Category Archives: ACYIG Blog

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”

Uyghur Migrant Life in the City During the “People’s War”

By Darren Byler, with images by Nicola Zolin
(Originally posted on October 30, 2017: reposted here with permission from Youth Circulations)

This is the first 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.”

An older Uyghur man and young children.

In May 2014 the Chinese state declared a “People’s War on Terror.” This war was directed at what was perceived to be the Islamic “extremism” of young Uyghur men and women. Uyghurs are a Turkic Muslim minority group that is indigenous to Chinese Central Asia, or what in colonial terms is referred to as “the New Dominion” (Xinjiang). This vast area of the nation, whose borders stretch from Tibet to Afghanistan to Mongolia, is the source of nearly 20 percent of China’s oil and natural gas. It is also a central node on China’s New Silk Road initiative, which seeks to expand China’s influence throughout Western Asia. Increasingly the eleven million Uyghurs who call the southern part of this region their homeland are seen as an obstacle in China’s vision of the future.

Continue reading Uyghur Migrant Life in the City During the “People’s War”

Can We Have It All? The Challenges of Grad Student Parenting

by Kate Raphael, Erica Kocher, Wayne Zhang, Chase Reeves
(Feature Image photo: Graduating Yale University post-baccalaureate students. Credit: Wikimedia Foundation https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Yale_University_Commencement_Procession_2007.jpg)

The question of “having it all” has long plagued parents (mothers in particular), becoming increasingly salient as parenting, work, and education opportunities conflict. Student parents are forced to navigate a difficult balance between academic and parental responsibilities in university institutions that are not designed for their needs. This matrix of competing demands necessitates a negotiation of labor divisions at home, but in our study of post-bac Yale parents, parental responsibilities are (no surprise!) unduly placed on women. So, in a society where more mothers are entering/re-entering the workforce after pregnancy and the attitudes of parents about home and workforce roles have become increasingly progressive in recent decades, can parents really have it all? Our small study suggests no, as our female participants still bear the brunt of childcare—a trend echoed for household labor in larger research studies. To better understand this continued gender imbalance, as well as the demands faced by student-parents regarding “fair” time/labor-allocation, money, and social connection, we examined the specific challenges faced by Yale University graduate and professional (Law and Medical school) school parents and how these challenges influence their childcare practices.

We conducted an online survey of current Yale graduate and professional students with children under 5 years old. Twenty-one respondents (recruited through personal student connections, Yale graduate/post-doctoral student Facebook groups, and Yale law student daycare services) answered multiple choice and open-ended questions about household divisions in labor and childcare.

Respondents voiced many student-parent challenges: moving away from family and friends to attend school, diminishing support networks that alleviate childcare responsibilities; navigating financial pressures of financing school and childcare while subsisting on a small salary/stipend. But the biggest challenge of all? Resoundingly: time allocation—respondents simply did not have enough time to be both students and parents. Partnered respondents expressed that it would have been almost impossible to parent alone, and the two single respondents confirmed the difficulty of single parenting as a student, voicing frustration that the university had few resources and programs to support them. One single mother explained that, despite Yale’s purported commitment to diversity, single parents aren’t set up for success here, saying, “I don’t know anyone else here with an older kid, let alone a single parent grad student. I sound bitter…. I am. It says something about who gets into Yale and who doesn’t and I’ve often felt extremely alone here because of the uniqueness of my situation.”

Even partnered parents said that parenting in graduate school could be incredibly isolating, when most students fresh out of college life are forming close bonds with their childless peers with no associated parenting limitations.

With respect to division of labor, respondents in professional programs were twice as likely (80%) as those in graduate or post-doctoral programs (40%) to report that their partners were primary caregivers. This discrepancy may reflect greater schedule flexibility of graduate and post-doctoral students. However, the majority of professional school respondents were men with female partners, while the PhD and post-doctoral students better represented an even split between genders. It is possible that the observed difference in who identifies as the primary caregiver is more attributable to traditionally assigned gender roles than to the specific demands of different Yale programs. Across both types of programs, female respondents were more likely to identify as primary caregivers of their children.

We did not have a large and diverse enough sample to draw conclusions, but we suspect that the occupations of respondents’ partners may have further factored into the division and negotiation of labor. For example, the three respondents in student-student households who were primary caregivers, or had an equal division with their partners, were also all women with male partners. It remains unclear whether having a student partner provides increased flexibility in dividing childcare responsibilities, and/or if female student-parents are more likely to enroll in graduate school if their partners are also students. It’s also possible that female professional students might delay childbearing until completing school, further reducing the number of women in professional school with children, and possibly skewing our gender ratios. The partners of professional school respondents who were primary caregivers all held occupations other than students, and were all female. We didn’t see a similar correlation in a mixed gender sample of graduate and post-doctoral students whose partners held occupations other than students.

In undertaking this project, we expected more professional students than graduate students to report that their partners did the majority of the childcare, due to the less flexible schedules characteristic of Law and Medical School. To some extent, we did observe this pattern, although it was not clear if it was attributable to differences between graduate and professional school. In fact, several respondents reported that Yale Law School’s many parenting resources for students created an environment that made parenting and academics relatively compatible. Graduate students also reported accessible support and resources, but medical students did not highlight this aspect of their experience.

Throughout this project, it proved difficult to tease apart gender and the associated “traditional” roles of mothering from other factors that also likely contribute to domestic divisions of labor. Still, it is important to understand why parenting and education opportunities are not made available to everyone. Even in 2017, we are far from a progressive world of egalitarian childcare responsibilities, especially when additional educational responsibilities are in play. We believe this egalitarian world is possible, but we have work to do. Let’s get started.

The authors are seniors at Yale College studying Anthropology, Sociology, and American Studies. The research project discussed in this post was completed as part of an Ethnopediatrics class, taught in the Spring of 2017 by Dr. Claudia Valeggia and Dr. Melanie Martin, Yale University Department of Anthropology.

 

From Mogadishu to Istanbul: An auto-ethnography on childhood, migration and education

By Eda Elif Tibet
(Originally posted on August 7: reposted here with permission from Youth Circulations)

Prior to a radio broadcast, I asked youth residing in a shelter for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in Turkey to draw his dream of an ideal life. Showing them the outline of a world map with no country names and no borders, I asked them to draw their dreams of living any place they wanted. Below is an excerpt from my conversation with Caadil.

Elif:          Caadil, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Caadil:     My name is Caadil, I am from Somalia. I came in 2012 into Turkey. I am living in Istanbul and I am a student. Would this be enough?

Elif:          Sure, thank you. Today, I asked Caadil to draw his dream. Could you tell us something about what you drew?

Continue reading From Mogadishu to Istanbul: An auto-ethnography on childhood, migration and education

The Social Fact of Racism Persists, Even if Racial Categories Aren’t “Real”

By Elizabeth Chin

In the current context of the United States, it is more important to talk about race – and to deconstruct it — than ever.  Our culture, unfortunately, is dominated with “common sense” notions of race that owe much too much to eugenicist thinking, false biology, and plain old wrongheadedness.  These notions of race are, from a scientific point of view, incorrect.  However, their clear social power is undeniable.  Just a few months ago, one study documented that a startling proportion of white medical students hold spurious ideas about biological differences among races, including the ridiculous notion that Blacks feel less pain, a belief that has had direct and measurable implications for how the medical profession has responded to the physical pain reported by Black people – for centuries.

The social reality of race, then, is inescapable. For me and for many others, it is also terrifyingly personal.   Continue reading The Social Fact of Racism Persists, Even if Racial Categories Aren’t “Real”