Sara Elizabeth Thiam
Grant TypePost PhD Research Grant
Institutional AffiliationCase Western Reserve U.
Grant numberGr. 9798
Approve DateApril 27, 2019
Project TitleThiam, Sara (Case Western Reserve U.) "Child-Centered Ethnography of 'Taalibe' Qur'anic School Students' Experiences of Begging in Dakar, Senegal"
This project seeks a child-centered perspective on the lived experiences of Qur’anic student beggars, locally called ‘taalibes,’ in Dakar, Senegal, through ethnographic field research. Increasing numbers of residential ‘taalibes’ are migrating to urban Senegal to support their studies with begging, and prominent activist accounts depict the nearly 7,000 ‘taalibes’ begging in Dakar as victims of exploitation. Child-centered ethnographies of children in difficult situations suggest that activist accounts often inaccurately render children passive, and thereby fail to account for their active roles in shaping their lived experiences. My research will offer a clearer understanding of ‘taalibes’’ subjective understandings of their situations, how they self-organize as members of Qur’anic school groups, how their social identity as Qur’anic students affects their interactions with community members in streets, and how they manifest agency. My methods include surveying begging ‘taalibes’ in a 6-block area of a densely-populated Dakar neighborhood and conducting interviews with six ‘taalibes’ every day for three weeks, in addition to participant observation of street activity, adult community member interviews, and street-scape photography and video-recording. I expect this research to have important theoretical implications for understanding cultural constructions of childhood and children’s shifting social roles in changing times.