Imperfect Children

imperfectchildren300.jpg6-7 September 2013

University of Leicester

Conference themes

The core focus of this conference will be the concept of ‘imperfection’ as it relates particularly to children. The word itself is contentious whether applied in a contemporary or historical sense. It assumes normative standards of behaviour, physical appearance, mental capacity or way of living, at the same time as it means very different things in particular ethnic, geographical or historical contexts. Applied to children who are constantly developing their intellectual and physical capacities, physical appearance and other attributes, it is particularly contentious.

During the conference we wish to explore the concept and language of imperfection. This process might include discussion of mental or physical impairment; the ‘look’ of children; cosmetic surgery; biological or eugenic definitions of imperfection; community, familial and societal reactions to imperfection; childhood imperfection in literature and art; or the construction of feral youth in contemporary and historical populations. We also, however, want to look explicitly at some of the ‘imperfections’ themselves. These might include, but are not limited to:

  • Mental or physical impairment
  • Physical appearance, and the desire to ‘improve’ children
  • Learning development
  • ‘Bad’ character and criminality
  • The manufacturing of child identity in different cultures and historical contexts
  • Children and the capacity to work or play
  • Diagnosing and correcting imperfection

Who should attend?

We expect the conference to attract interest across the academic spectrum including from the fields of history, archaeology, art history and English through the social sciences and on to biology, engineering and physical sciences.

Our definition of children runs from conception (and the desire to create the perfect child) through to age sixteen. Some of the papers will have an historical focus or will link historical data/perception with 21st century concerns. In this context we regard ‘history’ as anything beyond the last decade!


The organisers and speakers will be staying at the nearby Belmont Hotel. Details of the hotel's special room rate for the conference will be sent to you when you register.

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Registration is £20 for the full conference or £12 for one day.


Steven Taylor,

Steven King,

Centre for Medical Humanities
University of Leicester