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Toy Theories and Practices in the First Half of the 20th Century

Théories et pratiques du jouet dans la première moitié du XXe siècle

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Published on Wednesday, September 19, 2018


Ce dossier souhaite penser le jouet dans ses dimensions théoriques et pratiques, sous l’angle de sa matérialité, de ses représentations et de sa symbolique (Michel Manson). Il s’agira de l’inscrire dans ses systèmes idéologique, culturel et économique, afin de voir notamment ce qu’il nous apprend de l’enfant, construit et réel, qui à la fois définit le jouet et est défini par lui.



A toy might be a thing (found in nature), an object (factory-made) that children can seize and sometimes transform by changing its main function, or an object that they themselves create for the purpose of a game. Therefore, toys are also subject to the dual ambition of adults who want both to educate children, and to make them happy. They constantly offer toys created for children, in their name, on their behalf, but they do so according to representations conceived by adults, which differ according to time and place. Finally, children might – or might not – get hold of these objects.

In this special issue, we would like to consider the toy in its theoretical and practical dimensions, to take into account its materiality, its representations and its symbolic value (Michel Manson). Therefore, it is important to situate toys in their ideological, cultural and economic contexts, in order to see what does it tell us about children, both as a constructed and empiric/real figures, who both define the toy and is defined by it.

The first half of the 20th century appears as a turning point. During this period, the creation and production of toys follow and extend the nineteenth-century traditions in crafts as well as in fine arts, but also change them as they encounter the progress of industrial production. The toys made by adults for children gradually become more accessible, even before the rise of mass consumption in the 1960s. Moreover, this is a period of theoretical reflections on the shapes and functions of toys, that delve in particular the traditional opposition or association of their educational and/or entertaining functions. These reflections took part in highly ideological contexts that must be subjected to analysis, as in the USSR, in Nazi Germany or in fascist Italy. However, in the spirit of opening up borders that drives current research on totalitarian regimes, we favor here a double point of view: a diachronic one, in order to explore the continuities, breaks and inflections between the years prior to the establishment of these regimes and those of their existence; and a synchronic one, broadly opening the geographical area to the world in the whole, in order to examine the differences as well as the strong tendencies that came about on the transnational scale, the exchanges and the circulations.


This issue means to favor a plurality of disciplinary approaches and their interconnexions, in order to bring together a plural history of material and visual cultures, art, education or psychology, anthropology and aesthetics.

Several topics can be tackled in parallel or cross stories, examining theories and / or practices, imagined and / or real audiences. These might include, but are not limited to:

  • The economic circuits and the organization of design, factory production and distribution of toys: artists' toys, craft toys, the beginnings of industrialization, places of sale.
  • The distribution and the different uses of toys, real and/or theorized as such; the places of use of the toy (private and public spheres), the modes of use of the toy, the game and the toy, toys made by children, appropriation of the toy by the child.
  • Theoretical and ideological approaches of the toy: theoretical reflections on the shape and the materials of the toys, representations of the child, critical reception of the toys.
  • The organization and the functions of collections, exhibitions and toy museums.
  • The toy and its educational issues (moral, psychological, aesthetic): the types and shapes of the toy according to age or gender, the role and place of the toy in the civic and military education of the child.
  • Circulation and transfers: contributions may favor the study of a particular country or focus on circulation and transfers between one or more countries.
  • Intermediality: circulations can also be considered between several aspects of the child culture, as for example in the relationship between books and toys (toy book, toys adapted from illustrations, toy representations in the books).

Submission Guidelines

Proposals (500 words maximum) in French or in English have to be sent

before January 14th, 2019

to Strenæ: strenae@revues.org, together with a short biography and bibliography.

Scientific Committee

The proposals will be examined by the scientific editor of the issue, Cécile Pichon-Bonin, and the editorial committee of the journal.


Authors will be informed of the acceptance or rejection of their proposal by February 4th. The complete articles (30 000 characters spaces and notes included) will be submitted before September 15th, 2019. The accepted languages are French and English. Articles will be published in the 17th issue of the journal, Spring 2020.


  • Monday, January 14, 2019


  • jouet, jeu, culture enfantine


  • Cécile Pichon-Bonin
    courriel : cpichonbonin [at] gmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Cécile Boulaire
    courriel : strenae [at] revues [dot] org


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Toy Theories and Practices in the First Half of the 20th Century », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, September 19, 2018, https://calenda.org/477116

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