» Archive for: October, 2014

funded PhD positions

Category: education| research

31 Oct 2014

indexMarking its 150th anniversary, Oxford Brookes University offers a number of full-time PhD studentships.

This includes a PhD position in a project entitled ‘Urban Futures: Aspiration, inequality and transitions to adulthood among young people in London and New York City’. The anticipated project is described as follows: ‘The research will involve a year of long-term ethnographic research with a cohort of individuals making the transition from schooling to early adulthood, coupled with an intensive period of observation and interviews with students and school leavers in London (with a smaller comparative study in New York City, partly funded by the studentship provided by Oxford Brookes).’

Unfortunately, only UK and EU national applicants are eligible. For further details go HERE.

sweetieAn Australian sex offender is believed to be the first Sweetie related conviction.

I earlier posted about Sweetie (see HERE), a virtual 10 year old girl from the Philippines created by Terre des Hommes who uses it as a ‘bait’ in cyberspace in their fight against ‘online child sex tourism‘. Although the debate continues whether material obtained through a virtual character like Sweetie is admissible to courts (see HERE), Terre des Hommes announced today that their Sweetie campaign has contributed to a first conviction. It concerns a 37 year old Australian man who got in touch with Sweetie and who was found in possession of child pornography.

posted by Roy Huijsmans

downloadOpen Democracy has opened a new section entitled ‘Beyond Trafficking and Slavery’.

Open Democracy is a digital commons that hosts a number of sections. Since a few months this includes a section entitled ‘Beyond Trafficking and Slavery‘ which is an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and researchers from Africa, Asia, America, Australia and Europe.

The editors envision the site ‘to be an alternative to the many ‘Modern-Day Slavery Hubs’ dotted across conventional media’. The site, thus, seeks to challenge ‘both the empty sensationalism of mainstream media accounts of exploitation and domination, and the hollow, technocratic policy responses promoted by businesses and politicians’. This will be done through ‘a regular stream of articles’ as well as a pedagogical section with short introductions to major issues and debates.

To date, the site features a number of interesting critical reflections by renowned academics. This includes an interview with Bridget Anderson, a reflective piece by Anne Gallagher on how the trafficking debate has evolved over the past two decades, and a contribution by Siobhan McGrath that critically reflects on the USA’s self-assigned role of global anti-trafficking monitor. No doubt more will follow.

posted by Roy Huijsmans



indexChildren’s rights feature prominently in the Nobel Peace Prize 2014, but are children’s right to education and a workfree childhood two sides of the same coin?

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the prize jointly to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai ‘for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education’.

Malala Yousafzai’s story is well-known, and described in much detail in ‘I am Malala‘. She was shot by Taliban fighters in rural Pakistan for her promotion of girls’ education. Malala survived the injuries and is since celebrated as an important global symbol for the right to education of girls in particular. Malala’s message is certainly an important one. However, critical voices have pointed at the silencing of other Pakistani children’s voices that happens at the same time that Malala’s story is celebrated. This echoes Spivak’s question whether the subaltern can actually speak.

Malala’s co-winner is Kailash Satyarthi, a long time anti-child labour activist from India. Kailash is the founder of the Indian Bachpan Bachao Andolan (‘save the childhood movement’), a key figure behind the ‘Global March Against Child Labour‘, one of the architectures behind the ‘rugmark’ initiative that is meant to guarantee child labour free carpets, and known for his raids aimed at rescuing working children from bonded and forced labour conditions (see HERE and HERE).

Together, Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai seem to represent an simple yet powerful message about children’s rights: the right to education and the right to a workfree childhood are two sites of the same coin. Hence, the joint award. However, here some nuancing is important.

For example, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child does not speak about a ‘workfree childhood’. Instead, it calls in Article 32 for the regulation of children’s work and for the protection of children ‘from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.’ This is broadly in line with what working children themselves call for (see HERE and HERE), who furthermore also stress the importance of safety, respect and dignity in their work.

It is to be hoped that with the boost the theme of children’s rights receives with these two Nobel Peace Prize laureates such important nuancing is maintained.

posted by Roy Huijsmans


With ‘Working ChildhoodsJane Dyson presents a rich ethnographic account of the significance of everyday work practices in young people’s lives and in the social reproduction of Himalayan village life more generally.

Much research on children’s work is guided by policy concerns. This is reflected in the working definitions that are employed and the objectives of such studies. Typically these studies concentrate on the school-work relation, how work impacts on various dimensions of children’s present and future lives, the household poverty-children’s work nexus, and above all: it presents the role of work in children’s lives as a problem.

Such policy oriented studies certainly have a function, yet they typically tell us very little about the role of work in being young and growing up, the role of children’s work in social reproduction, and the sociality of work more generally. To shed light on these issues an ethnographic and relational perspective is required. This situates children’s work within wider sets of social, economic and ecological relations. Such a perspective also seeks to appreciate work for what it means to those directly involved, thereby registering important gender, age, and caste related differences. This is often best done through the anthropological approach of ‘participant observation’ by joining in and co-experiencing the practice – however awkward, difficult and perhaps impossible this may be for an adult outsider.

The main bulk of the research for Working Childhoods was conducted in 2003-04 (15 months of fieldwork) and complemented with several return visits since. The research was conducted in one village (referred to with the pseudonym Bemni) in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, where Dyson’s research concentrated on ‘fifteen key informant young people [aged 10-18] and their families…chosen to cover a range of social differences, including age, gender and caste’ (p20).

The book is organized into a total of 7 chapters. The first chapter introduces the reader to the study setting and to some key debates the book speaks to: children’s agency and the place of the environment in young people’s lives. The second chapter describes the study setting in more detail and situates it in social, historical and geographical terms. Next, children’s work is introduced. Excerpts from children’s diaries are used to give an overview of the range of work activities children are involved in and how they experience and negotiate this. The chapter also reflects on children’s schoolwork because in Bemni ‘most children could combine household tasks and educational work’ (p61). The next three chapters are each dedicated to a specific working activity. One chapter concentrates on herding, one on leaf collection (leaf litter is used in cattle stalls), and one on lichen collection. Collectively these empirical chapters show in vivid detail how the environment intersects with gender and the complexity of this relation as children’s gender subjectivities unfold whilst growing up, whilst also the environment constantly changes (for example due to its seasonality) and comes to take on a different meaning as children’s gender subjectivities transform.

In the final chapter Dyson returns to the theme of ‘agency’ and the ‘environment’. The contribution she makes to the former is highlighting the importance of children’s agency in processes of social reproduction. This is often overlooked in the study of children’s agency as the spotlight, typically, has been on how children’s agency counters dominant norms, thereby ignoring children’s agentic contributions to everyday forms of social reproduction. The focus on the environment allowed Dyson to return to the materiality of children’s work and highlights the environment as important ‘site of social activity and cultural production’ in children’s lives.

Altogether, the book demonstrates the importance of ethnographic approaches in studying children’s lives. This includes the importance of time. After all, it is only after conducting a full year of research that the importance of seasonality can be fully apprehended. Unfortunately, this seasonal dimension is typically lost in shorter research which is mostly carried out when the seasonal conditions are conducive (read: pleasant) for research. In addition, ethnography seeks to understand social practices from the perspective of the research subjects. It is this ethnographic route that let Dyson to write about often ignored dimensions, such as the place of friendship through work, and uncover how the same activity (collecting lichen) can take on a rather different meaning (for example between boys and girls).

posted by Roy Huijsmans

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.