Parts unknown: a critical exploration of Fishers' social constructs of child labour in Ghana

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Bukari, Shaibu (2016)
  • Subject: HN980 | HV0040 | HQ0767.8

This study from the onset sought to explore, through a postcolonial critique, the meaning ascribed to child labour by fishers in a fishing community in Ghana. The purpose was to inform practice in social work so that social justice might be achieved for working children and their parents. However the study expanded, methodologically and theoretically, to preliminarily include a psychoanalytically informed psychosocial and discursive approach, extending the postcolonial critique to develop a nuanced understandings of the fishers’ lived experience of, and responses to, children’s work. Distinct from the dominant reductionist and positivistic etiologic understandings of child labour, this approach neither derides child labour as morally reprehensible and unequivocally dangerous, nor romanticises its beneficial aspects and links to cultural and traditional beliefs and practices (see Klocker, 2012). Instead, enables understanding of the fishers as ‘defended subjects’ who invest in certain discourses as a way of defending against their vulnerable selves. It also affords a critically reflexive understanding of myself as a ‘defended researcher’, owing to my semi-insider position as a former child labourer, and of the impact of this on my research relationships and findings. The study is intended to inform social worker practices in order to deal with complex situations concerning the relationship among fishers and their children paying equal attention both to the inner and the social circumstances of the fishers (Wilson, Ruch, Lymbery, & Cooper, 2011). In this regard it is inspired by Mel Gray’s (2005) contention that social work practice should be shaped by the extent to which local social, political, economic, historical and cultural factors, as well as local voices, mould and shape social work responses. The study is conducted using critical ethnographic design that draws on the lived experiences of 24 fishers. Attempts were made to explore the fishers’ experiences using psychoanalytically informed method (FANI) in addition to other conventional methods.\ud \ud The study highlights the fishers’ use of narratives of slavery to explicate child labour. It focuses on the relationships that the fishers’ have developed with their children and with the laws surrounding the use of children in work. It gives an indication of how the fishers’ violently and aggressively relate with their working children. It also highlights the fishers’ rejection of the laws surrounding child labour as being foreign and an imposition which excludes customary laws. The study further examines the identities the fishers developed in relation to laws that regulate them and children’s work. It suggests that others see the fishers as powerless subjects who don’t matter. It also underscores my shame and worries as a researcher considered by the fishers as an ‘educated elite’ who works for ‘white people’. It further highlights how I provided self-justifying explications to defend myself as a researcher. The findings imply that solutions to child labour need to be localised paying equal attention to both the psyche and the social life of the fishers. They speak to the imperative for critical review of social workers/NGOs practices taking into account the unconscious processes that go on between fishers as parents and social workers as service providers. This thesis introduces a psychosocial dimension and insight into debates on child labour in Ghana.
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