Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Anthropology, University of Toronto

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2005
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Human Development, University of Chicago
Left Behind? The Socialization of Orphaned Children in Contemporary Botswana

In the wake of widespread adult death, Botswana's HIV/AIDS pandemic has left behind 78,000 orphaned children for whom the extended family is increasingly unable to provide adequate care. This comparative ethnographic research will examine how orphans are socialized - namely, the process by which they acquire particular values, behaviors and norms - in three institutions designed to support orphans' development. As international and local organizations attempt to provide new solutions for the needs of orphans, their programs are inadvertently subverting the critical Tswana belief that childrearing is the privileged right of the family. Through an analysis of children's interactions with their caregivers, this research will uncover the precise processes by which orphans are coming to acquire culturally radical values and behaviors. I aim to show how the non-'normal' patterns of childrearing at orphan care institutions are instilling in these children expectations and behaviors that are fundamentally at odds with 'traditional' Tswana values about family and the social position of young people. Initially disadvantaged, but now empowered, orphans have begun to occupy contradictory positions within their communities, with significant ramifications for their future and for that of their society. Are orphans actually being 'left behind' in the social structure of Botswana, or are they in fact at the vanguard of social change? By focusing on the patterns of interaction between orphans and the various adults involved in their upbringing, this research will supplement anthropological studies of children, which tend to focus on either normative childrearing practices or more symbolic conceptions of childhood. This research will also continue in the vein of many Africanist researchers ( e.g., James Ferguson, Erica Bornstein) who illustrate how the intentions and expectations of aid organizations often translate into very different realities 'on the ground'.