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‘Special’ treatment, ‘special’ rights: children who hear voices as doubly diminished identities

Mills, China (2014) ‘Special’ treatment, ‘special’ rights: children who hear voices as doubly diminished identities. In: Mills, C. ‘Special’ treatment, ‘special’ rights: children who hear voices as doubly diminished identities. In M. Freeman, ed. Law and childhood studies: current legal issues, vol. 14, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. 438-455. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780191639517

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Abstract

This chapter explores the processes by which children framed as being ‘mentally ill’, and particularly here children who self-injure or hear voices, present us with a limit figure to current child rights discourse. In engaging with this limit figure, the chapter aims to examine the parochial frameworks drawn upon within legal decisions around children's rights to refuse ‘treatment’. In fact it aims to interrogate how psychiatric frameworks foreclose what can be understood to be ‘treatment’ in the first place. In contesting the frameworks by which the ‘child with mental health problems’ comes to be constituted, it engages with young people's own stories to enable dissonant and plural frames of recognition to come into view. Reading the stories that people who heard voices as children have told the author of this chapter, alongside the work of Giorgio Agamben and Judith Butler, particularly their theses around ‘bare’ and ‘precarious’ lives, enables further understanding of how dominant schemes of intelligibility may work to medicalize childhood experience; normalizing the absence of children with mental illness and pathologizing their presence within rights discourse. Thus we might conceptualize child rights as being a ‘violating enablement’ for children.

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