Broadcast: Events

The Famous Five Acting Otherwise: The Significance of Scope and Scale in Children’s Agency and Social Actorship

Wednesday 1 November 18:30 until 20:00
Fulton A, Fulton Building, Refectory Rd, Falmer, Brighton BN1
Speaker: Jo Moran-Ellis, Professor of Sociology
Part of the series: Professorial Lecture

Jo Moran-Ellis, Professor of Sociology

The Famous Five Acting Otherwise: The Significance of Scope and Scale in Children’s Agency and Social Actorship

The ‘Famous Five’ series by Enid Blyton occupies a special cultural place in the UK – the books have been vilified as poor literature by experts, beloved by readers for the thrill of the children’s various adventures, and analysed for their portrayals of gender by sociologists. As an avid reader in my own childhood, they offered me a fantasy of action outside the control of concerned parents. Returning to them now, they offer us a chance to think critically about children’s agency through examining the core elements that make up the fantasy of action. This, I argue, can give us some additional tools with which to broaden our thinking about children as social actors – a broadening which is strongly needed for the sociology of childhood to progress theoretically and empirically. Since the 1990s, the ‘new’ social studies of childhood in general, and the sociology of childhood in particular, has both grappled with the question of children’s agency and made it a central axiom of the perspective. Firstly positioned as a sort of corrective to an over-emphasis on children’s development and their progression to adulthood and cultural membership, it has in recent years been subject to some criticism for becoming something of a dogma or orthodoxy in empirical work to the neglect of further theoretical development. Despite this, I argue that we need to maintain the centrality of questions of agency in childhood as one way of analysing children’s lives, experiences, relationships and structural positions but we need to do this in connection with a greater emphasis on the relevance of capacity to act – in effect the scope to be agentic and the scale of that agency – that is pertinent to all humans and social orderings. Drawing both on the Famous Five books and on recent research on children’s experiences of a flood disaster, I will set out the parameters for incorporating scope and scale into analyses of children’s lives. 

Fulton A Lecture Theatre
Fulton Building
Refectory Rd

This is a free, open lecture – everyone is welcome, but numbers are limited.

To book your place at the lecture please use our booking link:, alternatively you can email

Refreshments provided.

Posted on behalf of: Development and Alumni Relations Office
Last updated: Monday, 14 August 2017