Accepted Paper:

"Spaghetti, and a special fork for my little brother": children's drawings as idioms of childhood  


Francesca Vaghi (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will discuss children's drawings of food and meals as meaningful depictions of their daily lives through the concept of 'idioms of childhood', which highlights the imaginative and performative dimension of children's modes of communication.

Paper long abstract:

Based on ethnographic research conducted in a inner-London nursery, this paper will focus on drawings about food and mealtimes made by young children. Following the work of childhood studies scholars, particularly Nolas, Varvantakis and Aruldoss (2017) on 'idioms of childhood', drawing activities were used in this project as part of a mixed methods approach. Visual and drawing activities have been championed as one of the ways in which researchers can gain access into children's viewpoints about their daily lives (Punch 2002; O'Connell 2013). It will be argued that drawings created by participants, when pieced together with other types of data and situated in the broader context of this ethnography, provide an insight into what children considered valuable about mealtimes, and their food preferences. Further, following Corsaro's sociology of childhood (2011), drawings will be considered here as one of the ways in which children are creatively involved in the process of 'interpretive reproduction'. As well as showing awareness and understanding of adult norms around mealtimes, drawing provided children with a medium through which to challenge conventions, and to even alter the way in which this was being used as a method by the researcher. Theorising children's drawings as emblematic of their worldviews by using the notion of idioms of childhood thus opens an important avenue through which children's knowledge can be gauged, with significant implications for debates about the integration of children's viewpoints and participation in society.

Panel P055
The Anthropology of Drawing