Childhood and migration : from experience to agency
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Children's own views about their own childhood have long been neglected in the social and cultural sciences and so have their views of their experience of migration. This is true even when children are the ones under study and de- spite the fact that children make up a large proportion of migrants all over the world. The reasons for such neglect of child migrants' views are largely the same as those for the neglect of children' s views in general. W e will examine some of the major reasons here, but to do so we must first look at the history of childhood research in general, at the overall neglect of children's views and voices, and at the neglect of children's experiences and roles as social agents in the world they live in. Let us start by pointing out that children were not simply ignored as ob- jects of social and cultural studies. The first anthropological attempts to call researchers' attention to the influence culture has on children growing up of were made in the late 1920s by Mead who pointed out that children create cul- tural identity in a socializing process which is immersed in culture and ernerg- ing from it at the same time. 1 Based on ethnographies of non-westem socie- ties, she questioned the biological explanations for human maturation and de- velopment as stated by psychology, according to which children were not to be considered complete social beings. The Contestation between cultural and biological explanations of human behaviour in general was a cmcial issue in most theory ( de-)construction pursued in the late 1970s and 1980s. A more pluralistic notion of childhood and a more diachronic perspective including the idea that childhood might not always have existed as it is under- stood today was introduced in the early 1960s? Thereby, not only biological determinism was contested but also childhood henceforth not understood as one single phenomenon but rather as a variety of phenomena influenced by and interrelated with social and cultural conditions. lt is therefore of cmcial importance to take into consideration the different historical, social and cul- tural contexts within which childhood is situated. This is especially important when dealing with childhood in societies different from those from which our dominant knowledge concerning childhood has emerged, and when investigat- ing childhood in a comparative perspective.
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