Adolescence, Autonomy and Harry Potter: The Child as Decision-Maker
International Journal of Law in Context, Vol. 1, No. 4, pp. 335-373, 2005
Posted: 20 Aug 2009 Last revised: 13 Nov 2011
Date Written: 2005
This paper integrates the worlds of Harry Potter and civil liability, in the context of exploring the ways in which the integrity of young people - their sense of self - deserves both respect and protection. By intertwining the two realms, each structured by its particular norms and narratives, the exploration emphasises the intricate connections among personal vulnerability, dignity and autonomy. Notions central to an understanding of the individual in the private law of civil liability, these aspects of the individual are just as firmly situated in Harry Potter. Thus, as the books illustrate how people, institutions and experiences shape the period that leads from childhood to adulthood, they reveal a complex yet necessary coexistence of dependence and self-reliance. So too, when the law deals with decision-making by young people, the difficulties with assuming or requiring autonomy against a backdrop of adolescence are stark. Often hidden from view in legal, as opposed to literary, narrative, the necessary tension between individual vulnerability and independence - given contour by the relationships in which the young person participates - is brought to light by bringing together the stories of Harry Potter with those of adolescent decision-making in law.
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