Reference : Young Children’s Ethnifying Practices: An Ethnographic Research in a Daycare Center i...
Scientific congresses, symposiums and conference proceedings : Unpublished conference
Social & behavioral sciences, psychology : Sociology & social sciences
Social & behavioral sciences, psychology : Anthropology
Young Children’s Ethnifying Practices: An Ethnographic Research in a Daycare Center in Berlin
Seele, Claudia mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Integrative Research Unit: Social and Individual Development (INSIDE) >]
1st Annual Convention of the Black German Cultural Society
August 19-21, 2011
German Historical Institute
[en] ethnifying practices ; early childhood ; Berlin ; Ethnography
[en] I will present findings of an ethnographic research that was conducted 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 migrant background’. They thus come to function as ‘the Other’ in the construction of a normative version of ‘German children’. Family origins, language and physical appearance 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 evaluation, of inclusion and exclusion, can be interpreted along a continuum from reproducing to challenging dominant constructions of belonging and ‘the Other’.
I argue that ethnicity is not a pre-given fact but practically accomplished and negotiated in children’s social interactions. Thus, 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.
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