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  • Periodic Report Summary 1 - CONNECTORS (Connectors – an international study into the development of children’s everyday practices of participation in circuits of social action)

CONNECTORS Report Summary

Project ID: 335514
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: United Kingdom

Periodic Report Summary 1 - CONNECTORS (Connectors – an international study into the development of children’s everyday practices of participation in circuits of social action)

How do we become political beings? When and how do we become aware of traditions of social action? At what point in our lives are we roped into making a difference in issues of public concern? The Connectors Study (2014-2019) is a comparative ethnography exploring the relationship between childhood and public life, and in particular how an orientation towards social action emerges in childhood. The primary aims and objectives of the study are to explore questions of children’s encounters, experiences and engagement with the things that matter to them. The study follows 45 children aged 6-9, and their families, living in different areas in three international cities (Athens, Hyderabad, London). We have been using a range of creative methods to explore the lives of city children in these locations including: drawing, hanging out, mapping relationships and neighbourhoods, playing, photographing, talking, and walking. The first phase of the study included 18-months ethnographic fieldwork in each city (Oct 2014-May 2016).

From this research we are finding that ‘connections to public life’ and the ‘emergence of social action’ in childhood (what children think, do, feel about things that matter to them now) are contemporaneous to family histories and national-cultural discourses of activism. The next phase of the study will involve an interdisciplinary conversation between political science, political sociology and political psychology literatures on ‘political socialization’ and childhood studies literatures on ‘children’s participation’ in order to better address dynamics of context, culture and temporality in understanding children’s encounters, experiences and engagements with ‘the political’ and public life. We will be returning to the children in the study in Spring 2017 for a final, short period of data collection.

At the same time the study is also an experiment in the possibilities and limitations of ‘publics creating methodologies’ with a younger demographic and the implications for thinking about political activism across the life course. During the first 30 months of the study the team have experimented with unconventional social science methodologies. In April and May 2016 we ran three creative workshops where the children participating in the study in each city had the chance to meet each other, and to turn one of their photographs into a photo story about what mattered most to them. We are in the process of turning these photo-stories into a book and in 2018 we will be running a public exhibition in each of our three study cities. At the same time we are testing out the possibilities and limitations of online platforms for public engagement in the study themes. We have launched a crowd sourcing activity that solicits ‘earliest political memories’ from the public, which are subsequently re-blogged anonymously as a daily digest on the study blog . This is one way of exploring the resonance of childhood encounters with the political across the life course.

The Connectors Study team have produced two peer-reviewed publications (Nolas, 2015; Nolas, Varvantakis & Aruldoss, 2016) which give background about the thinking that lead to the study. The team are currently working on a Special Issue exploring Political Activism across the Life Course due out in the journal Contemporary Social Science in 2017. The Connectors Study team blog about study progress at

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