Learning to listen: exploring the idioms of childhood

Nolas, Sevasti-Melissa; Aruldoss, Vinnarasan and Varvantakis, Christos. 2019. Learning to listen: exploring the idioms of childhood. Sociological Research Online, 24(3), pp. 394-413. ISSN 1360-7804 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

How do we recognise children’s participation and their relationships to public life? Drawing on evidence from ethnographic fieldwork conducted between 2014-2016 for the ERC funded Connectors Study on the relationship between childhood and public life, this paper explores the ways in which children communicate their encounters with public life. Τhe contemporary phenomenon of listening without hearing is discussed as this relates to the call for listening to children and the simultaneous failure to hear what they say. Idioms are introduced as an ‘instrument’ for thinking through what it means and feels like to encounter and make sense of childhood and children’s practices of relating to public life. The analysis focuses on three emblematic encounters with six- to eight-year-old children living in Athens, Hyderabad, London. We argue that dominant understandings of listening to children rely heavily on cognitive, conceptual and rational models of idealised and largely verbal forms of communication that ignore the affective, embodied and lived dimensions of making meaning. Through ethnographic thick description we trouble what it means to tune into children’s worlds and to ‘properly hear’, and in so doing demonstrate the ways in which idioms support an understanding of what matters to children.

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childhood, public life, listening, idioms, participation, multimodal ethnography, comparative research.

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12 October 2018Accepted
26 November 2018Published Online
22 August 2019Published

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22 Oct 2018 09:59

Last Modified:

09 Jun 2021 17:42

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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