Always in the process of becoming, inherently incomplete, the child is a remarkably malleable figure. In Figurations, Claudia Castañeda shows how this malleability is itself generated—how the child is “made” by different constituencies and how the resulting historically, geographically, and culturally specific figures are put to widely divergent uses, often to very powerful effect. Situated at the intersection of feminist, postcolonial, cultural, and science and technology studies, this book provides a remarkable map of the child’s meaning and movement across transnational circuits of exchange.
Castañeda investigates the construction of the child as both a natural and cultural body, the character of its embodiment, and its imaginative appeal in various settings. The sites through which she tracks the bodily production and deployment of the child include nineteenth-century developmental science; cognitive neuroscience in the late twentieth century; international adoption; rumors and media coverage of child-organ stealing; and poststructuralist theory. Her work reveals the extent to which the child’s cultural significance and value lie in its status as a body whose incompleteness makes it “available” for such varied uses. Figurations establishes the child as a key figure for understanding and rethinking the politics of nature, culture, bodies, and subjects in changing “global” worlds.