ISSN 1753-0849

Childhoods Today Online JournalChildhoods Today

An online journal for childhood studies

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Volume 5 Issue 1 - July 31, 2011

Changes of Position Cause Changes of Relation: Insights for Reflexive Ethnographic Research with Children

Tadesse Jaleta Jirata

Ethnography has been one of the widely recommended methodologies in research with children. However, the implications of the dynamics of children’s positions for ethnographic research in rural contexts of Africa in general, and in Ethiopia in particular, have been marginally incorporated in the literature on childhood studies. As a result, a comprehensive presentation of the local reality of rural children in that part of the world has been less observable in academic discussions. In this paper, I seek to fill in this gap in methodological knowledge by discussing how an ethnographic approach can enable researchers to understand children’s lived experiences in their multiple places (for example, at home, school and the workplace) and reveal the impact of these various contexts on shaping children’s positions and their relationship with a researcher. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with children among the Guji people in Ethiopia, I argue that children have different social positions across their everyday places and it is when ethnography is based on reflexive research practices in line with children’s situations in these places that it can make better understanding of rural childhoods. I discuss how children’s social positions vary across workplaces, homes and schools and show the implication that this variation has for ethnographic research with children.