Children's Conceptions of Otherness: Constructions of the 'moral Self' and Implications for Experiences of Migration'

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 14:15
Location: Übungsraum 4A KS (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Tobia FATTORE, Department of Sociology, Macquarie University, Australia
Cultural pluralism is a common experience characterizing most societies; however how different societies engage with and manage such pluralism is quite diverse. This paper explores these processes at the level of everyday experiences and practices, specifically by investigating processes of identification and categorization that non-migrant children adopt to understand ‘the other’. It does so by examining what children identify as being important to being a ‘good person’, that is their understanding of what constitutes the moral self and practices of moral agency. Through a multi-stage, multi-method qualitative study with children in Sydney, Australia, we reconstruct children’s understandings to determine to what extent practices seen as necessary of citizens in ‘diverse’, ‘multicultural’ or ‘cosmopolitan’ societies – for example to be flexible in one's identifications, to have a sense of the ‘global’, of being adaptable to context rules - are also evident in children’s discussions of the moral self.

Three themes emerge from the analysis:  the normality of difference and the importance of the personal as moral; practices of justice; and the ‘taken-for-granted’ as the basis for categorizing the ‘strange’. From what we can discern from these three themes, we do not find evidence of a fetishization of difference or of a fundamentalised worldview that attempts to protect certain values from loss, damage or alteration. However we also find that the presence of strangers is unsettling because it often makes visible practices that were previously unnoticed or not reflected upon. By examining the identity work of children who are not of a migration background, we explore implications for how recognition claims made by children from migrant backgrounds might be received.