Childhood Unmasked

The Agency of Brazil's Street and Working Children (Revised First Edition)
By Marcia Mikulak, Ph.D.
©2015, 388 pages

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Childhood Unmasked

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    Childhood Unmasked: The Agency of Brazil's Street and Working Children argues that Western European social constructions that define childhood as a time of innocence and vulnerability are often not relevant to the lives of economically poor children.

    Based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork with street and working children in Brazil, Childhood Unmasked speaks to the adverse effects these imported notions of childhood have on them. It links the notions of innocence to Brazil’s complex racial history and social class divisions, and considers them as a cause of the violence against street and working children.

    Through interviews with children and the non-governmental organizations that work with them, the book illustrates the lives of street children, contrasts them to the social stereotypes about them, and links them to the expectations of idealized childhood. These lives are explored through examinations of self-esteem, racial stereotypes, violence, hunger, living conditions, and health and illness.

    Childhood Unmasked advocates for children as viable social actors who can speak the truth about their own identities and life experiences. The book can be used in courses on ethnographic methodology, cultural theory, social science, and special topics in anthropology.

    Marcia Mikulak earned her Ph.D in cultural anthropology at the University of New Mexico, and is a professor of anthropology at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. Dr. Mikulak's research interests include human rights, social and cultural constructions of childhood, and rural and urban migration. She has extensive applied fieldwork experience in Brazil, where she has carried out research in collaboration with street and working children, and she is a Brazil country specialist for Amnesty International. Her writing has appeared in a variety of journals including the Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences and Humanity and Society. Her recent book Searching for a New Paradigm: A Cultural Anthropology Reader was published in 2014.
    Other Cognella titles by Marcia Mikulak:

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    “I read Marcia Mikulak's important study of the plight of Brazil's street children, Childhood Unmasked, with utter fascination. Using one town, Morro de Santana, as a microcosm of a national problem, Dr. Mikulak takes us into a harsh and frequently bleak world. The children of the favelas are mostly Afro-Brazilian, and their lives are marked with poverty, violence, hunger and a persistent racism that the government and more affluent members of society refuse to admit exists. A number of NGOs maintain programs to help street children, but as Dr. Mikulak points out, their effectiveness is hampered because they are guided by their preconceived notions and not the reality of their charges. She takes us behind the statistics and puts a human face on the problem, interviewing parents, teachers, administrators and, of course, the children themselves. The picture is not pretty, but Dr. Mikulak leaves us with some hopeful suggestions as to how NGOs can make necessary changes to improve their services, and how the Children of the Street can become social change agents who take the lead in shaping their own destiny. Highly recommended.”
    Burt Kempner
    Award-winning Writer-Producer
    Founder of Mild Wild Media, LLC