“Play and work were intertwined…” Quote from Cindi Katz on children’s lives in Howa

A lovely quote from Cindi Katz, in  Growing up Global : Economic Restructuring and Children’s Everyday Lives. Minneapolis, MN, USA: University of Minnesota Press, 2004. p 60-61.

The quote – and the scrupulous referencing – are thanks to Matias, who provided additional context that “Katz is referring to the children of a village in rural Sudan, and how ‘development’ has impacted on their play-work continuum”.

Thanks, as always!


“Work and play were key and critical means through which children reproduced themselves and the social and economic life of their village. Play and work were intertwined in the time-space of children’s everyday lives in Howa with deep resonances between the two. An element of play was almost fused with the work of children— they worked at play and played at work— temporally, metaphorically, and imaginatively. They worked while they played and played while they worked, they worked around their play and they played in the interstices of their work, they participated in tasks that were playful and play that was “workful,” and they engaged in play activities whose focus was work.

The unities that bound work and play in the children’s everyday lives frayed under the impress of the changes brought about by the agricultural project and its attendant social relations. One of the obvious reasons for this unraveling was the increase in children’s work time resulting from the intensified cultivation requirements of the project, the decreased availability of wood and the deterioration of nearby pasture areas, and the heightened monetization of the local economy. Still, the ties that joined work and play in Howa were numerous and durable, in part because even as children worked more, it was hard to drain the play out of them. Nevertheless, some of the fine weave between certain work and play practices was worn thin by the uncertainties for the future posed by the project. Yet this is precisely why the children’s work and play activities and their intertwinings were of so much interest to me. If in their work and play children encountered, made sense of, and tried to prepare themselves for the [p. 61] world, they also encountered and engaged the inchoateness of the ways that new and old social relations and cultural forms and practices clashed in that world. Their playful work and workful play were not only ways of making sense of and negotiating these shifting conditions, but they offered glimpses of creative possibilities that were new and different.”


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