Agency, Vulnerability and Citizenship of Semiautonomous Youth in Nicaragua: Voices of Former Street Children

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2012
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Haverford College. Department of Anthropology
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Award
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eng
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Open Access
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Abstract
This investigation draws on two summers of fieldwork with La Asociación Los Quinchos, a Nicaraguan non-profit organization dedicated to the empowerment of street children. The aim of this paper is to elucidate the various ways in which Nicaraguan history and political economy have both shaped and strained the family, and contributed to the rising number of children living in the streets. This historical trajectory marks shifting ideologies of childhood situated during times of dictatorial rule, civil war and socialist reform, and finally neoliberal political economy. The second focus of this paper is the liminal position street children occupy between sites of agency and self-sufficiency on the one hand and extreme social vulnerability on the other. While recent developments in child-centered anthropology have called upon researchers, states and social institutions to see children as competent social actors and not just cultural beings in-the-making, this paper seeks to take a step back from this criticism and recall the various ways in which youth continue to inhabit deeply troubling power imbalances predicated on age. Insofar as street children represent a marginal population in Nicaragua, how do their testimonies point to the continued experience of vulnerability? In place of a strict dichotomy between agency and vulnerability, this paper calls for a more nuanced, ambivalent and porous view of youth agency/vulnerability. The argument here is that experiences of vulnerability do not preclude the fact that children are still competent social actors in their own right.
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