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L’enfant terrible
Anthropology and its Aversion to Children
Lawrence Hirschfeld

Lawrence Hirschfeld opens the issue with an examination of what he calls `the aversion of anthropology to children'. He states that this aversion goes hand in hand with anthropology's neglect of psychological explanations of cultural learning. If we are interested in the emergence of cultural forms, Hirschfeld argues, anthropologists better take notice of the ideas of children and of psychology as a discipline. (back)


Why Children Should be Central to Anthropological Research

Christina Toren

Christina Toren makes a similar argument. She states explicitly, that we should not study children only because they have been neglected. According to Toren studying children is the only way in which anthropologists can learn how adults come to say what to say and to do what to do. She proposes a revision of Piaget's theory, `because it is literally the only theory of the constitution of ideas over time in which structure and process' are two sides of the same coin, in stead of separate domains. (back)

‘It Hurts’
Children’s Cultural Learning About Everyday Illness
Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen studied Danish school children's ideas about illness. Noticing that young children may mask an illness by adapting their behaviour and bodily posture, she explores the complex interpretative processes involved in children's definitions of bodily experiences as either `normal' and acceptable or as `worrisome' and constituting signs of illness. This focus on children's perspectives and practices in different age-sets reveals that very young children understand illness primarily as a distinct social event. Only when they start translating between their own subjective experience of self and body and the dominant cultural models of the body do they come to share the adults' understanding of bodily discomfort and illness. (back)

The Magical Power of Words
About Children, Their Conflicts and Their Bodies
Suzanne Kuik

Suzanne Kuik's contribution shows us the merits of treating children's culture as a separate world with its own codes. She takes us to Dutch urban ten and eleven year olds, for whom mutual relations are the most important topic to talk about. In different kinds of fights behavioural norms are explored. By pointing out that the children's culture bears resemblance to some features described for oral cultures, Kuik makes clear why words are so powerful for children. (back)

Kinderen, polygynie en fosterage: ervaringen uit Oost-Kameroen Catrien Notermans

In Catrien Notermans' contribution we learn about the impact of polygyny on children in Cameroon. Co-wives do not live together in peace and harmony, therefore many mothers put their children in fosterage to let them escape the tensions at home. The author analyses adults' reflections about their own childhood in polygyneous households. Notwithstanding their negative evaluations of childhood experiences, Notermans' informants do not reject the ideology of polygyny. (back)

Notions of ‘Risk’Applied to Urban Children in Nepal
Karen Valentin

Karen Valentin takes the reader to Kathmandu. She emphasises that the category of `children at risk', as used by NGOs, bears the danger of overlooking the fact that street children themselves develop strategies to solve their problems. The children often are successful. Street children do not necessarily live on the streets for the rest of their lives to end in misery. Furthermore, the focus on the category of street children can result in a lack of attention for other children who do not fit the definition but do need help. (back)

The Buca Boys from Metro Juárez.
Leadership, Gender and Age in Mexico City’s Youthful Street Culture
Roy Gigengack

The last contributor, Roy Gigengack, also writes about street children. He lived among them in Mexico City. His argument resembles that of Karen Valentin, although he focuses more on the internal organisation of bunda's and their mutual relations. Central in the `culture of the street' are leadership, gender and age. In a vivid ethnographic description he shows that the children defy the easy categorisation of adults and use them, indeed, for their own purposes. (back)