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Simone de Beauvoir and the Ambiguity of Childhood

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Journal Paragraph
DateAccepted/In press - 2015
DatePublished (current) - Oct 2015
Issue number3
Original languageEnglish


This article explores Simone de Beauvoir's conceptualization of childhood and its importance for her existentialist thought. Beauvoir's theorization of childhood, I argue, offers a sophisticated portrayal of the child and of the adult–child relationship: the child is not a normal ‘other’ for the adult, but what I call a temporal other, perceived by adults as an ambiguous being; in turn, childhood is conceptualized as the origin of the ambiguity of adulthood. This foregrounding of childhood has important implications for Beauvoir's existentialism, in particular regarding her ethics. Through the adult–child relationship, her vision of an ethical relation to otherness emerges — one which foregrounds both the violence and the mutual liberation involved in encounters with the other.

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