» Archive for: May, 2014


Looking at this picture, the first impression that came to my mind was how sweet this boy is. Then I asked myself: Is this child work or child labor? And is the activity conducted by the child empowering and appropriate for the child? What does the existing literature in development and childhood studies has to say about this? What position would development practitioners/experts and Social Workers on the ground take? And what would this picture mean in the eyes of indigenous people residing in the locality where the picture is shot? And most importantly what would be the view of this child himself on this picture?

For me, I know it is impossible to say much about what is depicted here without understanding the social environment and the current situation of the child. Yet, the picture was posted on an open Facebook page without any story or caption attached. The Facebook page is called ‘Ethiopian Kids’ and uses the slogan ‘For Ethiopians who love their KIDS’. Its current membership stands at 13,764 members.

The picture seems popular. Since it was posted on 19th May 2014 it has received 195 ‘likes’ and 35 ‘shares’. It also received a total of eleven comments – yet, not a word in these comments about the questions I have raised, only words about the cuteness of the boy in the picture. In many ways this particular picture is representative of the other pictures posted on this Facebook page: members post pictures of children and comment on how lovely these children are. Whilst I share these sentiments, it glosses over many other issues and leaves me wondering what the children themselves would say about their pictures.

guest contribution by Fasil Nigussie Taye (PhD researcher in PER research programme at the ISS)


Despite an increasing number of notable exceptions, the field of youth studies remains dominated by research conducted in the Global North. The PhD thesis (entitled Growing Up and Being Young in an Indonesian Provincial Town ) by ISS alumnus Wenty Marina Minza (Population and Development programme 2003-04) makes thus a welcome contribution to the field.

Wenty holds a position at the Faculty of Psychology at Universitas Gadjah Mada in Yogyakarta, Indonesia and her PhD research was carried out as part of the KITLV coordinated research project In Search of Middle Indonesia. The PhD work was conducted in the context of Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR) of the University of Amsterdam with Prof Mario Rutten and Prof Ben White as promotors, and successfully defended on Wednesday 14th May 2014.

The thesis is centrally concerned with bringing together two main perspectives on youth. One is the so-called ‘growing up’ perspective which views youth through the lens of transitions in some key life domains (work, education, marriage) and underpins much research on youth by governments and nongovermental organisations (and dominates work on youth in the international development studies literature). The other is the so-called ‘being young’ perspective which underpins much research on youth cultures and aims to understand young people in their own right by focusing on their everyday, and at times subaltern, practices of being young.

The interplay between these two different dimensions of young people’s lives is studied through a focus on educated youth in the provincial city of Pontianak, West Kalimantan. To this end a total of 106 young people were interviewed (most of them university students) as well as a number of parents and other adult informants. Most of the research was conducted by employing in-depth qualitative interviews, however a survey (n=369) adds some important quantitative dimensions to the findings.

The thesis commences with a brief introduction which is followed by a literature review which discusses some main theoretical perspectives in the field of youth studies with much clarity. A next chapter introduces the research context (Pontianak, Indonesia), and also introduces a series of useful vernacular concepts concerning being young and growing up. This is followed by three empirical chapters. One on family expectations and cultures of educated youth, one on meaningful work and youth cultures of waiting and finally a chapter on courtship, explorations and long-term relationships. A concluding chapter revisits the research questions and draws out the main theoretical contributions of the study.

Observing that concerns about ‘being young’ and ‘growing up’ are often deeply intertwined in young people’s lives leads Minza to propose a ‘growing up while being young’ pattern and a ‘being young while growing up’ pattern. The latter she observes most clearly in the education domain. Whilst educational qualifications are considered crucial for social mobility and progressing in life, the space of the school provides ample scope for being young. Being a university student grants them the mahasiswa identity (literally ‘great student’), which is performed through particular styles of being young. Growing up whilst being young highlights how concerns such as finding a spouse and negotiating the many contradictions of education as a resources are important in order to realise a sense of social maturation and to live up to family and societal expectations. Whilst few young people realise the aspired civil service job, many do make a ‘transition to somewhere’ (rather than a transition to nowhere). Furthermore, the informal and at times menial jobs many of these educated youth obtain are not just that. For example, many of the young women may be overqualified for the work they do in shopping malls and possibly underpaid, yet these jobs also provide space for performing much aspired modern youthful identities. Another strength is that in teasing out the various ways being young and growing up interact, Minza illuminates how relations of gender and also ethnicity shape such dynamics.

Some work carried out as part of the PhD has already been published (see for example HERE) and hopefully more will follow.

posted by Roy Huijsmans


My encounter with a 14 year old German girl who combines full-time schooling with part-time work and who came to share her experience as part of the course ISS 4235: Young People and Work, has given me a new look into understanding work in young people’s lives. “So do you work?” I asked her. The whole class went silent. As I recollected myself I realised that this was because our 14 year old guest had just explained to us about her work as a tutor to fellow students and sports trainer. The silence made me realise that it is important to listen carefully to how children understand their own activities and be careful with imposing my own understanding of work.

The discussion with our young guest speaker also confirmed a few things about age-normativity. What is age and who defines it? Is it the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), Minimum Age Convention (ILO, 1973), the constitutions of national governments, communities or the individual? Whether it is coming straight from the supra-national to the individual level, the social context in which we find ourselves plays a great deal in defining this concept. “Would you allow your younger sister to work?” That was one of the questions posed by us. As we all paid close attention to her response, she replied “No, she is too young”.  My reaction was Ooh! Too young!” I was surprised and you will equally be if you got to know the age of our guest’s sister. She is 12 years (Just two years her junior). This small difference in chronological age contrasted sharply with the firmness with which our young guest dismissed the idea that her younger sister might start working. Apparently it is not just chronological age that underpins norms about young people’s involvement in work.

Did you know that students who combine school and work perform better in class in comparison to their colleagues who don’t? At least this is what our young guest speaker taught us and it indeed contrasts with the conventional understanding that work is detrimental to children’s educational performance (and attendance). Out of the 22 students in our young guest-speaker’s  class, only eight students work. And by far, the performance rate of these eight students outweighs the rest she reiterates. Perhaps though, here the particularity of the work also matters. Our young guest-speaker, as well as the other students in her class, was recruited by her teacher to provide some tutoring in physics and mathematics (for pay and on a structural basis) to students struggling with these subjects. This suggest that she was already doing well in school and arguably  the more you’re explaining mathematics and physics to someone, the deeper your understanding.

Whilst this suggest that work might be a form of education, our young guest speaker also raised some notes of caution. Combining school and work is not for everyone she claimed.  When asked if she would advise her friends who are not working to work, “It depends” she replied. Students who are allowed to work must prove to be capable of taking on ‘extra work’ and must desire to work.

A final part of the discussion that struck me was about the status of the money earned. Does it matter whether the money is coming from the parent or from the child’s hard earned money?  Well it does matter it seems, our young guest speaker elaborated on the importance of having earned the money herself: “I can save and do whatever I like. It’s my money”.

guest-contribution by Yenutien Kombian (Social Policy for Development major programme, ISS 2013-14).

downloadLeeds University advertises an interesting Research Fellow position to be working on the ‘Uganda strand’ of a research project entitled: ‘Intergenerational Justice, Consumption and Sustainability in Comparative Perspective’.

The position is fixed term from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2016 and this is the description:

You will be responsible for undertaking fieldwork for the AHRC funded INTERSECTION project, which involves comparative research in Uganda, China, and the UK. The project is a collaboration between the universities of Sheffield and Leeds, and involves academics from Geography (Sheffield and Leeds), Workshop Theatre/School of English and East Asian Studies (Sheffield). You will have particular responsibility for data collection in Uganda, and will be expected to spend up to 9 months in that country, although you will also contribute to wider aspects of project literature review, research design, dissemination and other project activities. You will also make some contributions to fieldwork in the UK to harmonise working practices amongst the team.

The project involves an integrated multi-method approach including narrative interviewing (individual and group), surveys and the use of arts-based methodologies, particularly theatre as a research method. You will engage effectively with the diverse methodologies and participate in theatre based workshops and training, as well as work with local facilitators in Uganda. You will work in an intergenerational context, involving people of diverse ages, and make links with key stakeholders/policy makers.

You will have a PhD or equivalent postdoctoral research experience in a relevant academic field (e.g. Cultural Geography, Sociology, Anthropology, Politics or other relevant field). You will have experience of conducting in-depth qualitative interviews and/or focus groups about sensitive issues, and an ability to execute these in an East African context. Knowledge of Uganda would be an advantage and some knowledge of a Ugandan language extremely useful. You will carry out periods of intense field work in Uganda for up to nine months. You will also be required to carry out occasional evening and/or weekend working, and possibly attend residential national and international conferences and dissemination events.

The University of Leeds’ commitment to women in science has been recognised with a national accolade. The University has received the Athena Swan Bronze Award in recognition of our success in recruiting, retaining and promoting women in Science, Engineering and Technology (SET). The Faculty of Environment are in the process of preparing an application for an Athena Swan award to recognise our commitment and work in these areas.

University Grade 7 (£30,728 – £36,661 p.a.)

Informal enquiries may be made to Dr Robert Vanderbeck, tel +44 (0)113 343 6753, emailr.vanderbeck@leeds.ac.uk<mailto:r.vanderbeck@leeds.ac.uk> or to Professor Jane Plastow, emailj.e.plastow@leeds.ac.uk<mailto:j.e.plastow@leeds.ac.uk>.

Closing Date: 8 June 2014


International Institute of Social Studies

ISS is an international graduate school of policy-oriented critical social science. It brings together students and teachers from the Global South and the North in a European environment.