Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, Sociology and Anthropology

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2012
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of Michigan
Blackness, Work, and Repression: Street Children at Play in Guayaquil, Ecuador

In Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, street children line the traffic intersections, enmeshed in the city’s landscape: juggling tennis balls, washing windshields, selling flowers and oranges, and begging passers-by for money. Although a majority of these “street” children do not live on the streets, their work places them there and links them to images of poverty and childhood in an attempt to inspire compassion from those driving by: they frown as they walk from one car window to the next and some children hold signs describing a disability or an illness. These are the images outlining the city. Over 30 percent of Ecuador’s population is under the age of 15, and, as of 2006, approximately 20 percent of children in Ecuador live and work on the streets (Velasco 2006). This phenomenon is not unique to Ecuador, as 20 percent of children in Latin America work (typically on the streets), but the racialized discourses surrounding Ecuadorian street children—“indians” in the highlands and “blacks” on the coast—highlight specific tensions and ethno-racial stereotypes that accompany Ecuadorian poverty. This project explores the interconnections of the forms of play and work of Afro-Ecuadorian street children in Guayaquil, as a means of understanding how these children conceptualize their worlds and how these conceptualizations challenge traditional play theories and traditional ideas of childhood. My research calls attention to growing social inequalities, questioning the ways in which poverty, hope, and survival are intertwined in Guayaquil and how and why forms of play, work, and “care and compassion” (Ticktin 2011) emerge in the relationships between street children, their families/guardians, and governmental and nongovernmental entities.