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The Importance of Learning from Children

Now available in paperback, Learning from The Children: Childhood, Culture and Identity in a Changing World, edited by Jacqueline Waldren and Ignacy-Marek Kaminski, explores the world of children and their significant role in current society and its future. The following text is Waldren’s reflection on the book’s importance, supplemented by a selection of images from the volume. 


Children have increasingly come into the forefront as culture makers and not just as extensions to the study of adults. At the same time, children are commonly depicted as victims of war, poverty or illness. Cultural values regarding the meaning of children, families, and belonging vary greatly and notions of the child, childhood and identity alter across time and space.


The social-power dynamics involved in adult-child relations need to be examined giving equal voices to the participants. Our experience and the issues revealed in these studies suggest that children in complex interactions were neither passive recipients nor infantilized mere receptors of environmental stimuli or of adult culture and power. From the late 1990’s onwards, the research of children and childhoods has gradually become a topic of study in the social sciences. These articles aim to advance this research and provide qualitative studies on educating children in Britain, Spain, Japan and Israel, forced marriages and honour killings in Pakistan paying attention to children’s own perspectives, agencies and interdependencies while exploring the dilemmas of contemporary parenting.


The idea for this book derived from conversations with various colleagues who shared their experiences of bringing up their children in “foreign” countries and the diverse lives, identities and experiences of those children. An important aspect of the papers in this book is the direct involvement of the researchers in their studies as parents, teachers, subjects, or policy makers and the voices they offer of the children or young people in their studies.


Wordsworth’s “The child is father of the man” suggests the adult personality is largely conditioned by childhood experiences or more precisely by the emotional impact of those experiences on the child. Having children increases the complexity of these early experiences…and adds new untrod paths…


We ask if adults are ready to have their parental roles redefined by their offspring’s rapidly changing needs? If so, what are the common cultural and social mechanisms that both the children and parents can benefit from in our increasingly interdependent global community?



Following are some of the images from the volume:


9.1 Scan 1


Akane-Liv Okamoto-Kaminski wearing her Polish National Dress in the family Tokyo home, 1982.


Photo 1

The top photo, which is Also the book cover, is Ken-Stanislaw and Akane-Liv preparing for their first Swedish Mid Summer celebrations, Stockholm 1986. The photos below are of, left, Ken-Stanislaw attending a family wedding in Poland, 2014, and Akane-Liv (right, bottom corner) with Japanese family friends after her Tokyo Theatre performance, 2014.



image 6

Nafisa Shah’s field site, Upper Sindh, Pakistan.


image 3

This photo, taken by Nafisa Shah, puts a face on potential victims of forced marriages and honour killings in Pakistan.


image 4 image 5

Above, editor Jackie Waldren’s multicultural family.


image 7

Jackie Waldren’s grandson shows his technological expertise: “Grandma, I will show you how to clean up your desktop!”

Keynan_Malik copy


Two of Jackie Wadren’s grandsons at the ages of 4 (left) and 2.


music 006

In Elsa Dawson’s chapter, the author writes about what she has learned from her daughter, who has Angelman Syndrome, a neuro-genetic developmental disorder. Above is Elisa with her mother at a music, art, and dance festival.


Elisa has fun at Towersey Folk Festival.




Jacqueline Waldren is Research Associate, Lecturer and Tutor in the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology and International Gender Studies and a member of Linacre College, University of Oxford. Her research on Europe includes identity, gender, migration, tourism and lifestyle changes. Her publications include Insiders and Outsiders(1996), Tourists and Tourism (co-ed., 1997), Anthropological Perspectives on Local Development (co-ed., 2004) and many articles. She is Director of DAMARC, Deia Archaeological and Anthropological Museum and Research Centre in Mallorca, Spain.


Ignacy-Marek Kaminski is a Lecturer in Social Anthropology at Mejiro University, Tokyo; Associate Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Social Anthropology at Goteborg University; and Visiting Senior Fellow at Linacre College, Oxford University. He has done fieldwork among the Ainu, Inuit, Roma and Ryukyuans; his research focuses on transitive identity, conflict resolution and leadership. His works are published in twelve languages.


Series: Volume 35, New Directions in Anthropology