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Beyond the Victim

Beyond the Victim: The Politics and Ethics of Empowering Cairo’s Street Children

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Beyond the Victim
    Book Description:

    Street children—abandoned or runaway children living on their own—can be found in cities all over the world, and their numbers are growing despite numerous international programs aimed at helping them. All too frequently, these children are viewed solely as victims or deviants to be rescued and rehabilitated. In Beyond the Victim, sociologist Kamal Fahmi draws on eight years of fieldwork with street children in Cairo to portray them in a much different—and empowering—light. Fahmi argues that, far from being mere victims or deviants, these children, in running away from alienating home lives and finding relative freedom in the street, are capable of actively defining their situations in their own terms. They are able to challenge the roles assigned to children, make judgments, and develop a network of niches and resources in a teeming metropolis such as Cairo. Fahmi suggests that social workers and others need to respect the agency the children display in changing their own lives. In addition to collective advocacy with and on behalf of street children, social workers should empower them by encouraging their voluntary participation in non-formal educational activities.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-563-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acronyms and Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
  5. [Map]
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    Despite widespread concerns and numerous intervention programs aiming at its eradication, the street children phenomenon continues to escalate throughout the world. Indeed, the resilience of the phenomenon matches, if not surpasses, that of the children themselves. I believe that the failure to adequately address this complex and very diverse phenomenon is the result of conceptual confusion with respect to defining who a street child is. The dominant discourse on street children obstinately defines them as victims or deviants to be rescued and rehabilitated. As such, the capacity of many of these children for human agency is occluded by excluding them...

  7. Part 1 Theoretical and Methodological Framework

    • [Part 1 Introduction]
      (pp. 7-8)

      In this part of the book I discuss the theoretical and methodological framework that informed the implementation of the PAR case which targeted street children in Cairo, Egypt, and which I narrate in the second part. In the following two chapters, I review two methodologies of social action/practice and research—participatory action research and street work—which, in combination with street ethnography and action science, were used in an eclectic manner to implement the PAR reported in this book. I refer to street ethnography and action science in Chapter 2 as essential parameters in critical street work.

      In the review...

    • 1 Participatory Action Research
      (pp. 9-46)

      For a great number of international development practitioners, researchers, social workers, and civil society activists who are committed to social justice and to the empowerment of oppressed and excluded social groups, participatory action research (PAR) seems consistent with this commitment (Finn 1994; Healy 2001; Reason 1994; Sohng 1996). Indeed, PAR is now endorsed as an alternative methodology able to respond to the philosophical and methodological challenges facing contemporary social exclusion and the need for the development of effective strategies for social inclusion (Healy 2001; Reason 1994a).

      Authors addressing the general topic of participative inquiry, including PAR, usually acknowledge the fact...

    • 2 Street Work
      (pp. 47-79)

      I was introduced to street work in the early 1980s in Montreal through my participation in the design and implementation ofLe Projet d’Intervention auprès des Mineur(e)s Prostitué(e)(PIaMP), sponsored byLe Bureau de Consultation Jeunesse(BCJ). By design, the PIaMP project employed both street work and action research (AR) as basic methodological tools. In 1993, in Cairo, I incorporated street work into the design of a participatory action research (PAR) project—the subject of this book—with street children and youths, which was implemented over a period of eight years.

      In the early 1980s, when the PIaMP project was...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
  8. Part 2 The Story

    • [Part 2 Introduction]
      (pp. 81-82)

      In this second part of the book, I reconstruct the story of the participatory action research project that targeted the street children of Cairo, Egypt between 1993 and 2001. In this part I am very keen to highlight the processual nature of the undertaking in order to demystify some of the promises alluded to by some PAR discourses. Specifically, my intention is to demonstrate that it is naïve to assume that by simply wishing ourselves into a ‘participatory stance,’ we, as PAR practitioners, will be able to lead the community in transcending historically and culturally rooted differences and conflicts. Both...

    • 3 The Beginning
      (pp. 83-106)

      In this chapter I narrate the beginnings of eight years of action and participatory research bothonandwithCairene street children. This exploratory and preparatory beginning phase required the accomplishment of both technical and political tasks. These included the design of a PAR project to be implemented in developmental stages; the recruitment of individuals; training and educating them in street ethnographic work with a marginal and highly skeptical population of children and youth; the initiation of observation work in the streets of Cairo to identify localities where street children are found; and the covert infiltration of some of the...

    • 4 Conceptual Framework
      (pp. 107-128)

      I present here the sense we made out of the data gathered through observation and participant observation, which constituted the bulk of ethnographic street work that was implemented over the beginning phase of the PAR process described in the previous chapter. The collection and analysis of the data recorded in field notes and critically reflected upon, culminated in the formulation of what is tantamount to a conceptual framework that informed the orientation of the PAR presented in this book. Obviously, given the processual nature of this PAR, this framework, once formulated, did not become a rigid structure. On the contrary,...

    • 5 Continuation of the Story
      (pp. 129-155)

      In this chapter I resume the reconstruction of the PAR process that I began in Chapter 3, in which I described the technical and political goals that needed to be accomplished during the first phase of ‘getting in.’ Ethnographic street work constituted the essence of fieldwork undertaken during this phase. The socio-political act of going onto the street, infiltrating street milieus, and developing relationships of mutual trust and acceptance with street children and their surroundings involved, as we saw, bridging a formidable gap between a mainstream society and a ‘deviant’ society. The construction of the necessary bridges for this operation...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • 6 Impacts and Concluding Commentary
      (pp. 157-170)

      In this last chapter, I will discuss some of the changes brought about by eight years of action and research on and with the street children of Cairo. I will highlight and discuss changes that we observed at the individual and the group level, as well as changes with respect to street children policy in Egypt. I will then summarize and discuss the methodological features that characterized the PAR process presented in this book before ending with a discussion of some of the unresolved issues.

      Another consequence for seeing deviance as an interactive process is that we are able to...

  9. Appendix 1: Profiles of Street Children
    (pp. 171-181)
  10. Appendix 2: Profiles of Street Localities
    (pp. 182-189)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 190-192)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 193-200)
  13. Index
    (pp. 201-202)