EASA, 2006: EASA06: Europe and the world

Bristol, UK, 18/09/2006 – 21/09/2006


Childhood between kinship and the state: changing practices and ideologies of care

Location Queens Robertson
Date and Start Time 20 Sep, 2006 at 15:00


Tatjana Thelen (University of Vienna) email
Haldis Haukanes (University of Bergen) email
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Short Abstract

The workshop will examine recent (often contradictory) shifts in ideologies and practices of childcare between kinship and the state, exploring the theme in a wide range of geographical settings.

Long Abstract

Childcare in human societies is arranged in multifarious ways across the globe. Everywhere, however, close family members have some primary caring obligations. But with the expansion of the modern state childcare has increasingly also come to be regulated by legal prescriptions and norms. The state defines parental caring duties, and assumes new responsibilities itself. Governments have developed diverse measures to support the upbringing of children, such as public childcare facilities, tax deductions and direct payments for families. Recently neo-liberal callings for a retreat of the welfare state are working to reallocate childcare responsibilities again, with diverse consequences in different local settings. Actual perceptions and practices of childcare are shaped both by such long-term processes and legal-institutional frameworks and by more acute developments. In many countries epidemics like HIV/AIDS, natural disasters and war have destabilised the ability of families to fulfil their childcare roles. This often pushes states and NGOs to take on an increased share of caring responsibilities. In situations of rapid change, contradictions both within and between ideologies and practices become particularly visible. In many post-socialist countries, for example, caring practices are to some extent rearranged according to new conservative discourses that strongly identify women with caring obligations. Nevertheless, references to socialist gender practices and ideologies persist. Similarly contradicting are discourses in western societies: children are often presumed to be at risk because of a perceived erosion of kinship ties, yet an increased mobility of the labour force is promoted, which challenges kinship-based support. In this workshop we invite contributors to examine shifts in ideologies and practices of childcare between kinship and the state. We encourage ethnographically based papers exploring the theme in a wide range of geographical settings.


Globalisation, child vulnerability and ideas of proper parenthood: two cases from the Norwegian media scene

Author: Haldis Haukanes (University of Bergen)  email
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Long Abstract

The paper investigates the interplay between child welfare policies, different models and ideals of childhood and parenthood, and questions of child vulnerability. The analysis is built on a comparative examination of two different media reportages dealing with parents' labour migration to Norway. The reportages concern the migration of Filipino women and Polish men respectively, and the role of a particular kind of child allowance in attracting foreign labourers to Norway. The reportages and their subsequent media debates are analysed with regards to the way the issue of the child allowance come up, and, most importantly, with regards to the messages they convey about child vulnerability, childcare and the ideas they entail about good and proper parenthood. On the background of a discussion of the notion of "global childhood" vs. "local childhoods", it is argued for the necessity of taking gender into consideration when analysing different ideals and practices of care as well as child welfare policies. Encounters between different models of childhood and ideals of childcare- global, state, local - are always also encounters between different notions of proper gendered parenthood.

Participation practices of native and immigrant families in institutional care services for children in Barcelona

Author: Marta Bertran Tarres (CIIMU/UAB)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper is the result of three years field work in different educational services destined to families with children between 0-3 years old (public services introduced by Barcelona council). Participant observation has been made in programmes destined to mothers with children up to 9 months, programmes destined to families with children between 1-3 years old, and in kindergartens, destined to children from 4 months to 3 years old. Also it has interviewed native and immigrant families.

The objective of the educational services is to support and to help families in childcare and rearing, but also to guarantee the motor, psychological and relational optimal development of children. In the investigation it has been proved the little participation of non-European immigrant families in some of these services. Although the kindergartens have enormous demand in native and migrant families, the other programmes are required, essentially, for native and European families. The little participation of migrant families in these programs is produced because their objectives do not correspond to the familiar necessities: the diversity on childcare practices, the network of relationships (relations, friendship) that covers the necessity of sharing the maternal experience, the development of other parental strategies, etc.

Then, we confirm the coexistence of multiple systems on childcare practices. Those that are visibilized are the own ones and the most similar to the own ones, that legitimises and are focused in the educational capacity of the institutions, whereas some immigrant families or groups emphasize their ones.

'Education: whose responsibility is it?' Immigrant childcare between state programmes and family expectations

Author: Lucia Rodeghiero (University Milano Bicocca)  email
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Long Abstract

In the city of Milan, in northern Italy, a high rate of children in a typical municipal preschool setting are likely to come from immigrant families.

Early childhood education and care settings are critical sites for immigrant families because for many immigrant children and their parents the negotiation of differences between their home culture and the culture of their new country begins with the child's enrolment in an education and care program.

In this paper I will discuss how the early childhood education and care systems are serving the children of recent immigrants and, at the other side, what parents expect for their children in preschool settings.

On the basis of ethnographic research in some early childhood education and care settings in Milan, I will discuss the relationship between practices and ideologies of childcare offered by the state (in Italy policy makers and education professionals are engaged in a debate about immigrant children and some of the key terms are "inclusion", "diversity as resource", "integration") and those performed by children relatives. School's programs, prescriptions and norms not always correspond to parents' expectations: religion, language, clothing, interaction between boys and girls, identity, divergent conceptions of the body, moral issues etc. appear as central matters of discussion. At stake is also the question about which duties should pertain to schools and which to family members; moreover, which family members? Immigrant families are usually composed by mother/father/children, but kinship relations, in some cases, appear to be multilocated, since little children are sent to grandparents, in their country of origin, and come back to Italy only to enroll in compulsory education programs.

Finally the focus will be laid on the contradictory connection between school practices which often reproduce stereotypes on the "other" and the ideas of parents on their children identity and education.

Childcare transference and relational continuity: Mestizo relatedness and the public rationale of kinship in Quito, Ecuador

Author: Esben Leifsen (University of Oslo)  email
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Long Abstract

In this paper I explore how different practices and ideologies of care reflect distinct modes of constitution of essential relationships of belonging. I focus on the issue of child care transference and ways these are handled and conceptualized contrastingly by different actors in the Ecuadorian capital Quito: child welfare professionals and policy makers on the one side and mestizos from marginal neighborhood areas and of modest means on the other side. I am especially interested in how relational continuity is thought of and practiced in alternative ways by the actors' involvement in child care transferences.

Ecuadorian child welfare legislation in general and the adoption legislation in particular have through the whole of the 1990s and well into the 2000s gone through a series of substantial reforms. These reforms affirm through policy implementation and professional interventions the biogenetic basis of kinship. In contrast to public policy and practice a considerable number of Ecuadorian children who do not live with their original parent(s) form part of informal care transference arrangements. Informal child care practices among the mestizo population I have carried out fieldwork are characterized by a high degree of changeability, influencing ways children are cared for and circulated between caretakers. This is due to substantial internal and transnational migratory movements, and to a considerable fluidity in the crucial relationships involved in sexual reproduction: between procreating adults and between parents and children.

In the discussion I contrast the knowledge and practice of policy makers and professionals, with those of people of marginal neighborhood areas. The first of these privileges a reproductive sociability which affirms relational fixity and which applies a rationale of rupture and compartmentalization in the constitution of the adoptive relationship. The second of these practices reflects changing conditions of life and the tendency to overlap and accumulate social relationships when children are circulated to new caretakers. Child care transference is here embedded in a reproductive sociability based on relational fluidity and the making of relatedness through day to day activities of care. As I will exemplify in the paper, these practices are not just different they are also often in conflict in concrete situations of intervention.

Schooling, fosterage and child care: the case of the Baatombu in Northern Benin

Author: Erdmute Alber (University of Bayreuth)  email
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Long Abstract

In West Africa, child fosterage is a widespread and highly accepted form of child care within the extended family. Its persistence was deeply challenged by two factors: Firstly, the introduction of Euro-American norms about biological parenthood as the right way of child care transformed old practices and norms. Secondly, the introduction of a formal state education system - schooling - provided new career possibilities for children which put new emphasis onto the question who decides about the future of a child.

However, beside of weakening the old forms of child care, state introduced schooling has a contradictory effect on practices of fosterage: As schools are not available in rural areas, new forms of (kinship organized) fosterage had to be introduced.

The paper discusses these contradictory effects of state-introduced schooling with the case study of the Bataombu in Northern Benin. It raises the question in which way state-introduced transformations in child care can provide new kinship-based forms of child care.

Aspects of childcare in Romania

Author: Elisabeta Negreanu (National Institute for Educational Sciences, Bucharest)  email
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Long Abstract

At the present time, in Romania take place significant shifts regarding practices and educational policies for childcare. The paper attempts to give emphasis to some significant aspects of these shifts.

1) Childcare and education in the family. The results of the research, done during 2005, under the theme "Education into family" showed us that, there are new tendencies and requirements regarding the role of family for the children education.

Social, economical and cultural changes affects the family formation, family life with its all components and, especially, regarding children birth and their education. Stand prior the mother role in a large variety of aspects as: the time allocated for children, communication, support in the relation with the school etc. It becomes more and more clear, the necessity of parents education and even of the young people before becoming parents. There are not more sufficient random inspiration and common habits to solve the new aspects in education and childcare.

2) The role of the state remains as a necessity for helping family and child protection, regarding children's health and rights. The Governments have to allocate important resources and to assure high level of professionalism for the early education support, which can assure the quality of education for all children.

3) The institutions which are offering early education services become more diversified. It become more important the role of NGO and private institutions in supplying childcare.

'Parents today': teacher discourses about socialising responsibilities in two Swedish schools

Author: Åsa Bartholdsson (Stockholm University)  email
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Long Abstract

During fieldwork in two Swedish schools (1999-2002) I often heard teachers referring to school as "the reality" where they had to tamper with the consequences of the weak parenting performed by parents "today". Parents were described by teachers as being "afraid of growing up" and lacking time for their children. This was accompanied by alarming reports in media on increasing "mental [i.e psychological] ill-health" among Swedish children and the publishing of books about "curling parents" (labelling parents of "today" as overprotecting their children) and about Swedish society as "The infantile society" (referring to the idea that parents of today are as childish and self-centred as their children and teenagers).

The dominant discourse about "parents today" points to the matter of fact that when parents are unable to "see" their children and their needs, someone else has to do it in their place.

This vocation is an important factor when socialisation responsibilities are identified by teachers and communicated to parents. In this way the dominant discourse shapes ideas about teacher professionalism and what aspects of up-bringing should be attended to in every day school life. In this paper I will present some of the ways in which the ideas about the alarming state of Swedish childhood and family life reproduced themselves in different arenas in society and in teacher discourses and how they are transformed into every-day-practice.

'The teachers left the kids alone': discourse and conflict between teachers and parents in eastern Germany after unification

Author: Tatjana Thelen (University of Vienna)  email
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Long Abstract

Besides a new economic and political system, unification introduced the West German educational system to eastern Germany. As the two German states developed quite distinct approaches, especially with regards to state involvement into education, this remains a contested field.

While the West German state largely rejected intervention in education and family matters, the East German system was much more encompassing. In this paper I will outline the basic structures of conflicts between parents and teachers in this constellation. Based on their experiences in the GDR, many parents felt that their children were suddenly left without any support by their teachers. They feel that teachers were more engaged in leisure time activities, but also more open to parents in the past. Some feel that the new system establishes unjust social differences between children. In sum, parents are calling for more state-involvement in education. In contrast, teachers feel restricted by new legal regulations on privacy and much larger numbers of pupils. Thus, they no longer know anything about their pupils' private lives and in case of difficulties can not help individually. In addition, they feel unsure in their actions since from their perspective, in the early 1990s they were suddenly blamed by parents for wrongdoings. In short teachers criticise parents, but also the state, for not providing them with an adequate framework.