EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution

(P012)

Independent child migration in an interconnected world

Location A-121
Date and Start Time 03 August, 2014 at 11:00

Convenors

Jónína Einarsdóttir (University of Iceland) email
Petri Hautaniemi (University of Helsinki) email
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Short Abstract

The panel sheds light on child mobility in historical and geographical perspective. Contributors will give contextualised knowledge and theoretical and conceptual perspectives of child mobility, and explore how local understandings of these harmonise with international conventions and discourses.

Long Abstract

Child mobility has been and is used as a survival strategy for economically disadvantaged populations in search of new opportunities, but also to explore the world. International migration and evolving transnational lifestyles and livelihoods have given a new significance to child mobility, bringing forth a diversity of spaces and localities of childhoods and notions of upbringing. In this context, children have gained more attention as independent actors with capability and will to perform and engage in those social and material relations that define, determine or restrict their subsistence. In recent years governmental and intergovernmental institutions, and child right advocacy organisations have paid attention to irregularities of child mobility practices, labelling independent child migration as intrinsically rights violating and alarming phenomena in contemporary process of globalisation. Thus, mobility, in particular between countries of those who lack wealth and power, tends to be associated with exploitation, and in global discourses frequently conflated with human trafficking. The panel aims to shed light on the cultural, social and economic context of child mobility in historical and geographical perspective. Contributors should offer contextualised knowledge and theoretical and conceptual perspectives of child mobility practices. The lives of children on the move without the company of one or both of their parents will be examined with reference to their own point of view, that of their parents or guardians, local community and national state. How do child mobility practices, as well as local understandings and rationalisations of these, harmonise with global policy, international conventions and discourses?

Discussant: Petri Hautaniemi

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

'Those children with rights!': parenting cultures, family expectations and the making of British-Ghanaian children

Author: Emma Abotsi (University of Oxford)  email

Short Abstract

This paper focuses on the experiences of British-Ghanaian children who assert themselves as rights-bearing subjects within the transnational parenting practices of Ghanaians in the UK.

Long Abstract

Through examining the experiences of children, parents, care-takers and educational professionals involved in the transnational parenting practices of Ghanaians in London, UK, this ongoing ethnographic study aims to illustrate how children portray themselves as rights-claiming subjects. Access to childcare and the cultural development of their children pose major challenges for my participants which has led some of the parents to opt for sending their children to their relatives and/or boarding schools in Ghana for a few years at a time. While the parents feel this practice enables the children to internalise values from their parents' Ghanaian background such as respect, connections to their kin group and family obligations, I argue that the parents, care-takers and educational professionals involved in the practices have reconfigured the children's experience of being in Ghana to produce a distinctive and syncretic British-Ghanaian vision of childhood. The form of British-Ghanaian childhood developed by the adults is manifested through the juxtaposition of instilling Ghanaian values with practices such as preferential treatment, in which the children become (in a sense) more valuable than Ghanaians. The children are not passive in this process; rather, they simultaneously shape and draw on this sense of distinction which the adults have constructed around them as they seek to sustain their sense of different personhood during their stay in Ghana.

Independent child migration in Ghana

Author: Þóra Björnsdóttir (University of Iceland)  email

Short Abstract

The presentation examines the life of people in Ghana, who migrated before the age of fifteen without the company of a parent or a legal guardian. Their life story, current activities, and their eventual involvement in anti-trafficking activities will be discussed.

Long Abstract

Children who live in poverty decide at times to migrate independently at young age in search for better life conditions. In some places children migrate because of lack of opportunities of employment and education in their home town. They seek to gain experience, knowledge and to provide income for themselves and their family. Institutions and NGOs have increasingly tried to prevent child migration arguing they become vulnerable to neglect, maltreatment and trafficking. The presentation examines the life of people in Ghana, who migrated before the age of fifteen without the company of a parent or a legal guardian; their life story and current activities, how anti-trafficking activities have affected their lives, and how global and local institutions, NGOs and the government deal with them. The data collection took place in Accra through qualitative methodology. Results show that most participants were happy with the decision of migrating and believed current life to be better than what they had before. However, most of the interviewees claimed they would choose to move back to the hometown if they had the same opportunities as in the city. It can be very difficult to return back home because the family and the society expects the children to return in better situation than before. Neither children nor adults are much aware about trafficking and do not regard themselves as victims of such crime.

Bissau-Guinean Koran school students in Senegal: experiences and identity

Authors: Hamadou Boiro (INEP - Instituto Nacional de Estudos e Pesquisa)  email
Jónína Einarsdóttir (University of Iceland)  email

Short Abstract

This presentation explores stories of former and current Bissau-Guinean Koran school boys in Senegal, including repatriated ones. Their experiences and comparisons of conditions in Senegal and their home community is examined, and their thoughts of themselves as Muslims globally and locally.

Long Abstract

Boys referred to as talibés in Senegal have got much media attention and often they are in focus in policy documents and reports on child trafficking. Many of these boys originate from Guinea-Bissau, and according to The Trafficking in Persons Report 2012: "[u]nscrupulous marabouts … or their intermediaries, recruit [them] under the pretense of offering them a Koranic education, but subsequently transport them to Senegal … where they are forced to beg for money." There are ongoing anti-trafficking activities that aim to prevent their crossing of borders and repatriation. The presentation is based on interviews with former and current Bissau-Guinean talibes taken in the eastern regions of Guinea-Bissau in early 2014. What do adult males, who have attended Koran schools in Senegal and returned, and younger ones, some of whom are currently attending such schools in the neighbouring country, have to say about their life in Senegal? The males reflect on their life as a talibe in Senegal, and compare it with their conditions of life at home. Was/is there better access to food and other necessities of life? Were/are they punished more harshly than at home? What aspect of life was/is the most difficult? Is the situation of talibes in Senegal getting worse as compared to former days? Considering all the suffering, were the religious studies worthwhile? What have talibes who were 'rescued' and repatriated, an outcome seen by their own local community as the worst possible, have to say about their experiences.

From indigenous village to transnational community: independent child migrants taking the lead

Author: Fina Carpena-Mendez (Oregon State University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper analyzes the socio-cultural resources Mexican indigenous children drew upon in order to take the initiative in transmigration where there were no previous networks of support to provide knowledge and sustain the process, and how this process is articulated to the emerging migration industry.

Long Abstract

The international migration of Mexican indigenous communities that until recently were engaged in subsistence agriculture has been increasingly configured as a childhood and youth process. In the last decade, boys and girls in their teens have taken the lead in emerging patterns of circular migration across the US border in new migrant sending areas without previous experience in transnational migration. This paper analyzes the social and cultural resources children and youth drew upon and re-created in order to take the initiative in transmigration where there were no previous networks of support to provide knowledge and sustain the process. It examines how this process of independent child and youth migration has been articulated to the emerging commercialization of international migration or migration industry in the context of neoliberal globalism. By drawing on forms of self-organization in bandas children and youth have responded to unstable and rapidly changing everyday realities in the Mexican countryside through new forms of mobility, becoming key socio-political actors in their communities. We cannot understand contemporary forms of indigeneity in Mexico without considering children and youth as key subjects of historical transformation.

'Going home': the reality of imagined connections among young migrants in Belgium

Author: Shannon Damery (University of Liège)  email

Short Abstract

Home is thought of as a place of control, but for young people it is regarded as a place they inhabit rather than create. This paper focuses on young migrants’ home-making practices through the use of the imaginary and a focus on the young people’s cultural production and sensory environments.

Long Abstract

Home is present in most every person's life, and social scientists recognize home as more than a merely physical space. Whether a house or a nation, home may be temporal, imagined, remembered, or even a place one has never been (Cressey 2006; Olwig 1999). Research on 'transnational' (Glick Schiller 1995) home-making is becoming ever more common, but it is a relatively new practice to focus this research on young people.

Home is considered to be a place where one has control (Povrzanović Frykman 2002), but for young people it is regarded as a place they inhabit rather than create. Youth are often treated "as objects of adult activity" (Wulff 1995:1), who are not considered full members of society. Migrants transitioning to adulthood experience a double layer of special statuses due to their position of being feared, in need of protection, and 'outside' of society. My paper is partially based on fieldwork conducted in a refugee integration center in Austria, in 2010-2011, where I investigated the home-making practices of a group of unaccompanied Afghans, ages 16-21. My focus was on their creation of sensory environments and their material connections to their homes.

Building on this research, my current project is a study of migrants in Belgium, ages 15-25, with a focus on the imaginary and migrants' cultural production. Through the use of emplacement and sensory ethnography, I will examine their choices of connections to multiple communities and whether or not they make various places into their homes.

Going beyond the irregularity paradigm - an exploration of Roma children's geographies of mobility and agency in Europe

Authors: Airi Markkanen (Uef)  email
Anca Enache (Helsinki University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper questions the present child and family migration discourses of irregularity in Europe, by examining the mobility experiences, practices and agency exercised by the Romanian Roma children in Finland.

Long Abstract

The accession of Romania to the European Union provided the Romanian Roma with the opportunity to exercise new livelihood strategies, agency and mobility practices in Europe, whilst developing new forms of inequality and 'otherness' within and across societies. The discourses and policy practices related to the migration of Roma families and children in Europe have been highly politicized and problematized, being discussed in response to questions of irregularity and illegality. In Finland for example, the mobility of Roma families and children has been labeled and argued strictly from the perspective of the violation of children's rights.

This paper questions the discourses and policies which surround the mobility practices of children and families in Europe, by exploring the everyday mobility practices of the Romanian Roma in Finland. The role and power exercised by children in migration decision making when accompanying kin, their own negotiations of movement, and their identities, are each explored as ambivalent, dynamic and fluid processes. This study is located within the ethnographic genre, using long term observation, puppetry and other visual methods, in order to voice and visualize the mobility experiences. Multi-sited ethnography (Schiller, 2003) also offered the possibility of moving between localities - within both the country of origin and the country of migration - in order to analyze how global discourses intersect with everyday experiences of mobility (Marcus, 1995; Gupta and Ferguson, 1997.)

Independent child migration in Iceland during the 20th century

Author: Jónína Einarsdóttir (University of Iceland)  email

Short Abstract

The paper explores the Icelandic custom of sending children from urban areas to farms during the summer months, at times from 4 years of age. The research, which is based on accounts given by individuals who experienced the custom, focuses on the practice from socio-cultural, economic and gendered aspects.

Long Abstract

Research on children who migrate without the company of a parent or legal adult guardian is mostly conducted in low-income countries, and such migration is frequently associated with child trafficking. However, throughout most of the 20th century it was a custom in Iceland to send children from urban areas to rural ones during the summer months. All children should learn to attend animals and other work, enjoy nature, get nutritious food, and in general have the possibility to get to now the origin of the Icelandic cultural heritage. It was a common understanding that the summer stays were beneficial for all children, their family and the nation. Delinquent children and those living under harsh conditions, due to for instance poverty or alcohol abuse of parents, were assumed to benefit particularly. Thus, generous citizens, charities, organisations and the child protection authorities organised for children' stay at farms or in summer camps. Some children stayed away from their parents during 3-4 months every year from 4-6 years of age until their teenage, when they managed to get better paid work. This presentation explores this custom based on accounts given by individuals who experienced it first hand. It will focus on their varied experiences of staying with rural kinship members but also unrelated families, as well as the striking gender aspects of the custom.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.