I met Dr. Leigh Campoamor (she worked with prof. Mignolo and Arturo Escobar) on 20 th june, and we talk about the open letter to United Nations signed by 74 experts of all the world about street and working children and also about Leigh research about “Public Childhoods: Street Labor, Family, and the Politics of Progress in Peru”.
Prof. Campoamor explains me:
“In January 2001, while I was doing my research in Ayacucho (Peru), I went to Lima for a workshop and met two teenagers who completely turned my world upside down. They were representatives from a grassroots working children’s movement that recognized children’s work as a dignifying practice. Initially, I had trouble wrapping my North American head around this seemingly counterintuitive concept: wasn’t child labor an inherent injustice? While a critique of development discourse had driven my interest in the workings of NGOs, I saw a difference between critiquing Western liberal notions of progress and promoting what I understood to be unjust practices. The teenagers denounced exploitative forms of labor, but had a very well-articulated project that was committed to addressing social injustice by reconceptualizing children as active political subjects for whom work is a central part of life, rather than as passive “future citizens” in an adultocentrist world. Once I began my job collecting ephemera for Princeton in 2002, I got to know them even more and saw how their movement challenged the rhetoric of international development, in particular the dominant definitions and assumptions about children and their rights. Initially, my dissertation field research was going to concentrate almost exclusively on the movement. I realized, however, that in order to get a fuller understanding of the politics of child labor in Peru, I needed to expand my focus so that I got to know kids who work on the street but do not belong to such an organization.
My dissertation is based on twenty-two months of fieldwork in Peru, in addition to several one- and two-month periods of preliminary and follow-up research. As an ethnographer, my research consisted primarily of accompanying children as they went about their daily routines. Beyond “hanging out” in their workspaces, which included a busy traffic intersection in an upper-middle class district and public buses, I also spent a great deal of time with the children’s families, typically in their homes in Lima’s shantytowns and working-class neighborhoods. I also attended meetings and otherwise participated in institutional spaces such as NGOs, social movements, Congressional hearings, and advocacy groups. Finally, in order to gain a more long-term perspective on discussions and policies involving childhood, I conducted research in Lima’s historical archives”.