Some other ‘primitive forms of classification’. Contribution to the study of children's collective representations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This methods paper addresses a simple, yet curiously understudied question: When do we first acquire the ability to view specific persons, properties and practices as ‘similar’ or ‘different’, ‘equal’ or ‘unequal’ in social status? Despite sociology's theoretical commitment to the importance of ‘primary socialization’, sociological research on the ontogenesis of our ability to situate ourselves and others in social space remains scarce. This paper argues that the reasons for sociology's ‘child neglect’ are not purely conceptual, but also methodological in nature. Conventional sociological methods are in fact not particularly well-geared to dealing with the obstacles that accompany the study of young actors. This paper discusses three of these obstacles – mastery of language, limitations in attention-span and the asymmetry of the researcher/respondent-relationship – and presents a visual method designed to circumvent or minimize their impact. This method centers around a classificatory game that allows children to combine a set of drawings of persons and objects according to different and even opposing principles of classification (i.e. color or social status). Preliminary results produced by this method suggest that an elementary ‘social sense’ already starts to form among preschoolers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101667
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalPoetics
Volume91
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was made possible by generous grants from the Flemish Science Foundation ( FWO – G066620N ) and the Research Council of the Free University of Brussels ( VUB - DEFIS4203 ). Earlier drafts of this paper were presented at seminars in London (‘Cultural Capital and Inequality in the 21st Century’), Paris (‘Rising Inequalities III’) and Brussels (‘Thinking Through Technique’). We are grateful to the participants for their many constructive criticisms, as well as to the anonymous reviewers of Poetics for their many insightful comments in what are undoubtedly turbulent and trying times. We also thank Febe, Ida, Jemina, Lien, Liesbeth, Sara-Lynn and Serafine for their invaluable help with the fieldwork reported in this paper.

Funding Information:
This research was made possible by generous grants from the Flemish Science Foundation (FWO ? G066620N) and the Research Council of the Free University of Brussels (VUB - DEFIS4203). Earlier drafts of this paper were presented at seminars in London (?Cultural Capital and Inequality in the 21st Century?), Paris (?Rising Inequalities III?) and Brussels (?Thinking Through Technique?). We are grateful to the participants for their many constructive criticisms, as well as to the anonymous reviewers of Poetics for their many insightful comments in what are undoubtedly turbulent and trying times. We also thank Febe, Ida, Jemina, Lien, Liesbeth, Sara-Lynn and Serafine for their invaluable help with the fieldwork reported in this paper.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier B.V.

Copyright:
Copyright 2022 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

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