Hidden Heads of Households

Hidden Heads of Households: Child Labor in Urban Northeast Brazil

Mary Lorena Kenny
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 2
Pages: 144
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt2tv26v
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  • Book Info
    Hidden Heads of Households
    Book Description:

    "Kenny treats the often taboo topic of child labor with clear-eyed perception and a bracing lack of sentimentality." - Barbara J. Price, Columbia University

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-0329-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. IX-XII)
  5. CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-12)

    In 1994, soon after arriving in Recife, the capital of the state of Pernambuco in Northeast Brazil, I was walking in a heavily trafficked commercial district near the church of Nossa Senhora do Carmo when a crowd that had gathered around a small, thin boy accompanied by an adult male caught my attention. At first, it seemed as if they were doing magic tricks, acrobatics, or playing music. The boy sat on a towel on the ground while the older man talked and prepared the crowd for a performance. He told us that the boy would lie down on a...

  6. CHAPTER TWO RESEARCHING CHILD LABOR
    (pp. 13-24)

    This was Nilda’s response after I was introduced to her by the head of an non-governmental organization (NGO) working with street kids. She had just completed a survey with a North American public health researcher from Johns Hopkins University on abortion among street girls, and feared, I imagine, having to sit through another interview/survey. I was one of many foreign and Brazilian researchers interested in the lives of street children. Street kids tend to receive more attention than the “invisible” poor living in extreme poverty, even though their numbers are much greater. The splintering of street youth from “home” children...

  7. CHAPTER THREE SITUATING POOR CHILDHOODS
    (pp. 25-46)

    Brazil, the fifth-largest country in the world, ranks as one of the most powerful and dynamic economies in Latin America and among the largest in the world. Yet extreme income inequality (the poorest 20 per cent account for only 2 per cent of national income), racism, and violence perpetuate significant disparities. Over 25 per cent of the population lives on less than $2 a day and 13 per cent live on less than $1 a day (World Bank, 2005).

    In Northeast Brazil,¹ over 50 per cent of the population is classified as poor. Five hundred years ago, this region was...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR OLINDA
    (pp. 47-62)

    Olinda is a located on the Atlantic Ocean, 6 kilometers north of Recife. The area was “given” to Duarte Coelho Pereira by the Portuguese King John III in 1534 as one of the manycapitaniasor areas to be developed and administered by a wealthy entrepreneur on behalf of the king. Through the exportation first of brazilwood (based on the labor of enslaved Indians), then sugar cane (based on the labor of enslaved Africans), the colony flourished. In 1630 the Dutch invaded Pernambuco. For 25 years, they dominated a huge expanse from today Sergipe to Ceará. The capital was transferred...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE WORK AND SCHOOL IN URBAN BRAZIL
    (pp. 63-98)

    In this next chapter, I discuss some of the particular labor niches children occupy within the context of their communities. Many girls work as domestics, while boys begin work early as tour guides. Domestic work in the home is unremunerated and seen as “normal” for females, and frees adults to work both inside and outside the home. Although they often spoke of themselves as the “head of the household,” in practice there is little if any increase in autonomy, power, and decision making associated with children’s earnings.

    Pernambuco ranks third in its percentage of child laborers in the country. About...

  10. CHAPTER SIX STREET CHILDREN IN NORTHEAST BRAZIL
    (pp. 99-108)

    In this chapter I explore a popular label (street child) used to describe and differentiate children. Children who workinthe street are calledmeninos/as na ruaand are “housed” in some way, regardless of the precarious conditions in which they live. “Street children” (meninos/as da rua) are those who eke out a living on the street, are assumed to be “unattached” to their natal family, and are in general defined by what they lack. Both labels homogenize children’s experiences, their backgrounds, the nature and extent of contact with their families, and access to resources.

    Regional differences, economic conditions, means...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN CONCLUSION
    (pp. 109-114)

    The Brazilian Constitution (Article 227) states that “it is the duty of the family, society and state to assure children and adolescents, with absolute priority, of the rights to life, health, food, education, recreation, professional training, culture, dignity, respect, freedom, and family and community life, in addition to safeguarding them from all forms of neglect, discrimination, exploitation, violence, cruelty and oppression.” Roberto da Silva, now 39 and an “ex” street kid, exercised this right by filing a court action against the state of São Paulo, holding the state responsible for the conditions that led to his living on the street.¹...

  12. APPENDIX A: SAMPLE SURVEY
    (pp. 115-116)
  13. APPENDIX B: ORGANIZATIONS THAT ADDRESS THE ISSUE OF CHILD LABOR
    (pp. 117-120)
  14. REFERENCES
    (pp. 121-134)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 135-144)