Institutt for sosialantropologi

The ’Brutal Freedom’ of Street Life

Challenges in Assisting Street Children out of Street Life


by Ida Marie Lyså

Supervisor: John Andrew McNeish

In this thesis I aim to explain why it can be difficult to assist street children out of street life.
Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in a day centre for street children in Buenos Aires, where I worked as a volunteer for several months, I attempt to address the complex lives of street children. Particular focus has been given to the processes of adaptation the children go through in order to ‘get used to’ living a life on the streets, and furthermore, on the challenges appearing when the children potentially leave street life. In line with recent social research on childhood, where children are seen as social actors shaping and being shaped by their surroundings (like adults), the notion of child agency is stressed throughout the thesis. Street children are presented as urban hunters and gatherers, in terms of their economic and social usage of the street as their local habitat, and in order to illustrate their creative and active approach to street life. Furthermore, the brutal reality of street life and how the children cope with, and are affected by, the challenges appearing in the street context, make out a separate chapter in this thesis. Pierre Bourdieu’s ‘theory of practice’ is used throughout the thesis, both in terms of explaining the process of street life adaptation, the challenges appearing for street children in the encounter with the coordinators aiming to help them, as well as in order to show how the children must go through a new process of adaptation when leaving the life on the streets.