Golden Cages to Poor Children

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Clara CARRENO MANOSALVA, Universidad de La Salle, Colombia
This paper emerged from the doctoral research: The mothers, families and children of the south: Ethnographic views of child protection in the city of Bogotá. The research aimed to examine struggles of institutional child protection involving local and national institutions who are responsible for the safeguarding of poor children, that in their judgment are not well taken care of. The study highlighted the intervention practices and representations of public servants – responsible for children under protection –, children and their families. One part of the ethnographic field work was carried out in a centre of child protection, where children were ‘confined’ as a modality of legal institutional protection.

In this centre, as in other children’s education settings, the modulation of the voice and the body of the ‘child’ was only given meaning and recognition through the subject recognised as an adult (Milstein and Mendes, 1999). Thus, different ethnographic activities were carried out to hear the accounts of ‘confined’ children about social and institutional control exercised on themselves, their mothers and families. A theatre play was one of the spaces in which children expressed the social suffering they experienced when they became ‘subjects of institutional protection’. Children expressed anger toward their condition of being institutionalised and they confronted those who mistreat them. At the same time, children demonstrated strategically their compliance with dominant ideas of institutional justice, which was performed as revenge.

The analysis of this play revealed children’s implicit knowledge (Taussig, 1989) of institutional and legal practices from which they are subject to. Children conjugated sarcasm, critique and euphoria to perform the power exercises of civil servants toward the domestic units, the way in which care practices and family relations are impugned and the privation of freedom as a privileged way of justice.