making common cause with children in danger


The philosopher Michaël Pouteyo. CNRS

“Fernand Deligny, child and institution. For a story of childhood on the margins”, by Michaël Pouteyo, preface by Michel Chauvière, ENS Editions, “La Crosse des Chemins”, 390 p., €32, digital €15.

Fernand Deligny, child and institution. For a story of childhood on the margins is not exactly a book about the educator Fernand Deligny (1913-1996). Michaël Pouteyo traces the way in which society began to take an interest in this childhood absent from school, to which he gives the name “childhood on the margins”. Everything depends on the end of IIIe Republic at the beginning of the Ve. From a “guilty” or “sick” childhood, treated by different forms of confinement, we move on to the concern of a so-called “inadequate” childhood. In almost half a century, childhood on the margins has become a public cause.

This story has already been told by historians, such as Michel Chauvière, who signs the preface to the work here. But what makes Michaël Pouteyo’s company new is his method. The author is an educator turned trainer and, at the same time, a philosopher. It is as such that he approaches this story, which is also a story of ideas and ideologies. And because, as he notes, “ideas are born from reality, extract from it and return to it”it’s a “materialist history” that he intends to write, from this reality from which ideas come to the way in which they come back to be embodied in the materiality of speeches and translate into the reality of actions and social organizations.

New field of social action

Abundant and dense, Pouteyo’s story therefore becomes a living theater of the emergence of a new field of social action. A ” territory “he says, as this field is vast, disparate and the issue of multiple contradictory lines of force: it crosses medicine, justice, education, mobilizes people from backgrounds as diverse and antagonistic as Georges Heuyer ( 1884-1977), founder of child neuropsychiatry, which requires screening for “congenital defects” everywhere, the communist Louis Le Guillant (1900-1968), also a psychiatrist, and the magistrate turned journalist Henri Joubrel (1914-1984), promoter of scouting as an alternative to confinement.

We are witnessing the birth of words which, crossing different types of discourse (successive press campaigns, novels, magazines), find themselves invested with the power to determine actions, methods, techniques, to create new areas of knowledge and political and institutional tools to implement them. This is primarily the expression “maladjusted childhood”, a term relating to biology, under the banner of which all children in danger, unhappy, sick, orphans, delinquents or guilty are brought together.

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