Life Stories from Verbal to Visual: Participatory Arts-based Practices and the Anthropology of Childhood
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Abstract or Description
In recent decades, the anthropology of childhood, within a context of enhanced international advocacy for the rights of children, has recast children as subjects fully worthy of study, in possession of agency, and able to interpret their social and political surroundings. Attempts at applying life story methodologies commonly used with adult subjects to children, however, have fallen short, producing an onslaught of texts that uncritically quote the child’s “voice” without consideration of means of engagement nor production of these representations ( James, 2007: 261). In this paper, I argue for an alternative method to the life story approach in child-focused ethnography; one that is grounded in visual participatory practices and that builds upon, but does not replicate, life story methods used with adult subjects. Drawing on ethnographic research completed with child and adult subjects in Thailand and Burma, I will make a case for participatory research methodologies that are tailored specifically to children and make visible the self-making processes through which children understand their place in the world.
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