Reference : Ethnicity and Early Childhood: An Ethnographic Approach to Children’s Perspectives
Scientific congresses, symposiums and conference proceedings : Unpublished conference
Social & behavioral sciences, psychology : Sociology & social sciences
Social & behavioral sciences, psychology : Anthropology
Ethnicity and Early Childhood: An Ethnographic Approach to Children’s Perspectives
Seele, Claudia mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Integrative Research Unit: Social and Individual Development (INSIDE) >]
Multiple Childhoods / Multidisciplinary Perspectives: Interrogating Normativity in Childhood Studies
May 20-21, 2011
Rutgers University
[en] ethnicity ; early childhood ; ethnography ; children's perspectives
[en] This paper is based on a two-month ethnographic research that was conducted 2007 in a daycare center in Berlin with 22 children from 4 to 6 years of age. Despite being born and raised in Germany, in the dominant discourse most of them would be represented as „migrant children‟ or „children with migration background‟. They thus come to function as „the Other‟ against which a normative version of „German children‟ is constructed. Language, physical appearance and family origins act as important criteria in this ethnifying of children.
Embedded within this discursive framework my research focus, however, is on the perspectives of the children themselves and how they participate in the social construction of ethnic identities. Participant observation and symbolic group interviews were employed to explore the children‟s practical strategies in dealing with ethnified identity ascriptions in everyday peer interactions. In line with the „new‟ sociological study of childhood (e.g., James & Prout 1990) I perceive of children as competent social actors who do not just passively receive and imitate adult conceptions of the social order but actively and skillfully join in the construction of the social world. The ethnographic data show that children as young as 4 are able to use ethnic ascriptions as a „social tool‟ (Van Ausdale & Feagin 2001) in their peer interactions. The broad range of practical and situational processes of differentiation and valorization, of inclusion and exclusion, can be interpreted along a continuum from reproducing to challenging dominant constructions of belonging and „the Other‟.
The research contributes to our understanding of children‟s agency and competence as well as of the relationality, provisionality and context-dependence of children‟s identities. It helps to contextualize childhood studies within a social theoretical framework about social identity constructions and practices of social differentiation.
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