Re-thinking children*s agency in extreme hardship: Zimbabwean children*s draw-and-write about their HIV-affected peers

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We compare two analyses of the same ‘draw-and-write’ exercises in which 128 Zimbabwean children represented their HIV-affected peers. The first, informed by the ‘New Social Studies of Childhood’, easily identified examples of independent reflection and action by children. The second, informed by Sen*s understandings of agency, drew attention to the negative consequences of many of the choices available to children, and the contextual limits on outcomes children themselves would value: the support of caring adults, adequate food, and opportunities to advance their health and safety. Conceptualisations of agency need to take greater account of children*s own accounts of outcomes they value, rather than identifying agency in any form of independent reflection and action per se.

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