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Dancing Dolls: Animating Childhood in a Contemporary Kazakhstani Institution

Barker, Meghanne; (2019) Dancing Dolls: Animating Childhood in a Contemporary Kazakhstani Institution. Anthropological Quarterly , 92 (2) pp. 311-343. 10.1353/anq.2019.0017. Green open access

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Abstract

This article shows how marginalized children use performance to animate hyperbolic representations of ideal childhood at a state-run home for children in Kazakhstan. Children growing up in institutional group homes, such as orphanages, are frequently objects of pity and stigmatization. These institutions rely on state and private donations. They compete for continued support with an increasingly diverse field of alternative social welfare programs. Based on observations between 2012 and 2014 at Hope House—a temporary, state-run home (with private sponsors) in Almaty—I examine how teachers socialize children into roles of performing for visiting adults. Their songs and poems solicit affection and ongoing engagement from visiting spectators, who include state inspectors, corporate sponsors, and parents who have promised to return for them. These animations stage ideal versions of childhood: children show their vulnerability, and thus their need for support, but also offer promises of their potential. That is, the children work to show that they require assistance now, but will grow up to be competent adults, despite the perceived threat that early institutionalization presents to their development. As these children take on roles that render them helpless or even object-like, they nonetheless actively participate in inviting and sustaining interaction with and investment from visiting adults. Teachers compel children to recite poems and to dance as puppets come to life, exercising both care and control. These routines are thus not simply a show for outsiders. Rather, teachers socialize children through repetition and rehearsal. These animations form a crucial modality through which the children develop relationships with adults inside and outside the institutional home.

Type: Article
Title: Dancing Dolls: Animating Childhood in a Contemporary Kazakhstani Institution
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1353/anq.2019.0017
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1353/anq.2019.0017
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Education, Practice and Society
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10144550
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