Congress Report: 25th Biennial Congress in Santiago, Chile

IRSCL2021 Aesthetic and Pedagogic Entanglements

Convenor: Macarena García-González

Committee Members: Soledad Véliz, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Andrea Casals, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Felipe Munita, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Isabel Ibaceta, Universidad de O’Higgins, Claudia Matus, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.

Congress Coordinator: Ja'nos Kovacs

Keynote Speakers:

Valeria Sardi, National University of La Plata (ARG)
Marilisa Jimenez, Lehigh University (USA)
Clementine Beauvois, University of York (UK)
Spyros Spyrou, European University Cyprus (CY)
Helma van Lierop-DeBrauwer, Tilburg University (NE)
Magda Sepúlveda, Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (CL)


Center for Advanced Studies in Educational Justice (PUC), Sistema Nacional de Bibliotecas Públicas, Universidad de O’Higgins, Emotional and Literary Repertoires for Childhood (Fondecyt 11180070), P.I.: Macarena García. / How radical can hope be? Generative readings of YA dystopian narratives (Fondecyt 11200236), P.I.: Andrea Casals. / Lectores y mediadores de poesía: formación docente y prácticas de lectura poética en educación media (Fondecyt 11200339), P.I.: Felipe Munita

Attendance Estimate:

Aesthetic and Pedagogic Entanglements

The pedagogical and aesthetic aspects of children’s and young adults’ literature have often been pitted against each other. Yet, if we think of children’s literature as a participatory and mediated practice, the aesthetical and the pedagogical dimensions are no longer opposed to each other. In the last two decades, we have witnessed an ‘educational turn’ in contemporary arts practices, where the emphasis is no longer on the finished aesthetic object, but on the processes and relationships established with the audiences and communities which become part of the art project, a process also facilitated by digital fora. Speaking of children’s literature as a mediated practice questions art’s autonomy and the limits of ‘non-art’; it brings the ‘death of the author’ not only to praise the ‘birth of the reader’ but also to foreground and question the conventions that sustain the artistic.

Since we cannot take children’s cognitive and literacy skills for granted, books tend to be recommended according to specific age ranges, while teachers and other adult figures involved (such as librarians, parents, and other caretakers, the so-called ‘gate-keepers’) try to facilitate an interpretation of the author’s intention. But what if we take the death of the author seriously? Will we still talk about the importance of understanding the text? What if we make children mediators and authors of children’s literature? Who is the ideal child that writes and reads? How is age produced and sustained in these relationships?

Thinking about possible synergies between the pedagogical and the aesthetic in children’s literature brings back questions on reception and (affective) engagement. It also provides us with insights into the entanglements of the publishing industry, the readers/viewers/consumers/users, the authors/artists, the practices of reading/sharing/discussing/reversioning and the new technologies, and at the same time, prompting reflections on our own (biased) academic work in this field.

Delegates were invited to reflect on the implications of considering children not as ‘adults in the making’, but rather as readers and makers in their own right. In this conference, we aimed to strengthen the ties between children’s literature scholars, literacy and media experts and arts scholars to explore the possibilities of combining and rethinking the hermeneutical methods of the humanities, the experimental and empirical approaches of social sciences and arts-based research, as well as the contemporary anthropological and educational research that questions the essentialized positions of the adult and the child in educational contexts.

In this vein we suggested the following topics, but we also invites other paper and panel topics inspired by the congress’ theme:

Active readers:

● Creative and collaborative writing by youth and children

● Intergenerational collaborations

● The child as ‘prosumer’ of children’s media

● Reading and writing as playing

● Children reversioning stories

● Booktubers, fan-fiction and web-based communities inside and outside the classroom

● Initiatives in marginalized communities (refugee centers, jails, hospitals)

Research and Practice:

● Child-led participatory research

● New materialism approaches to encounters with books

● New approaches to reader-response

● Cognitive approaches to aesthetics and pedagogy

● Intersectional approaches

● Arts-based methodologies

● Historical approaches to tensions between te pedagogic and the aesthetic

Research and Practice:

● Child-led participatory research

● New materialism approaches to encounters with books

● New approaches to reader-response

● Cognitive approaches to aesthetics and pedagogy

● Intersectional approaches

● Arts-based methodologies

● Historical approaches to tensions between te pedagogic and the aesthetic

Ethics and Aesthetics:

● Ethical-political role of authors in children’s and YA literature

● Gate-keepers and the “mediator circle” in children’s literature and media

● The aesthetic and/or pedagogic role of paratexts

● Representations of children as authors and artists in children’s fiction and media.

I- A Congress in Pandemic Times

In spite of our efforts and hopes to hold a hybrid biennial in Santiago the Covid-19 pandemic forced us to migrate the Congress to a fully online modality. Aesthetic and Pedagogic Entanglements took place October 19th through the 29th, 2021. One of the silver linings of migrating IRSCL2021 to a fully virtual modality is that it allowed us to lower registration fees, which made the event more accessible for all participants, especially in light of a (post)pandemic economy.

The congress was powered by the virtual event platform Whova
,Zoom Webinars, and Wonder.
Whova featured the IRSCL2021 agenda (displayed in each participant’s timezone and with the possibility of adding sessions to one’s agenda), a directory of those taking part in the event, and networking opportunities such as forums and integrated chat, among other features. A mobile app for Whova was also available. The day-to-day program and interactions on the Whova platform can be accessed here


II- Submissions

The Call for Papers for the congress received 412 proposals. After the closing of the CFP, we received a considerable amount of emails inquiring about late submissions. It was in light of these queries that we decided to reopen our CFP, welcoming proposals until April 27th. The abstract review process for our CFP concluded on May 15th, with the collaboration of 43 reviewers from IRSCL members in Europe, North- and Latin America.

Participation Figures for IRSCL21

Over 90% of submissions were accepted to participate in the congress. The array of contributions was wide, both in terms of disciplines and approaches towards the main theme of IRSCL21. IRSCL2021 received 21 presentation proposals in the PechaKucha format and the countries with the most submitted proposals were the United States (65), Chile (62), UK (57) and Brasil (42).

Accepted submissions:


Online Congress (initially):


On-site Congress (initially):


PechaKucha presentations:


Preformed Panels:


Abstracts in Spanish:


Abstracts in Portuguese:


Registered Presenters:


Audience Members:

307 (68 of them were IRSCL members)

Graduate Workshop Participants:


PechaKucha Presenters:



Interactions through Whova

● Ethical-political role of authors in children’s and YA literature

● Gate-keepers and the “mediator circle” in children’s literature and media

● The aesthetic and/or pedagogic role of paratexts

● Representations of children as authors and artists in children’s fiction and media.

III- Congress Registration

Congress Registrations were opened on August 13th. Announcements were made for the IRSCL’s Listserv and for congress delegates. IRSCL2021 featured nine registration categories, and considered discounted fees for IRSCL members, graduate students/independent researchers/retired scholars, and presenters from countries classified as low, middle low and upper-middle income by the World Bank Country.

The fees for the congress in CLP were:

Online Presenter Non-IRSCL Member: 150.000 CLP (roughly 192 USD)

Online Presenter Non-IRSCL Member Graduate Student-Retired-Independent Scholar: 120.000 CLP (roughly 153 USD)

Online Presenter Non-IRSCL Member from Low, Lower-Middle or Upper-Middle Income Economy: 90.000 CLP (roughly 115 USD)

Online Presenter Non-IRSCL Member Graduate Student from Low, Lower-Middle or Upper-Middle Income Economy :70.000 CLP (roughly 90 USD)

Online Presenter IRSCL Member: 90.000 CLP (roughly 115 USD)

Online Presenter IRSCL Member and Graduate Student: :70.000 CLP (roughly 90 USD)

Online Presenter IRSCL Member from Low, Lower-Middle or Upper-Middle Income Economy: 70.000 CLP (roughly 90 USD)

Online Presenter IRSCL Member Graduate Student from Low, Lower-Middle or Upper-Middle Income Economy: 40.000 CLP (roughly 52 USD)

Online Audience: 40.000 CLP (roughly 52 USD)

Presenter registrations remained open until September 3rd, while audience registrations were open until October 20th. As announced on the society’s Listserv, IRSCL members were invited to register as audience members in the congress for free.

Congress delegates were supplied with guidelines for more fun at the congress.
The guidelines delved into the main features of the congress, as well as the mechanics for taking part in the event.

III- Congress Registration

The congress organizing committee made a special effort in making the congress accessible for presenters and prospective audience members from different geographies. Accessible fees contributed to the diversity of the event, which connected participants from 42 countries. IRSCL members were given the opportunity to partake free of charge as audience members. Accessibility was also a dimension considered when deciding to make this a Spanish-friendly congress and in the inclusion of sign language interpreters for keynote talks.

The congress opened up spaces for multilingual exchange. Its opening ceremony was held in Spanish and featured simultaneous translation, as did its six keynote lectures and one third of the panels. The congress had a high participation of Latin American scholars which in part responds to work carried out prior to the event, specifically during January 2021, in the seminar “Ficciones para Mundos Cambiantes.”
This online seminar made the IRSCL more visible in the continent. The online congress took place from October 19th to the 29th, with 10 days of events accommodating different time zones. The event’s digital venue (Whova) aimed at providing attendees with an immersive experience, opening up spaces for multiple interactions beyond panel presentations, making use of Zoom Meeting Rooms, Wonder, Youtube, Forums, Meetups & active sharing in Social Media. The organizing team fostered synchronic participation while also allowing for asynchronous interaction in Whova.

The congress reached out to the scholarly community in Latinamerica with the help of partners engaged in the ecosystem of children’s books and media, both nationally and abroad (CERLALC, IBBYChile, IBBY Latin America and the Caribbean, Tantágora foundation, Palabra Foundation, and Mustakis Foundation). During the congress a day-by-day breakdown of the congress was available on our Instagram page.
A congress recap video of the biennial was made available the last day here.

V- Congress Dates, Schedule and Programme

IRSCL2021 took place from October 19th through the 29th.There were 10 full days of IRSCL2021, leaving Sunday 24th free of any keynotes or panels. A day-by-day itinerary for the congress can be accessed here. Due to the wide array of presenter timezones, we devised five daily time slots for synchronic gatherings (e.i. panels and keynote lectures), in hopes that everyone taking part in the event is able to make the most out of their participation.



Keynote lectures took place at 10:00 AM Santiago time (GMT-3 at the time of the event). Each keynote lecture was introduced and moderated by a member of the organizing committee,
and they were laid out as follows:

Tuesday 19th: Valeria Sardi, moderated and introduced by Macarena García-González.

Keynote Title: A Desire Looks for its Dwelling: Genders and Sexualities in Literature Teaching

Abstract: Literature classes at school are a territory in which apparitions of sexual and gendered dimensions are habitual, a happening that sparks discussions and tensions among both students and teachers, and brings to focus didactic concerns on how disciplines are to approach gender and sexuality in classroom settings. This presentation aims to inquire into how literature teaching is a propitious space to deploy ways of reading, interpreting and hypothesizing on reading from sexed and gendered practices. That is, from a gendered and sexed perspective, lectureship practices may promote the forming of readers whose desire and curiosity operate in the conformation of aware readers that denaturalize and reflect around sexism and androcentrism. It is under the light of the aforementioned conformation that literature teaching from a gendered and sexed perspective stands as both a necessary and urgent process in the search for a more egalitarian society, one that defies heterocisnormative and patriarchal mandates.

Recording available here.

Thursday 21st: Clémentine Beauvais, moderated and introduced by Soledad Véliz.

Keynote Title: The Future of Reading For Pleasure

Abstract: Once upon a time, it seemed so easy to say: we should encourage reading for pleasure. It became a campaign, a field of research, a pedagogical conversation. Get the children to choose their own books, to read for pleasure, never judge them on their reading, we said, and they will become lifelong, avid readers. Not so easy anymore: children’s literature studies and literacy studies have become increasingly concerned with the political and moral responsibilities associated with children’s chosen reading. What if children are loving books that perpetuate and strengthen dominant forms of power, comfortable visions of the world for the already privileged? What hides behind ‘pleasure reading’, behind ‘books children like’, behind ‘spontaneous choices’, is beginning to appear less and less attractive – and is making the role of academics, mediators and teachers of reading more and more complex. Can we still advocate reading for pleasure when the urge is to read politically? How can we retheorise pleasure reading to incorporate those nuances and transformations? In this talk I argue that we should embrace the opportunity to reconceptualize pleasure reading, and attempt to do so in dialogue with contemporary and past academic conversations around that tricky concept.

Recording available here.

Saturday 23rd: Helma van Lierop-DeBrauwer, moderated and introduced by Claudia Matus

Keynote Title: ,em>Children’s Literature Studies: a Joint Venture

Abstract: Until recently, text-oriented research on children’s literature has gone largely unnoticed by colleagues from reading and literacy studies, whereas for quite some time, research on the reading and literacy development of children has often not been considered to be a genuine part of children’s literature studies. As a children’s literature researcher involved in both text-oriented research and reading and literacy studies, I have always seen this divide as highly artificial. The recent interest in participatory research practices, indicating a shift to a more child-centered point of view in children’s literature studies, and the development of childhood models that acknowledge the kinship between children and adults, offer fruitful opportunities to move away from this unnatural split and to create synergy between a text-oriented and a child-oriented approach to children’s and young adult literature. Although my own research was never purposefully designed on the basis of a participatory research model, it has definitely provided insights in how children are experts on their own literature and in how intergenerational collaboration fosters dialogues about literature between children, young adults and adults in which age-based power is no longer a decisive factor. In my three-part presentation I focus on children as emergent readers, on children as critical judges and on young adults as creative (co-)authors. On the basis of a retrospective rereading of my data from studies on the literary socialization of preschool children, children’s juries and on young adults as life writers, which I gathered over a period of almost forty years, I argue that children’s literature studies is a joint venture between children, adults and books.

Recording available here.

Monday 25th: Spyros Spyrou, moderated and introduced by Andrea Casals

Keynote Title: The Irreducible Child: Notes Towards a more Critically Open Childhood Studies

Abstract: To assume that one knows ‘what a child is’, is to foreclose the possibilities for ontological surprise, for the unexpected. But if one cannot know the child (what is and can be) then how does one proceed to produce knowledge about the child that is meaningful, critical, ethical and matters for the times we live in? In my presentation, I argue for a critically open Childhood Studies which sees the child as fundamentally irreducible, as an ontological becoming, always unfinished and in process, assembled and reassembled materially and discursively in encounters with both human and non-human others. Decentering the child in this way offers possibilities for new forms of knowledge that are more critical and ethical because they are attuned to the radical interdependencies of life. It also opens up the possibility for counter-hegemonic renderings of what a child is and can be in a neoliberal world which seeks to foreclose more ethical and just alternatives.

Recording available here.

Wednesday 27th: Marilisa Jiménez, moderated and introduced by Isabel Ibaceta

Keynote Title: Transnational LIJ: Latinx Studies, Puerto Rico, and the Praxis of Transnational Solidarity

Abstract: This presentation will take into account the importance of children’s and young adult literature in documenting the Puerto Rican past and present through its communities in Puerto Rico and the diasporas. Focusing on the Caribbean, I will also analyze the problems and barriers literature for young people (LIJ), and its authors, have faced in terms of visibility in various canons and tensions between pedagogy and aesthetics. Yet, how does LIJ wonderfully disrupt our prejudices about childhood, nations, and the future of our fields of Latinx, Latin American, and Caribbean Studies? Furthermore, how might the field of international children’s and young adult literature truly support critical conversation that cross borders?

Recording available here.

Thursday 28th: Magda Sepúlveda, moderated and introduced by Felipe Munita

Keynote Title: The Round as Spatial Repossession and Political Agency: Gabriela Mistral

Abstract: Children’s texts created by Gabriela Mistral seek for children to enact a spatial repossession, fostering the exercise of political agencies to validate their territories from the cultures sprung from symbolic and material geographies. Her texts have a concrete recipient: indigenous and lower-class children. These children are invited to hear the sounds of their own cultures, and to value the food on their tables and kitchens. But they are also called over to analyze the territories that have been taken away from them, and that can be recovered through the round, wherein names are lost in search of a collective that shares a common tempo.

Recording available here.


All keynote lectures featured simultaneous translation. Recordings of all keynote lectures translated into Spanish are also available on the event’s youtube channel
(on the “Lives/ En Vivo” tab).


Congress inauguration took place Tuesday 19th. The inauguration was carried out in Spanish, and it featured simultaneous translation into English. The event included a foreword by the host university’s rector, Ignacio Sánchez and by the acting rector of O’Higgins University (collaborating institution), Fernanda Kri Amar. It also included a foreword by the dean of the faculty of Education, Alejandro Carrasco, and by the current IRSCL president, Evelyn Arizpe.

After a reading by Mapuche author Daniela Catrileo of her book Piñen the convener, Macarena García González, gave an opening speech and introduced the first speaker, Valeria Sardi, who gave her keynote and held the first Q&A answering questions posted in youtube chat and in the Whova platform.

Once Valeria’s keynote had concluded, participants were invited to a virtual “opening cocktail” on Wonder.

Thematic Rooms

While devising the event, one of our main self-set challenges was to be able to mirror and foster informal gatherings, the like of which take place in physical events by virtue of sharing spaces, and engaging into spontaneous talk with fellow participants. In the hopes of emulating informal meeting spaces, and orienting interactions around the subjects that bring us together, we included moderated synchronic gatherings around a single topic and/or theoretical approach related to children’s literature and media. We hosted the following thematic rooms on the afternoon of Friday the 22nd:

Lectores y Lectura en Latinoamérica (Readers and Reading in Latin America, chaired by Soledad Véliz in Spanish)

Ecocriticism(chaired by Andrea Casals in English)

Poesía y Mediación (Poetry and Mediation, chaired by Felipe Munita in Spanish)

Identidad Nacional (National Identity, chaired by Isabel Ibaceta in Spanish)

Animal Studies (chaired by Lorraine Kerlslake)

Memories and Emotion (chaired by Dorota Michulka)

Modernist Children’s Literature (chaired by Guilherme Magri da Rocha and Victoria de Rijke)

African literature and postcolonial approaches: the work of Vivian Yenika-Agbaw (a meeting to honor Vivian that was chaired by Ruth McKoy Lowery)

Academic Journals Forum

We reached out to academic journals publishing in the field of children’s literature and media in order to invite them to take part in a written forum discussion oriented about academic publishing, international scholarship, and its pedagogic and aesthetic entanglements. We asked journals to send us a brief description, their logo, the names of the editors, staff, and members of the editorial board, the names and logos of institutions that help publish the journal, as well as information about the periodicity of the journal’s publications, the kind of articles the journal publishes and its publishing model (subscription, open access, hybrid).

With this information, we have prepared and compiled a booklet of academic journals.
During the event, journal delegates and congress participants were invited to take part in discussing questions related to the ecosystem of academic publishing in the field of children’s literature. Our team prepared a few questions to spark and orient forum discussions.

The forum remained open for the duration of the congress, and participants were encouraged to interact using a language of their choice (that is, we appealed to interlinguistic communication and understanding).

Past IRSCL Presidents Round Table

Seven IRSCL presidents accepted to take part in a round table on day seven of the event (October 26th) at 08:00 AM (GMT-3). The past IRSCL presidents that present were Mavis Reimer, Clare Bradford, Lies Wesseling, Sandra Beckett, Evelyn Arizpe, Kim Reynolds, and John Stephens.

Past Presidents

Graduate Workshop

The graduate workshop took place on the 20th (Wednesday), the 22nd (Friday), and the 26th (Tuesday) of October. All 13 workshop participants submitted a 10-page piece of writing to be reviewed. During the workshop, each Ph.D. student presented the writing that they had to provide feedback for, and each participant received feedback on both their presentation and their writing, from both their fellow participants and from their group chair.

Group 1:

Chair: Nicola Daly

Participants: Carrie Anne Thomas, Andy McCormack and Hanna Liljeqvist.

Group 2:

Chair: Sara Pankenier

Participants: Guilherme Magri da Rocha, Andrea Davidson, Kristina Zmejauskaitė and Elisa Santos.

Group 3:

Chair: Sarah Park Dahlen

Participants: Wendy Zelling, Liliana Santos, Jodie Coates and Kalyani Sachin.

Pechakucha Panels

The congress featured four PechaKucha panels chaired by IRSCL members taking on the role of discussant. Each PechaKucha presentation lasted seven minutes on average, and presenters were challenged to be succinct and highly visual, while discussants— senior researchers—- were expected to weave dialogues between presentations and encourage discussion with the audience.

IRSCL Members’ Assembly

The IRSCL member’s assembly took place on Tuesday 26th at 10:00 AM Santiago time (GMT-3 at the time of the event).

IRSCL Award Winner(s):

IRSCL Honorary Fellow Award

Clare Bradford

IRSCL Book Awards

Megan Swift - Picturing the Page: Illustrated Children’s Literature and Reading under Lenin and Stalin

Emily A. Murphy - Growing Up With America: Youth, Myth, and National Identity 1945 to Present

IRSCL2021 Travel Grant Awardees

Andrew McCormack

Liliana Santos

Carrie Anne Thomas

Elisa Melo Franco Santos

Guilherme Magri da Rocha

Zohre Javaheri

Kristina Zmejauskaite

IRSCL Research Grant Recipients

Qimei Zhuoga with the topic The Imagined Other: A Postcolonial Reading of Tibetan Children's Literature

Dr. Susanne Abou Ghaida with the topic ‘Boys and Girls of Your Age’: The 13 Devils, an Arab nationalist adolescent espionage series

Megan Adams with the topic Representations of Blindness in Middle Grade and Young Adult Literature

Dr. Tehmina Pirzada with the topic Interrogating LGBTQ Representation in South Asian Picturebooks

Isabel Ibaceta with the topic Regional and Urban Landscapes: New Imagery of National Identity in Chilean Children’s Literature (2010-2020)

IRSCL2021 Closing Remarks

The closing ceremony of the biennial took place on Friday 29th at 12:15 PM Santiago time (GMT-3 at the time of the event). During the ceremony, two videos were shown: an opening greetings video
to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the society, and a “IRSCL moments”
“IRSCL moments” in which part of the history of the society was narrated by IRSCL past presidents.

VII- Publications

A special issue on Aesthetic and Pedagogic Entanglements
was published by IRCL and guest edited by Macarena García-González, Soledad Véliz and Andrea Casals. A CFP for a special issue on Latin American Children's Literature
was also issued and will be published in 2024. In 2023, will be also be published a book Campo en formación. Textos clave para la crítica de literatura infantil a juvenil by the academic publisher Metales Pesados. The book will feature Spanish-language translations of key texts in the field of children’s literature criticism.

VIII- Event Photos

● Photos of each event day and session are available here.

This IRSCL Congress report was prepared by Macarena García-González.