"We want children to be their own ethnographers"
How to study children? "You can't just interview children because most children will find interviews boring and walk away. So we need to facilitate a way for children to explain their own lives with you. We want children to be their own ethnographers, so children can reflect on their own lives and examine them", anthropologist Pamela Reynolds and Veena Das explain in The Johns Hopkins Newsletter.
Pamela Reynolds studied children in a shantytown in South Africa. Veena Das did fieldwork among young girls infected with HIV. Together in 2003, Reynolds and Das created the Child On The Wing Fellowship. The message of Child On The Wing is that children are far from only victims; they have agency and ability to create change in their worlds.
"In some ways, when you're a child in these situations, you've got to invent your roots, your manner of coping, and often that invention is very creative, surprising and successful, given the circumstances."
So how can we grasp the childrens' point of view?
She [Das] gave an example of a participant who wanted to study the experience of children growing up as dalit, the untouchable caste in India, but from a new angle that hadn't been examined. He chose to study their paintings, bringing in aspects of psychoanalysis in his work. It was a perfect melding of anthropology and the field of psychology, which rarely interrelate. In Das' words, it "bridged the humanities and social sciences gap."
I remember from a conference on children research that several anthropologists used digital cameras in their studies: They let the children document their own daily life and explain it to the researchers by talking about the photos.
UPDATE: Charu at Mindspace points to more relevant links, among others The Conflict in Darfur Through Children's Eyes, using drawings and The Kalleda photoblog project by kids at Kalleda Rural School in Andhra Pradesh, India - "glimpses that would otherwise never be available to the outsider". >> read Charus post: Children as ethnographers
Child on the Wings: Two anthropologists are taking a child-centered approach. (Arts and Science Magazine, John Hopkins University)
Pamela Reynolds: Where Wings Take Dream: On Children in the Work of War and the War of Work (The Journal of the International Institute, Univ of Michigan)
Seeing Children and Hearing Them, Too: Anthropologists now realize that transmitting values is a two-way street (The Chronicle of Higher Education)
This is a wonderful topic. On the Digital Youth project we have been experimenting with a variety of alternative methodologies for capturing kids’ experience from their own perspective. We’ve run several diary studies that made use of digital cameras. There was also a storytelling project in which the researchers had kids after school for several hours and let them explore collaborative creation using paper-based media as well as digital.
Also, I hate to be ‘that guy’, and it’s only because Johns Hopkins is my alma mater that I mention it doesn’t have a ‘St.’ in front of it.
Lorenz, this is very interesting. I think this is just about holding the interest of children, but also helping them articulate their feelings and emotions in situations where they feel traumatised or insecure. I have linked to this post on my mindspace blog and a couple of related links. do read it sometime - children as ethnographers
Comment from: [Member]
Thanks! Very interesting. Have updated my post. Regarding St.Johns - I guess I’ve thought of the university in St.Johns, Newfoundland!
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