Agency, Contingency and Relative Good Fortune in Street Children’s Access to Paid Work in Accra’s Informal Street Economy

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 09:00
Oral Presentation
Phillip MIZEN, Aston University, United Kingdom
The sociology of street children is now defined by its rejection of the narratives of child welfare organisations that identify the street as the root cause of children’s immiseration and improper socialisation (Glauser 1997). In its place, sociological analysis has questioned the value of conceptualising street children as a coherent group on the street and in a parallel move has looked to conceptually re-position street children away from assumptions of passivity and neglect, towards a foundational insistence that street children are active and strategic social agents (Offit 2008; Kovats-Bernat 2006; Panter-Brick 2002). It is the adequacy of this latter concern that is the focus of this paper. By reintroducing the location of children within the informal street economy and by considering their efforts to seek paid employment, this paper draws upon extensive and long-term qualitative research examining the lives of street children in Accra, Ghana (Mizen and Ofosu-Kusi 2010a, 2010b). The argument here is that sociological notions of strategic action and efficacious agency seem ill-suited to accounting for the dilemmas and difficulties that the quest for paid work inevitably involves. Rather, it is relative good fortune within the radical uncertainty of the informal street economy that seems much more appropriate to accounting for how these children are integrated into work.