Anthropologists increasingly interview children, often as consultants for agencies working with children defined as 'vulnerable'. This panel aims to examine novel techniques for interviewing children, problematizing the idea of 'vulnerability', while exploring ethical issues.
The development of a specific anthropology of children over the past three decades means that anthropologists increasingly engage in 'structured conversations' with children (defined by the United Nations as people less than 18 years old). The advantages of listening to this previously muted group, are balanced by the difficulty some children have finding words, and sufficient confidence, to respond to adult questions. A range of techniques, such as drawings, visual stimulus, photographs, role play and puppets, has been used successfully in fieldwork with children, to minimize adult power and verbal ablities, while empowering children to share their ideas and experiences.
The ethical issues involved in research with children also require special attention, not least with children defined as 'vulnerable' by welfare agencies who employ anthropologists as research consultants. In general terms, vulnerability refers to factors, such as armed conflict and natural disaster, which might make children more likely to suffer violations of their rights, or to children who lack some basic elements of protection, such as living and loving parents. It is clear that to ask such children direct questions in interviews risks at best direct lies in response, or at worst (re)traumatization and harm to children.
This panel aims to examine the techniques anthropologists are now using to engage in ethical conversation with children during research. Papers are likely to focus on the ethical, legal and practical issues involved, and to provide opportunities for discussing and sharing experiences in this relatively new field.