Protecting: Assembling Infant Embodied Vulnerability

  • Lydia MartensEmail author
Part of the Studies in Childhood and Youth book series (SCY)


This chapter focuses on the enactment of protecting as one of the main teleoaffective qualities of child caring. I examine how this teleoaffective priority is produced and maintained in the commercial world through the theme of infant safety, and the constitution of ‘the young child’ as vulnerable in embodied ways. Infant commodity culture is crowded with products that are designed to ‘safeguard’, ‘guide’, ‘monitor’ and ‘promote the health of’ the young child, and my analysis therefore starts with a consideration of three ways in which safety connects with products. I then move on to consider renditions of the young child as vulnerable, enigmatic and unpredictable. Performances of the youngest of children as vulnerable and enigmatic open up opportunities for pecuniary value creation through product innovation and problem multiplication in which techno-medical-science ways of knowing the infant child abound, and in which ‘the child’ is not in any way held responsible (and thus rendered innocent). Performances of the young child as unpredictable, as opposed to enigmatic, point to shifting understandings of vulnerability in relation to age, development and agency. In the final part of the chapter, I draw on my interviews with prospective and new parents to discuss how protecting children gains affective salience through the co-occurrence of vulnerability with lovable and purity. I here also compare commercial and parental enactments of the young child.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Keele UniversityNewcastleUK

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