Ethnographic Practices of Listening

  • Allison Boggis


Whilst increasing numbers of children and young people are actively engaging in research, disabled children and young people’s voices remain marginalised. There are examples of disabled children’s active participation in research studies, but traditionally their roles have been that of passive recipients and objects of enquiry. Seeking out only voices that are easy to hear and easily translatable severely limits the soundscapes of childhood. The ethnography explored here adopts a reflexive approach, using active listening skills as opposed to passive hearing and giving children with disabilities a platform from which to project their voices. This illustrates how disabled children and young people can share their experiences of using augmentative and alternative forms of communication and acknowledges that they have much to say.


  1. Abbott, D. (2013). Who Says What, Where, Why and How? Doing Real-World Research with Disabled Children, Young People and Family Members. In T. Curran & K. Runswick-Cole (Eds.), Disabled Children’s Childhood Studies. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  2. Alcoff, L. M. (2009). The Problem of Speaking for Others. In A. Y. Jackson & L. A. Mazzei (Eds.), Voice in Qualitative Inquiry. Challenging Conventions, Interpretive and Critical Conceptions in Qualitative Research. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Alderson, P., & Montgomery, J. (1996). Healthcare Choices: Making Decisions with Children. London: Institute for Public Policy Research.Google Scholar
  4. Archer, M. (1995). Realist Social Theory: The Morphogenetic Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Back, L. (2007). The Art of Listening. Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar
  6. Becker, H. (1967, Winter). Whose Side Are We On? Social Problems, 14(3), 239–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Beresford, B. (1997). Personal Accounts: Involving Disabled Children in Research. Norwich: Social Policy Research Unit.Google Scholar
  8. Bluebond-Langner, M. (1978). The Private World of Dying Children. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Boggis, A. (2011). Deafening Silences: Researching with Inarticulate Children. Disability Studies Quarterly, 31(4), 1–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Booth, T., & Booth, W. (1996). Sounds of Silence: Narrative Research with Inarticulate Subjects. Disability and Society, 18(Pt. 4), 431–442.Google Scholar
  11. Christensen, P., & Prout, A. (2002). Working with Ethical Symmetry in Social Research with Children. Childhood, 9(4), 477–497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Clarke, A., & Moss, P. (2001). Listening to Young Children: The Mosaic Approach. London: National Children’s Bureau.Google Scholar
  13. Cloke, P., Cook, I., Crang, P., Goodwin, M., Painter, J., & Philo, C. (2004). Practicing Human Geographies. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  14. Corsaro, W. A. (1997). The Sociology of Childhood. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forges Press.Google Scholar
  15. Crang, M., & Cook, I. (2007). Doing Ethnographies. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Curran, T., & Runswick-Cole, K. (Eds.). (2013). Disabled Children’s Childhood Studies. Critical Approaches in a Global Context. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  17. Eisner, E. (1991). The Enlightened Eye: Qualitative Inquiry and the Enhancement of Educational Practice. Toronto: Collier Macmillan Canada.Google Scholar
  18. Emond, R. (2000). Survival of the Skilful: An Ethnographic Study of Two Groups of Young People in Residential Care. Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Stirling.Google Scholar
  19. Fine, M. (1992). Passions, Politics and Power: Feminist Research Possibilities. In M. Fine (Ed.), Disruptive Voices: The Possibilities of Feminist Research. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Franklin, A., & Sloper, P. (2009). Supporting the Participation of Disabled Children and Young People in Decision-Making. Children and Society, 23, 3–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Giddens, A. (1984). The Constitution of Society. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  22. Gilligan, C. (1993). In a Different Voice (2nd ed.). London: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Goodley, D. (2011). Disability Studies: An Interdisciplinary Introduction. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  24. Goodley, D., & Runswick-Cole, K. (2011). Cyborgs: Photovoice and Disabled Children. Presentation to ESRC Seminar Series: Researching the Lives of Disabled Children with a Focus on their Perspectives Seminar 4. Recent Research, University of Bristol, 21st January. Retrieved January 14, 2016, from
  25. Haugen, G. M. D. (2008). Children’s Perspectives on Everyday Experiences of Shared Residence: Time, Emotions and Agency Dilemmas. Children and Society, 11, 71–94.Google Scholar
  26. Huber, J., & Clandinin, D. J. (2002). Ethical Dilemmas in Relational Narrative Enquiry with Children. Qualitative Inquiry, 8(Pt. 6), 785–803.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. James, A., & Prout, A. (1997). Re-presenting Childhood: Time and Transition in the Study of Childhood. In A. James & A. Prout (Eds.), Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood. London: Falmer Press.Google Scholar
  28. Komarovsky, M. (1988). The New Feminist Scholarship: Some Precursors and Polemics. Journal of Marriage and Family, 50, 585–593.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lewis, A. (2010). Silence in the Context of ‘Child Voice’. Children and Society, 24, 14–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. MacNaughton, G., Hughes, P., & Smith, K. (2007). Young Children’s Rights and Public Policy: Practices and Possibilities for Citizenship in the Early Years. Children and Society, 21, 458–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mascia-Lees, F. E., Sharpe, P., & Cohen, C. B. (1989). The Postmodern Turn in Anthropology: Cautions from a Feminist Perspective. Signs, 15, 7–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mayall, B. (2002). Towards a Sociology for Childhood. Thinking from Children’s Lives. Maidenhead: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Mazzei, L. A. (2009). An Impossibly Full Voice. In A. Y. Jackson & L. A. Mazzei (Eds.), Voice in Qualitative Inquiry. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  34. Morris, J. (1993). Independent Lives: Community Care and Disabled People. Basingstoke: Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Morris, J. (1998). Don’t Leave Us Out! Involving Disabled Children and Young People with Communication Impairments. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.Google Scholar
  36. Oliver, M. (1983). Social Work and Disabled People. Basingstoke: Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Oliver, M. (1990). The Politics of Disablement. Basingstoke: Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Oliver, M. (2009). Understanding Disability: From Theory to Practice (2nd ed.). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Paterson, K., & Hughes, B. (1999). Disability Studies and Phenomenology: The Carnal Politics of Everyday Life. Disability and Society, 14(Pt. 5), 597–611.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pink, S. (2015). Doing Sensory Ethnography (2nd ed.). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  41. Priestly, M. (1999). Discourse and Identity: Disabled Children in Mainstream High Schools. In M. Corker & S. French (Eds.), Disability Discourse. Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Prout, A. (2000). The Body, the Childhood and Society. Basingstoke: Macmillan Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Prout, A., & Hallett, C. (2003). Introduction. In Hearing the Voices of Children: Social Policy for a New Century. London: RoutledgeFalmer.Google Scholar
  44. Reinharz, S. (1992). Feminist Methods in Social Research. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Richards, S., Clark, J., & Boggis, A. (2015). Ethical Research with Children. Untold Narratives and Taboos. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Richardson, L. (1990). Writing Strategies: Researching Diverse Audiences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rose, G. (1997). Situating Knowledges: Positionality, Reflexivities and Other Tactics. Progress in Human Geography, 21(Pt. 3), 305–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sherman Heyl, B. (2001). Ethnographic Interviewing. In C. Seale (Ed.), Researching Society and Culture. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  49. Smart, C., Neale, B., & Wade, A. (2001). The Changing Experience of Childhood: Families and Divorce. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  50. Stalker, K., & Connors, C. (2003). Communicating with Disabled Children. Adoption and Fostering, 27(1), 26–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Stanley, L., & Wise, S. (1993). Breaking Out: Feminist Consciousness and Feminist Research. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  52. Stones, R. (2005). Structuration Theory. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Temple, B., & Young, A. (2004). Qualitative Research and Translation Dilemma. Qualitative Research, 4(Pt. 2), 161–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. United Nations. (1989). Conventions on the Rights of the Child. Geneva: United Nations.Google Scholar
  55. Veale, A. (2005). Creative Methodologies in Participatory Research with Children. In S. Green & D. Hogan (Eds.), Researching Children’s Experience: Approaches and Methods. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  56. Weinberg, D. (2006). The Language of Social Science: A Brief Introduction. In P. Drew, G. Raymond, & D. Weinberg (Eds.), Talk and Interaction in Social Research Methods. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  57. Wickenden, M. (2011). ‘Give Me Time and I Will Tell You’: Using Ethnography to Investigate Aspects of Identity with Teenagers Who Use Alternative and Augmentative Methods to Communication. In S. Roulstone & S. McLeod (Eds.), Listening to Children and Young People with Speech, Language and Communication Needs. Guildford: J&R Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allison Boggis
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SuffolkIpswich, SuffolkUK

Personalised recommendations