Category Archives: ACYIG Blog

The #Multicultural State: Counter-narratives from migrant youth living in Buenos Aires

by María V. Barbero

(This work first appeared on Youth Circulations on November 11, 2018. Read the original here with photos)

Promotional material produced by City Government for “Buenos Aires Celebra India.” Source

Buenos Aires is multicultural. Buenos Aires is cosmopolitan. Buenos Aires is welcoming and inclusive. Buenos Aires is a city of migrants. These were the messages I heard from state officials while conducting research in Buenos Aires during 2016 and 2017.  Such narratives circulated through the city government’s monthly cultural programing—programing that attracts thousands to iconic parks and streets to eat ethnic food and to celebrate immigrant communities: Buenos Aires Celebra Colombia, Buenos Aires Celebra Italia, Buenos Aires Celebra Paraguay, and so on and so forth. This programing is complemented by commemorative events organized by the national immigration office at the city’s historic museum of immigration.

This robust programming resembles what Lugones (2014)  calls “ornamental multiculturalism,” or a multiculturalism that “reduces non-Western cultures to ornaments to be enjoyed touristically,” while ignoring and obscuring structures of power. These events each generate colorful flyers, professional photographs, short videoclips and hashtags through which the message of an inclusive, multicultural state are circulated via Facebook, Twitter, and government websites.

Yet amid these messages is another, also incredibly robust scene of cultural production, one assembled by migrant youth living in Buenos Aires. This scene involves theater performances, books published with carton and fabric scraps, and radio programing. It is multicultural, multilingual and transnational, and it creates an alternative to the state’s ornamental multiculturalism. It does not shy away from analyzing power relations and deliberately enlists culture as a vehicle for resistance.

…read more on youthcirculations.com

Playing with Risk: ACYIG Blog Module

By Scarlett Eisenhauer (UCLA)

“Risky Play” has been finding its way back into the mainstream discussion – some arguing in favor of pushing back against overly safe environments that lack experiential learning opportunities for risk management. As anthropologists (other disciplines and professions as well!) that work with children and youth, we should be quick to raise a red flag: this is a topic ripe for empirical inquiry, not just idealized beliefs. We would like to invite you, dear ACYIG community, to weigh in on the subject in our first blog module with a series of blog posts on the subject of “Risky Play.”

An introductory blog post poses some possible lines of investigation – questions that anthropology and other social sciences are well- suited to answer – and some preliminary thoughts on the subject by Scarlett Eisenhauer and Dori Beeler.  Additionally, Julia Fleming reviews a documentary film “The Land” to weigh in on the issue.

We invite our readers to engage in this module and look forward to a continuing discussion on the subject with both formal and informal responses, comments, thoughts, and data interpretations!

For detailed information on submitting to our blog, please reference the blog submission guidelines document. Please contact Sara Thiam at [email protected], ACYIG Content Coordinator for Blog and Social Media for more information.

Risky Business

By Julia Fleming (Case Western Reserve University)

Imagine an expansive outdoor space dedicated solely to child’s unadulterated play. It is by no means contemporary or state of the art: it is just a portion of hilly, muddy land with a small stream running through it, confined by a tall wooden fence. An abundance of objects intended for the entertainment of children are scattered around. These objects, however, are not the typical objects you would think of when you think of outdoor children’s play. They are unconventional, seemingly random items, ranging from metal shelters, to an old rowboat, to cardboard, to manikins, and much more. This space exists in Wales, and it is called The Land. It is one of the hundreds of “adventure playgrounds” that can be found throughout the United Kingdom and Europe.  A group of filmmakers found interest in this specific adventure playground, decided to make a documentary about it, and aptly named “The Land”. This film offers an intimate perspective on the spontaneous, risky play that is encouraged at the playground.

(Bognar, Reichert, & Davis, 2015)

It also addresses many stimulating issues, such as “What should play be?” and “Is risk necessary for a child’s development?” The film made me reconsider what I previously thought about risk in child’s play. It helped me realize that personally, I think children are very protected, perhaps too protected, when it comes to play, risk, and exploration here in the United States, and that this should change.

Continue reading Risky Business

Risky Play – in or out? A revival of experiential learning

Scarlett Eisenhauer (UCLA) and Dori Beeler (University of Durham)

Risky play is in… again! Or so some headlines would have us believe. A recent article by Ellen Barry (2018) describes “danger” intentionally left on a playground in England to allow children and youth to actively face risk and learn from that experience. The underlying theory being that if children cannot experience risk then they cannot learn to deal with it effectively on their own.

It reminded me of the popular Swedish story “Ronja, the Robbers Daughter” by Astrid Lindgren. As she grows, Ronja has to learn how to live in the forest. She has the following dialogue with her father before leaving her home castle to go learn (roughly translated):

Father: Beware of getting lost in the forest.

Ronja: What do I do, if I get lost in the forest?

Father: Then you look for the correct path.

Ronja: Well, then.

Father: And be careful not to fall into the river.

Ronja: What do I do, if I fall into the river?

Father: You swim.

Ronja: Well, then.

This dialogue continues for a while. Once Ronja is in the forest she scampers off only to actively look for these environmental realities, such as the river, so she can beware of it. The narrative in this story, read and watched in movie form by many children in Europe, reflects the narrative of the risky play “revival” by Barry – that in order to learn to deal with inherent risks in one’s environment, one must confront them, even as a child.

Continue reading Risky Play – in or out? A revival of experiential learning

Reflecting on the separation of families at the border: The Water

by Jajah Wu, University of Chicago Law School

(Originally posted on  June 16, 2018: reposted here with permission from Youth Circulations)

It is difficult to know how to feel about the human rights violations committed by this administration against immigrants. And by that I mean, as an advocate who is, if not seasoned, then weathered, say, I know I can do my best work if I float above the knowledge of what is happening to families and children. “There,” I say, pointing down into the water, “the government forcibly separated 658 children from their parents in two weeks. Look at it.”

658 is a terrible number. It is also academic—that is the nature of numbers. They allow us to float above the water. But say you’d like to get closer to the truth, as I suspect you do, if you are still with me.

Well, imagine reading 658 individual stories of families—broken families, happy families, struggling families. There are birthdays, funerals, accidents, small joys and losses, maybe there are threats from gang members, maybe there aren’t. You, reader, fall in love with the way the baby girl eats beans, smearing them over her face like a culinary Picasso…

…read more on youthcirculations.com

Also see “Care in Contexts of Child Detention” by Lauren Heidbrink, CSU Long Beach for more discussion here.

 

Humanity’s Surprising Variety of Approaches to Toilet Training

By Alma Gottlieb

(This work first appeared on SAPIENS under a CC BY-ND 4.0 license. Read the original here with photos. This article has also been published at The Conversation and has been republished under Creative Commons in Sapiens.)

Are 2-year-olds too young to start toilet training?

For many children, yes. Especially boys. At least, that’s what American pediatricians would likely say. Nowadays, only around half of children in the U.S. are fully toilet trained by age 3.

Chinese grandmothers would be appalled. They’d likely point out that with “split pants,” most kids are trained by age 2. This traditional wardrobe item features an opening along the crotch seam, allowing children to urinate and defecate freely without soiling their clothes. These garments remain the pants style of choice for toddlers living in the Chinese countryside.

Parenting advice about divergent toilet-training methods (not to mention plenty of other child-rearing questions) is typically dished out as if it were the only reasonable, reliable option. Nowadays, parents are confronted with guidance claimed to be scientifically founded, and presented as relevant to all children, even when different strategies are in direct conflict with each other. With over 2,000 parenting advice books in print in English—and, along with so many parenting blogs, there’s even a parody of the genre—it’s easy to see why many modern parents feel confused about how to raise their children.

As an anthropologist, I’ve been studying child-rearing practices around the world for 25 years. Living with my husband (writer Philip Graham) in small villages in the rainforest of West Africa for extended periods convinced me that we humans are a resilient species, able to thrive in so many distinctive settings. Discovering the incredible diversity of ways to raise children inspired us to rethink and change some of our own family’s child-rearing practices (around bed-sharing, independence, and household tasks, for instance).

There’s no one-size-fits-all model of child-rearing advice for all the world’s parents. To spread this message, my colleagues and I collaborated on the book A World of Babies: Imagined Childcare Guides for Eight Societies, based on our own and others’ long-term ethnographic fieldwork in places ranging from Israel and the Palestinian territories to China, Portugal, Peru, Denmark, Ivory Coast, and a Somali-American community in Minneapolis. By presenting multiple solutions to the commonest challenges facing parents, we hope to provide a bit of a tonic for parents, to assure them that there’s more than one path to raising a well-adjusted child.

Toilet training from birth?

So, why do parents choose a given child-rearing practice? Often, it comes down to money and availability. Let’s revisit that question about toilet training.

In Ivory Coast, Beng mothers begin training their infants’ bowels a few days after birth. They administer enemas twice daily, beginning the day a newborn’s dried-out umbilical cord stump drops off. By the time the little one is a few months old, caregivers shouldn’t have to worry about him pooping during the day at all.

What could account for such a seemingly extreme practice? For one thing, disposable diapers are unavailable in Beng villages—and throughout much of the global south. Moreover, even if they were sold in local markets, few subsistence-farming families could afford them. (And the planet can’t afford them, either. Environmentalists calculate that “disposable” diapers constitute the third-largest single consumer item in landfills, and their production requires some 7 billion gallons of oil each year.)

But availability and affordability tell only part of the story. The structure of labor plus deep-seated values also shape parents’ choices.

In Ivory Coast (as elsewhere across sub-Saharan Africa), Beng babies spend most of their days attached to someone’s back. Often, that someone is not the mother—who is working in her fields, producing crops to feed her large family. Beng society (unlike traditional Chinese society) also rates all feces (including those of babies) as disgusting, and the thought of a baby pooping on someone’s back produces revulsion.

Given the local attitude toward feces, no potential babysitter would take care of a child likely to poop on her back while being carried. Hence, starting potty training from birth aims to help a mother get her farm work done. In that sense, early toilet training promotes an adequate food supply for a mother’s family.

A Western observer might shrink in horror from this practice, imagining long-lasting emotional maladjustments from early trauma. But, discounting the ravages of poverty that challenge health and deny educational and economic opportunity, these very early toilet-trained babies appear to grow into just as happy and well-adjusted adults as diaper-wearing children might become.

Context counts for what works

In motivation, this practice may not even be as exotic as it might appear to a non-Beng reader. In the U.S., women’s labor needs may also dictate potty-training schedules, albeit with a later timeline. Many day care centers accept only children who are fully potty trained. If a working mother lacks both in-home day care options and babysitting relatives, she may work frantically to potty train her toddler as soon as possible, so she may return to full-time paid work.

For stay-at-home moms, or working moms who have nearby relatives to care for their child, different life situations may dictate toilet-training decisions. In the Palestinian territories, for instance, many women start toilet training around 14 or 15 months. They’re able to start early because they aren’t working outside the home, so they have the time. On the other hand, a Palestinian working woman may start toilet training later, maybe around age 2. In this case, women in the extended family (hamula) would care for the child while the mother worked, so no day care rule compels early toilet training.

Once we explore the local context of people’s daily lives, seemingly exotic or even abusive practices—split pants, infant enemas—suddenly seem far less so. Opening the minds of worried new parents to “other” ways of raising children may assuage fears that if they fail to “do the right thing,” their children will be doomed. Through exploring comparative commode customs, along with many other parenting practices, it’s clear there are many “right ways” to raise a child.

This work first appeared on SAPIENS under a CC BY-ND 4.0 license. Read the original here.

Responsibility and Adventure: Tongan Youth and Circular Migration

By Mary K. Good, Wake Forest University 
(Originally posted on January 2018: reposted here with permission from Youth Circulations)

Following the politically-driven riots in 2006, where looting and destruction of property was largely blamed on wayward youth, the nation of Tonga began to critically examine the emergent issue of youth unemployment and under-employment. The Tonga National Youth Congress and Tonga’s Ministry of Internal Affairs Division of Training, Employment, Youth, and Sports, along with several transnational non-governmental organizations and foreign government aid organizations, rolled out a variety of programs aimed at developing youth skills and offering pathways to employment. However, with about 60% of the population under the age of 25 (Tonga Census 2011), the numbers of youth seeking employment still outnumber available jobs, particularly on outer islands where fewer wage-earning opportunities exist. Thus, many youth and their families consider immigration to find work. Income from a temporary job overseas can sometimes exceed an entire year’s salary in Tonga. This economic incentive, coupled with a deeply engrained sense of moral responsibility to help one’s family and the prospect of an exciting adventure in the company of friends, leads many youth into circular migration—a pattern of movement that has become emblematic of life in parts of Tonga.

…read more on youthcirculations.com

 

Love and Fear among Rural Uyghur Youth during the “People’s War”

By Darren Byler and Eleanor Moseman
(Originally posted on November 14, 2017: reposted here with permission from Youth Circulations)

This is the second of a two-part series by Darren Byler, who with photographers Nicola Zolin and Eleanor Moseman, powerfully document how the bodies of migrants are marked, just as their communities are erased, in the often unconsidered spaces of China’s “People’s War on Terror.” 

Since the beginning of the “People’s War on Terror” in May 2014, the everyday life of Uyghurs has been transformed by the presence of intense security measures, regular home invasions, and the mass detention of thousands of young Uyghurs suspected of so-called religious extremism. Although many young Uyghurs are simply interested in practicing a form of pious religiosity, or what in other contexts might be referred to as a Hanafi form of Sunni Islam, the state has determined that this is a threat to the sovereignty of the Chinese nation. In order to exert its authority, the state has required that Uyghur Muslims practice their faith only as permitted by social workers and police monitors. As education policies and religious regulations demonstrate, the state would prefer that Uyghurs embrace Han cultural values and forget about their centuries-old practice of Islamic piety altogether.

Continue reading Love and Fear among Rural Uyghur Youth during the “People’s War”