Social Representations and Identity Formation of the Children Living on the Streets of Nairobi: A Qualitative Study on Marginalization as a Cultural Issue
12 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2010
Date Written: October 15, 2010
The research investigates to what extent the identity of the street children of Nairobi (Kenya) may be understood by making reference to the subject as the product of social and cultural conditionings or as an entity able, within a narrative continuity, to elaborate reflexively his own experience and to actively produce new meanings and social forms. Literature review considered street culture and practices; social representations of the street children as human waste and criminals thus contributing to self misrepresentations, mistreatments and making the problem chronic. Theoretical framework refers to Moscovici‟s theory of social representation, and to Archer‟s theory of identity and internal conversation. 116 interviews were conducted with street dwellers, ex street boys, family members, NGOs‟ professionals, privileged witnesses and individuals from the local community. A visual participatory technique involving children was also used. Identity of the street children is formed on the relations of belonging and differentiation. Social representations are determinant for the identity formation, but there is also room for identity negotiation in the light of the internal conversation, when such negotiation is experienced as a relational process, oriented by the ultimate concerns, within trustworthy relations. Social representations and identity play a pivotal role in addressing the issue, calling for a cultural shift and a major consideration in designing interventions.
Keywords: street children, social representations, identity, reflexivity, marginality
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