понедельник, 13 февраля 2017 г.

Сhildren's Play Activity through the Paradigm of Sociological Imagination (Part 2)

The Significance of Children’s Play and Sociological Imagination
The play of even very young children is not a waste of time; it is not a luxury. The children’s play can give us a lot of information about values, aspirations, hopes, habits, and problems of the society. The theory of sociological imagination helps to prove these statements. This theory assumes that there is an intersection of the own lives of people (their biographies) and a sociohistorical context.
‘We have come to know that every individual lives, from one generation to the next, in some society; that he lives out a biography, and that he lives it out within some historical sequence. By the fact of his living he contributes, however minutely, to the shaping of this society and to the course of its history, even as he is made by society and by its historical push and shove’ (Wright Mills, 1959: 3 ). 
An individual is being raised by the society and the history since the childhood. It is impossible to avoid children in the analyses of the biographies of people because in the nurseries the future of the society, the country and, maybe, the whole world history is being created. Play is a part of biography and life of an almost every child. This circumstance allows us to include this children’s activity in the sociological analyses.
Nowadays there is a sharp necessity to study a developing individual in a developing world. Children have stopped to be only the objects of socialisation; they are becoming the active social agents during this process, and nowadays this reality is recognising.
So, during the consideration of children’s play, I will take into account the following points.
The first point is the children’s play has a social nature. Its occurrence is connected with the certain social conditions of the life of a child in society (Elkonin, 1978). Some authors (Pokrovsky, 1895) argue it is not surprising that the characters of the whole nations affect children's play and games sharply and distinctly because the children prefer to play with a great enthusiasm and a great freedom. Simultaneously, the characters of the whole nations can be described owing to the current types of play and games. These types of play and games make us expect specific reactions and, hence, consider opposite reactions rough or dishonest. Certainly, the contrast between games of two nations is not the most reliable explanation of conflicts between them, but it can become their powerful illustration (Caillois, 2001). 


Margaret Mead (1928: 230) described a case happened in Samoa, which illustrates the differences in the perception of play:
‘I had a box of white clay pipes for blowing soap bubbles […] But after a few minutes delight of the unusual size and beauty of the soap bubbles, one little girl after another asked me if she might please take her pipe home to her mother, for pipes were meant to smoke, not to play with. Foreign dolls did not interest them […] They never make toy houses, no play house […] Little boys would climb into a real outrigger canoe and practice paddling it within the safety of the lagoon. […]’
The second point is the children’s play is deeply interconnected with the nearest social environment – a ‘play context’ (Unesco, 1980: 10-11). 
As I understand, "play context" includes the place for play, the time for play, the toys for play, etc.
The play context varies from culture to culture, from one historical time to another, from one family to another. The definition of the ‘play context’ is a difficult task. On the one hand, there are places and times, which do not provoke play, but, at the same time, the children can use any opportunity to play during wars, disasters, illnesses, situations, which seem impossible for it.

F.Reshetnikov, 1943. "This picture shows 'a small war' during 'a big war'. When adults take part in the real war[...], children take wooden sabres and rifles and begin to play [...]" The source of the picture and description is here.

I also want to share the situation from a real practice, which happened during the civil war and the revolution in Russia.
In the composition written by a Russian girl Mury Korgan who was the pupil in the English school for Russian girls (Proti Island, Turkey), the immigration from the native country, the death of the father, etc. are not in the centre of the plot. In the heart of her memoirs is the wonderful story about the doll, presented to her by English philanthropists because she was the best pupil of the school. She described this doll, having made this toy the main hero of her story, in spite of the difficulties with which her family has met (Sal’nikova, 2007: 115). 
The third point is the play of children may exist without external attributes, but it does not mean the absence of imagination, play, and creativity: the «battles», the stories, the poems, the new images can exist only in the fantasies of the child. The children are the best informants in such cases:
The boy is walking. It seems that absolutely nothing is interesting for him. When I asked what has happened, he answered: ‘Do not interfere with my thoughts, please! I imagine what I will build of cubes when I come home’. And some minutes later the fascinating play and the ‘star wars with toys’ were possible to observe (Sibireva, 2015).
So, the focus on the children’s play is a window on everyday lives of children.
According to the tradition of sociological imagination, I argue that the existing trends of the development of society (including social, economic, political, fashion, art, educational tendencies, etc.) "define" play trajectories of children. Every child may follow these trends or ‘revolt’ against them. This micro level of children’s play can be transformed into a bigger story about historical facts, changes in the attitudes toward children, the social history of play. This transformation can be done according to the following abilities of sociological imagination (Sztompka, 2004): to understand deep, hidden resources and constraints that influence social life; to recognise the continuing influence of the past on the present; to see all social phenomena as produced by some social agents; to recognise the diversity of the forms in which social life may appear; to perceive social life as the process of social becoming. 
To be continued.
Part 3.
Part 4.
Part 5.
Part 1 is here.
Please do not sell, post, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.

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