Accepted paper:

When Children's Drawings Hail Theories: Enfolding Multiple Accounts as Ethical Anthropology


Vicki Macknight (University of Melbourne)

Paper short abstract:

Using children’s drawings of ‘imagination’ I argue for a way of theorising using relational epistemology. This sees theorising as bodily and in terms of Althusser’s concept interpellation. I suggest that this is both ethical and accurate to the multiple nature of the world: a way of theorising that is not appropriating.

Paper long abstract:

Sitting with a pile of ethnographic images brought back from the field, I use my eyes and my hands to make piles of sameness and difference. As I do so, I realise that I am remaking theories that I already know: in Althussar's terms I am already/always hailed to recognise data in terms of certain theories. They work to explain what my participants were telling me, because they also already/always know and act in these patterns.

But each way of making sameness and difference is troubling, claiming researcher knowledge that has ethical implications. More, each is partial. I can make these theories differently, just as people at different moments can tell us different things. Because we are always caught up in webs of relations, we can have multiple theories/knowledges that do not contradict but enfold and are dynamic.

I make this argument looking at drawings done by children to express their understandings of what imagination is. I argue that the multiple possible ways of moving from this ethnographic data into theory mean that we need to work within a relational epistemology to make good anthropological theory. Doing so helps us formulate more ethical ways of dealing with other's knowledge that go beyond appropriation.

panel P05
Appropriating childhood: the current state of play