I peg myself as an anthropologist of childhood. I like this label because it emphasizes my firm belief—based on decades of theoretical and methodological work— that we need to understand children’s perspectives to truly comprehend the problems in our world. I see value in paying attention to children’s perspectives on many social issues. Insert most news items and I’m thinking: How are children experiencing and responding to this issue? How would understanding children’s perspectives change our own perceptions and responses? In what ways can we best make sense of children’s experiences and talk with them about this issue?

I’ve spent two decades developing methodological innovations and frameworks for identifying children’s needs from their perspectives and then incorporating these needs into policy and programmatic responses. This includes creative reworkings of conventional methods, such as interviews and focus groups, and the use of drawing, performance, and other participatory strategies. I have also devised new ways of analyzing the process and products of research with children to provide critical insight on children’s actions, experiences, and perspectives within societies and structures that increase their vulnerability. My innovative methods for working with children have been recognized by national and international funding agencies and organizations, in the media, and through international consulting and service work.

Select Funded Research Projects

PHRAME study

Peer reviewed publications

Njelesani, J, Hunleth, J. Youth participatory research evidence to inform health policy: a systematic review protocol. BMJ Open. 2020;10(8), e036522. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2019-036522

Spray, J, Hunleth, J. Where Have All the Children Gone? Against Children’s Invisibility in the COVID-19 Pandemic. Anthropology Now. 2020; 12(2):39-52.

Hunleth J. Zambian Children’s Imaginal Caring: On Fantasy, Play, and Anticipation in an Epidemic. Cultural Anthropology. 2019;34(2). 

Hunleth J, Jacob RR, Cole SM, Bond V, James AS. School holidays: examining childhood, gender norms, and kinship in children’s shorter-term residential mobility in urban Zambia. Child Geogr. 2015;13(5):501-517. PMCID:PMC4586129 PMID:26435699

Hunleth J. “ARVs” as sickness and medicine: examining children’s knowledge and experience in the HIV era in urban Zambia. AIDS Care. 2013;25(6):763-6. PMCID:PMC3610860 PMID:23256500

Hunleth J. Children’s roles in tuberculosis treatment regimes: constructing childhood and kinship in urban Zambia. Med Anthropol Q. 2013;27(2):292-311. PMCID:PMC3707965 PMID:23804398 (Awarded the 2014 Steven Polgar award from the Society for Medical Anthropology for its originality, theoretical importance, and methodology)

Ager A, Zimmerman C, Unlu K, Rinehart R, Nyberg B, Zeanah C, Hunleth J, Bastiaens I, Weldy A, Bachman G, Blum AB, Strottman K. What strategies are appropriate for monitoring children outside of family care and evaluating the impact of the programs intended to serve them? Child Abuse Negl. 2012;36(10):732-42. PMID:23083900

Hunleth J. Beyond on or with: Questioning power dynamics and knowledge production in ‘child-oriented’ research methodology. Childhood. 2011;18(1):81-93. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/0907568210371234 

Bond V, Chilikwela L, Simwinga M, Reade Z, Ayles H, Godfrey-Faussett P, Hunleth J. Children’s role in enhanced case finding in Zambia. IJTLD. 2010;14(10):1280-1287.

Public scholarship

Spray, J, Hunleth, J. OP-ED: Has anyone asked the children about pandemic schooling? Chicago Tribune. August 31, 2020

Hunleth, J. Children’s carework in a global pandemic: Anthropology of childhood and infectious disease. Anthropod: The Podcast of the Society for Cultural Anthropology. 15 May 2020, https://culanth.org/fieldsights/childrens-carework-in-a-global-pandemic-anthropology-of-childhood-and-infectious-disease.

Hunleth, J and Spray, J. Where have all the children gone? The silencing and un-silencing of children in America’s pandemic. Raising Our Voices Podcast for the American Anthropological Association. 5 November 2020, https://www.openanthroresearch.org/doi/pdf/10.1002/oarr.10000353.1

Hunleth J. “Eight ways that ebola response efforts can benefit from the anthropology of childhood.” 28 Feb 2015, http://acyig.americananthro.org/2015/02/28/eight-ways-that-ebola-response-efforts-can-benefit-from-the-anthropology-of-childhood/

Drawing Care with Jean Hunleth by Meredith Evans and Janita Van Dyk Fieldsites, Society for Cultural Anthropology (2019) “The pedagogical activities in this post encourage students to engage with Jean Hunleth’s concept of imaginal caring and the creative promises of drawing as an ethnographic method within and beyond the category of ‘childhood.’”