Learning from babies: the productivity of observation in the ethnographic characterization of way of life
(University of La Plata-CONICET)
Paper short abstract:
What can we learn, as ethnographers, about a particular way of life by observing babies and children's ordinary life? This paper aims to stress the heuristic value of observation techniques and video record in the ethnographic study of childhood development in the context of daily routines.
Paper long abstract:
"Why you are observing my child? What do you think you can learn about our Mbya reko (Mbya culture) by merely observing my child?" Asked me a young father during my first fieldwork in a Mbya Guarani community. Very surprised he reminded me the best way to learn about the "Ñande reko": by listening the "Ayvu Pora" (The Beautiful Words) by talking with the elders. Aparently, from adult´s perspective, babies and children have nothing to teach to the ethnographer. So, I ask myself: What can we learn, as ethnographers, about a particular way of life by observing babies and young children´s ordinary life? As Malinowski (1964) stated, as ethnographers we should observe the "primitive forms" of linguistic meaning and its growth through time, by focusing on children behavior and activities in context. By doing that, we learn the language, and through it, the culture. In that sense, an ethnographer is like a child. Some of these ideas inspired me at the beginning of my ethnographic research and, by following them, I decided to observe babies in the context of daily routines at domestic scope, focusing in their interactions with the inmediate environment. Based on my ethonographic fieldwork in indigenous communities of Argentina, this paper aims to stress the heuristic potential of observation techniques and video record in the ethnographic study of childhood development. We intent to reflect about the value of this knowledge in the understanding of crucial aspects of a particular way of life, the "Mbya reko".
Learning of/with children: anthropologist at "school" (CLOSED) (Commission on Children, Youth and Childhood)