Infancy and Ethnography

Tobias Hecht

in Childhood Studies

ISBN: 9780199791231
Published online March 2012 | | DOI:
Infancy and Ethnography

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The study of infancy remains mostly the province of the specialists: developmental psychologists, pediatricians, nutritionists, educators. Infants, by definition—if one remembers the Latin root of the word—cannot speak. They also have limited autonomy. How then can one study them ethnographically? The references collected here suggest the richness of available research methods and the gamut of infant-centered ethnographic topics being researched. Infants have captured the attention of ethnographers for about a century, albeit infrequently. Methods of study, culled from a variety of fields and some invented, have been practiced and refined over a long period of time. In some cases, ethnographies are challenging what have been taken as biological certainties, for instance that attachment to a single individual or a small number of individuals is necessary for healthy development. Ethnography allows one to see infants in a somewhat different light because one studies them outside of controlled environments and often spends much more time in their presence. Some of the sources are not ethnographic per se but do present research conducted outside of controlled environments and use ethnographic methods. At the beginning of the 1970s, gender studies had only a tenuous foothold in the humanities. If this once-tiny niche has unsettled disciplines from history to English to sociology, it is partly because it has made us view familiar phenomena and events in a different light. By studying babies within the larger sphere of social life, the ethnography of infants may render new perspectives on social life at large. This bibliography highlights sources that demonstrate both how infants can be studied and how studying them can enrich anthropology, psychology, education, and other disciplines.

Article.  6550 words. 

Subjects: Development Studies

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