Publication Details

Klocker, N. (2012). Conducting sensitive research in the present and past tense: recounting the stories of current and former child domestic workers. Geoforum, 43 (5), 894-904.


In recent years, scholarship on children's work has increasingly incorporated the perspectives of working children. Although laudable, this shift toward children's inclusion in research has concentrated on those employed at the time of data collection. Former child workers have largely been overlooked as a source of information. This paper reflects on research conducted with current and former child domestic workers in Tanzania. The child domestic working experiences reported by those two groups diverged markedly: those who had already ceased employment reported far higher rates of dissatisfaction with child domestic work, and far more experiences of exploitation and abuse, than those who were still employed in the sector. This paper explores issues of memory, identity, representation and performance to propose explanations for such dissonance. It concludes that the (near) exclusive focus of the literature on children who are currently employed is of some considerable concern, as scholars often make practical and policy-oriented recommendations about children's work on the basis of their findings. This paper makes a case that all 'versions' of a phenomenon offer (at best) partial insights into lived experiences and that researchers investigating sensitive issues, whether with adults or children, may benefit from conducting research in both the past and present tense.



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