Evolutionary biologist Karl Groos observed more than 120 years ago that “animals do not play because they are young,” adding “they have their youth because they must play” (1898:76). With a few classic exceptions, this idea—equating children with play—colors what most people assume to be the anthropological study of childhood’s central focus. However, especially of late, we’ve seen plenty of explorations of how children cope with abuse and neglect, their role as household go-betweens or liaisons between the domestic and public realms, their productive capacities, and contributions to allocare as well as their service in the role of household head. Also of late, scholars have begun to see the value of play past the juvenile state.
Explorations of play in adulthood do differ in significant ways from those undertaken with or focused on children. That said, those who study play among adults have a lot to learn from the anthropological study of play in children; and in time, growth in understanding might be bidirectional. I realized this myself while engaged in a project on conspiracism. I was almost done, I thought, when an interview with the frisky young organizer of the Storm Area 51 event came across my screen, throwing my scholarly sobriety into a tailspin of sorts, or really, more of a cartwheel: an op-ed emerged in response.
In short, the op-ed, whose working title is ‘Free Beer for Aliens,’ asks conspiracy theory scholarship to bring play into the work. I also would suggest here that anthropologists of childhood might benefit conversely. Perhaps it is time we take more seriously as conspiracy theories the knowledge children create and carry in regard to the manipulations of parents, teachers, and others who hold power over them.
If you are interested in conspiracy theory scholarship and bringing play into this work, contact Elisa Sobo.
Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork she conducted in Zambia between 2005 and 2014, Jean Hunleth’s new article examines the fantastical stories children created to account for their own caregiving practices during a TB and HIV epidemic in Lusaka, Zambia. Through the lens of fantasy, Hunleth provides a productive account of children as both agentive and vulnerable, imaginative and cognizant.
(This work first appeared in its original form on BLISS on September 26, 2018. This is an updated version. Read the original here with photos)
It is often assumed that social research is the domain of experts—and that those experts are necessarily adults. Most research on adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights (ASRHR) is adult-led and adult-centered, not only ignoring young voices but denying diversity amongst young people. Information about young people’s sexuality therefore often remains insulated within their peer groups, preventing innovation in ASRHR programming. This too often leads to a deficit or pathological perspective on adolescence in ASRHR research and intervention.
The Anthropology of Children and Youth Interest Group (ACYIG) is currently soliciting the following volunteer positions. All positions are open to accept joint appointments between two individuals. Joint appointments are required for positions indicated in plural. Open until filled.
Espiritu, an undocumented college student, narrates her journey of hyperdocumentation – the excessive production of documents, texts, and papers in an effort to compensate for undocumented status or feelings unworthiness – through her own drawings. Her story is one among so many that need to be told.
Doing research, or storytelling, in this age of post-truth feels entirely demoralizing and … necessary. In a time when any utterance of text is suspect, it can be downright frightening at most and risky, at least, to document anything. When we see powerful leaders spewing personal beliefs and emotions in lieu of facts and evidence, and people embracing this approach to the world, what are we left with? But the irony of all of this is that right when we find ourselves discouraged to speak is the same time when we must bring our stories to the forefront because they are most threatened. We must also find and provide outlets for young people to share their stories – telling our truths is still the best defense against despair.
Espiritu’s big, round, enveloping eyes are dark brown, almost black. Her shiny hair, done up in the most precise tresses, hangs easily below her waist. Soaking wet, she is maybe one hundred pounds. There is a shyness to her toothy smile and an eagerness for knowledge that is palpable. An unaccompanied minor, she hyperdocumented her way through high school, community college and then to a prestigious four-year university on full scholarship. “Hyperdocumentation” is a term I use to define the excessive production of documents, texts, and papers in an effort to compensate for undocumented status or feelings of unworthiness – something I experienced and continue to experience as a once undocumented immigrant myself.
Latin American youth leaders come to the U.S. every summer to gain skills to take back to their home countries. Over the twentieth century, American nation-states cultivated children and youth as cultural diplomats to promote capitalist-oriented development under the guise of hemispheric brotherhood. But upending the historical flow of knowledge production, this generation is prepared to engage and to defend their local realities and traditions.
A Virtual Reunion
From Panama, Nathanael—Natha, for short—leaned into his headset microphone, his face projected on the wall of a Miami University classroom bursting beyond capacity: “You all have a beautiful campus, wonderful working infrastructure, and incredible access to resources,” he affirmed. The Ohio students nodded—they’ve been told this since first setting foot on Miami’s campus. Indeed, institutional lore attributes an oft-repeated quote to Robert Frost, who hailed it as “the most beautiful campus that there ever was.” “We don’t have that here in Panama,” Natha emphasized, “but we do have ideas for social and political change.”
Roger chimed in to the virtual session from Ecuador, affable but pressing: “We have great projects going on, but our resources are constantly imperiled. Find ways to partner with us so that we can work together to effect change at the local level.” A political science major at the Universidad Central de Ecuador, Roger is also a member of the Colectivo Nueva Democracia, which encourages political engagement premised on fomenting cultures of dialogue and consent among emerging young leaders from differing political ideologies. On the side, he’s developing an app to promote eco-tourism in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
CFP: RETHINKING CHILD AND YOUTH MARGINALITIES: MOVEMENTS, NARRATIVES, AND EXCHANGES
Conference information is now available! Click here to visit the conference website, access registration, and view details.
Anthropology of Childhood and Youth Interest Group (ACYIG) Biennial Conference
March 7-9, 2019
Rutgers University—Camden, NJ
Co-Sponsored by: AAA Anthropology of Children and Youth Interest Group, Department of Childhood Studies (Rutgers-Camden), Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice (Rutgers-Camden), and The Graduate School (Rutgers-Camden)
Here are some other exciting conference highlights:
Three professional development sessions: Publishing in an academic journal, Publishing a book manuscript; Navigating the job market
Youth-led panels: Camden and Philadelphia activism, LGBTQ+ narratives and experiences, visual and multi-media arts, social entrepreneurism, youth Radio & creative writing
Community experiences: Youth-led discussion of Camden-based documentary at Hopeworks, https://hopeworks.org & Stedman Gallery exhibit tour: Camden: Past, Present and Future, which features artwork from children & youth (sign-up onsite at conference)
Optional “Taste of Camden” conference dinner Friday evening ($45)