ChildhoodDeployed examinesthe reintegration of former child soldiers in Sierra Leone. Based on eighteenmonths of participant-observer ethnographic fieldwork and ten years offollow-up research, the book argues that there is a fundamental disconnectbetween the Western idea of the child soldier and the individual livedexperiences of the child soldiers of Sierra Leone. Susan Shepler contends thatthe reintegration of former child soldiers is a political process havingto do with changing notions of childhood as one of the central structures ofsociety.Formost Westerners the tragedy of the idea of "e;child soldier"e; centersaround perceptions of lost and violated innocence. In contrast, Shepler findsthat for most Sierra Leoneans, the problem is not lost innocence but the horrorof being separated from one's family and the resulting generational break inyouth education. Further, Shepler argues that Sierra Leonean former childsoldiers find themselves forced to strategically perform (or refuse to perform)as the"e;child soldier"e; Western human rights initiatives expect in order tomost effectively gain access to the resources available for their socialreintegration. The strategies don't always work-in some cases, Shepler finds,Western human rights initiatives do more harm than good.Whilethis volume focuses on the well-known case of child soldiers in Sierra Leone,it speaks to the larger concerns of childhood studies with a detailedethnography of people struggling over the situated meaning of the categories ofchildhood.It offers an example of thecultural politics of childhood in action, in which the very definition ofchildhood is at stake and an important site of political contestation.
Remaking Child Soldiers in Sierra Leone