Agency and sovereignty: Georges Bataille's antihumanist conception of child

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Georges Bataille (1887–1962) is one of the most significant thinkers of the 20th century, whose anti-humanist anthropology influenced subsequent existentialist and post-structuralist philosophy. His wide-ranging writings (across philosophy, archaeology, economics, sociology, poetry, erotica and history of art) frequently mention children, childhood and childishness, and yet there has hitherto been little to no attention paid to this aspect of his work. This article opens up a neglected theme in Bataille studies, and also explores the consequences of Bataille's presentation of the human condition for our understanding of the pedagogical relationship. Of particular interest is the idea of the agentic child, which occupies such an important place in childhood studies, educational theory and public policy. In the light of Bataille's anthropology, I shall explore the idea that the pursuit of children's agency is the victim of its vaunting ambition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1186-1200
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Philosophy of Education
Issue number5
Early online date23 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2020


  • agency
  • sovereignty
  • Georges Bataille
  • antihumanist
  • child


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