethinking Childhood, Law, and Age through the Israeli-Palestinian Case.' In: Freeman, Michael, (ed.), Law and Childhood Studies - Current Legal Issues Vol. 14. Oxford University Press, pp. 133-155.

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Abstract

Law tends to define the term ‘child’ solely as a matter of age, and yet age has remained relatively unexplored and undertheorized. This article provides a contextualized investigation of the law-childhood-age triangle and some of its central complexities. The context chosen for this study is the encounter between Israeli criminal law (domestic and military) and minors in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The first part of the article explains how Israeli law concurrently constructs two different childhoods along national lines – Israeli and Palestinian – in the same territory. However, notwithstanding this contingency of childhood and age on nationality, the legal construction of childhood and age is much more complex than unequivocally echoing the dominant national imaginary. The second part of the article illustrates this by pointing to the ways in which contrasting demarcations of childhood, different dimensions of age, various meanings assigned to age, and conflicting age norms – all render age and childhood elusive. I identify and examine four manifestations of this elusiveness in Israeli military law (which applies to Palestinians): the ambiguity of legal age terminology; the legal conception of youth as aggravating; the punishment of minors according to their apparent (rather than chronological) age; and the simultaneous application of different ages to the same minor. The third part of the article discusses the anxieties and confusion evoked within the legal system in cases in which law’s subjects, Israeli settlers or Palestinians, were seen as obscuring their age. In conclusion I point, among other things, to the resonance of the issues in question with other settings outside Israel-Palestine. In light of the significant commonalities among these different contexts, I argue that the Israeli-Palestinian case can be read as a ‘super experiment’, through which to rethink how age functions and is utilized in the legal fabrication of childhood.

Item Type: Book Chapters
SOAS Departments & Centres: Faculty of Law and Social Sciences > Department of Politics and International Studies
ISBN: 9780199652501
Depositing User: Hedi Viterbo
Date Deposited: 06 May 2014 14:28
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/18373

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