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ISEK - Department of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies Social and Cultural Anthropology

Everyday Multi-Referentiality – PhD thesis

Ursina Jaeger


Projektbild everyday multi-referentiality

The research project Everyday Multi-Referentiality aims to better understand childhood and upbringing in diversified societies. It is inspired by work on early childhood and educational anthropology, and draws on literature on transnationalism and migration. Starting in one of Zurich’s less affluent neighbourhoods, the study focuses on the lives of children in one specific kindergarten class and their experiences during and outside of school. What happens to configurations of social belonging when these children navigate through their neighbourhood and beyond? What happens to the attribution of being a kindergarten child (with all its attached behavioural expectations), once the child sits at home or visits family members in other countries? How are skin colour, German skills, knowledge of a TV series and other group or person-oriented differentiations understood? How do the children perform the complex configuration of social belonging, and how is social belonging felt and expressed differently within the various sites of their everyday lives?

On a broader analytical level, the study scrutinizes how we can conceptualize the simultaneity of different configurations of these children’s social belongings through deploying and developing a heuristic of what I have come to call multi-referentiality. On a practical level, the study tells the story of different ethnographic pathways that, by way of getting to know the individual children in this transnational kindergarten class over two years, led me to their homes and play spaces, to ballet classes, Swiss social welfare offices, churches and temples, and eventually also to Ghana and Kosovo. It made me stumble over the landscapes of a childhood-migration-schooling nexus, against which the children learn to negotiate sameness and difference.

Further Reading:

Jaeger, Ursina. 2019. ‘Vom Schweizer Kindergarten ins Außerschulische, nach Ghana, und wieder zurück: Wenn Kinder und eine Ethnografin gemeinsam ‚Grenzen‘ überschreiten’. In Perspektiven auf Vielfalt in der frühen Kindheit. Mit Kindern Diversität erforschen., edited by Ingeborg Hedderich, Jeanne Reppin, and Corinne Butschi, 334–47. Bad Heilbrunn: Julius Klinkhardt.

———. (2020) ‘Trumpfkarte Smartphone. Konfigurationen sozialer Ordnung im Alltag einer transnationalen Kindergartenklasse & die Ent-Pädagogisierung der Kindergarten-Ethnografin’. In Digitale Kindheiten, edited by Jutta Wiesemann, Clemens Eisenmann, Inka Fürtig, Jochen Lange, and Bina Mohn, 149-165. Medien der Kooperation. Wiesbaden: Springer.

Jaeger, Ursina, and Boris Nieswand. (2021, forthcoming) ‘Multi-Sited Ethnography zwischen Mobilisierung und Lokalisierung - oder: “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”’ In Handbuch Soziologische Ethnographie. Wiesbaden: Springer.

Knoll, Alex, and Ursina Jaeger. 2020. ‘Lost in Diglossia? (Un-)Doing Difference by Dealing with Language Variations in Swiss Kindergartens’. Ethnography and Education 15 (2): 238–53.