Authors

Shurlee Swain

Publication Date

2015

Abstract

In memories of institutionalized childhoods the physical shape of the orphanage looms large. Constructed with the dual, and often conflicting, goals of containing and controlling children and impressing potential donors, institutional buildings provided a space in which childhoods were constructed, not only by the planners and administrators but by the children themselves. Grandiose entrances often disguised an inner penury, and, even in institutions ostensibly designed to be “home”-like, the demands of efficiency produced spaces that were anything but domestic. Drawing on published memoirs, oral histories, and the testimonies presented to recent Australian inquiries into the experiences of children who grew up in out-of-home care, this article explores orphanages and related institutions both as represented spaces and as spaces of representation. It argues that although orphanages were efficient but soulless environments that all too often harbored spaces of both physical and sexual abuse, the children, as individuals or as parts of groups, also shaped these environments, investing them with meaning never anticipated by their founders.

Document Type

Journal Article

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ERA Access

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