Volume 109, Issue 2 p. 261-272

Giving Voice to Children's Voices: Practices and Problems, Pitfalls and Potentials

ALLISON JAMES

ALLISON JAMES

1 Department of Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TU, United Kingdom

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First published: June 2007
Citations: 455

Abstract

In this article, I explore the lessons that the anthropological debates of the 1980s about writing culture might have for contemporary childhood research within anthropology and the social sciences more generally. I argue that the current rhetoric about “giving voice to children,” commonplace both inside and outside the academy, poses a threat to the future of childhood research because it masks a number of important conceptual and epistemological problems. In particular, these relate to questions of representation, issues of authenticity, the diversity of children's experiences, and children's participation in research, all of which need to be addressed by anthropologists in their own research practices with children. Unless anthropologists do so, childhood research risks becoming marginalized once more and will fail to provide an arena within which children are seen as social actors who can provide a unique perspective on the social world about matters that concern them as children.