The acoustics of peripheral wisdom: childhood and public life
Melissa Nolas (Goldsmiths College, University of London)
Christos Varvantakis (University of Flensburg)
Vinnarasan Aruldoss (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Paper short abstract:
We examine children's lived experience as knowing subjects. Drawing on evidence from a multimodal ethnographic study on the relationship between childhood and public life we trouble what it means to tune into peripheral wisdom in relation to key theoretical terms (public, private and non-human).
Paper long abstract:
Described as 'the century of the child', children from the 1900s onwards became a central focus of nation building, a way of prefiguring the future in the present. In this paper, we examine the consequences of 'the century of the child' for children's lived experience as knowing subjects. While childhood has become the obsessive preoccupation of adults, we argue that children, conceived as radical others to professional and technocratic systems of knowledge, have much to teach us about peripheral knowledge, its production and recognition. Drawing on evidence from a multimodal ethnographic study (the ERC funded Connectors Study) that looks at the relationship between childhood and public life, and deploying an anthropological sensibility that recognises children's everyday lives as idiomatically constructed, we engage with the acoustics of peripheral wisdom. Children, we argue are largely caught up in the contemporary phenomenon of hearing without listening. We carry out a reflexive idiomatic reading of what it means and feels like to encounter childhood on over 300 collective fieldwork encounters with forty-five six- to eight-year-old children living in three international cities (Athens, Hyderabad, London). We argue that dominant understandings of listening to children rely heavily on cognitive, conceptual and rational models of an idealised form of communication that ignore the everyday, embodied and lived experiences of idioms of childhood. Through ethnographic thick description we trouble what it means to tune into children's worlds, and present findings on the meanings and practices of key theoretical terms, public, private and non-human, for children.
Peripheral wisdom [#Colleex network]