From play to knowledge: from visual to verbal?


  • Lucy Atkinson University of Edinburgh



This article relates my experiences using playful child-centred research techniques whilst undertaking research with Congolese refugee children in Zambia. Such techniques generate rich and varied information, and often in unexpected ways. They also create a format whereby the researcher and the children can interact and form relationships outside the usual social relationships of adult and child, researcher and informant. Given play's classification as enjoyable, social and educational, play as an aspect of fieldwork can be involved in a range of different ways of gathering and presenting anthropological knowledge. Through play we build different kinds of relationships, experience different kinds of interaction and therefore gather different kinds of information. Play in fieldwork therefore leads to different kinds of knowledge, but it also leads to knowledge presented in different forms-visual, embodied performative and experiential. Given the prioritisation of written forms in academia, the way in which these forms of representation can be used in the presentation of knowledge is not straightforward. The challenge to anthropology is how these different forms of knowledge are valued and translated.

Author Biography

Lucy Atkinson, University of Edinburgh

Lucy Atkinson studied Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh. Her undergraduate research was on children and the juvenile justice system in Lesotho. She is currently working on her PhD, also at the University of Edinburgh. Her thesis, entitled 'Living, Eating and Learning: Children's Experiences of Change and Life in a Refugee Camp', is based on fieldwork with children in a refugee camp in Zambia. Her particular interests include food, visual anthropology, the anthropology of childhood and the anthropology of the everyday.