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At Home in the Street


  • 35 b/w illus. 10 tables
  • Page extent: 279 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.54 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 362.76/0981/3
  • Dewey version: 21
  • LC Classification: HV887.B82 N674 1998
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Street children--Brazil, Northeast--Social conditions
    • Street children--Abuse of--Brazil, Northeast
    • Children and violence--Brazil, Northeast
    • Street children--Services for--Brazil, Northeast

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521591324 | ISBN-10: 0521591325)

Replaced by 9780521598699


Through innovative fieldwork and ethnographic writing, Hecht lays bare the received truths about the lives of Brazilian street children. This book changes the terms of the debate, asking not why there are so many homeless children in Brazil but why - given the oppressive alternative of home life in the shantytowns - there are in fact so few. Speaking in recorded sessions that participants called "radio workshops," street children asked one another questions that even the most experienced researchers would be unlikely to pose. At the center of this study are children who play, steal, sleep, dance, and die in the streets of a Brazilian city. But all around them figure activists, politicians, researchers, "home" children, and a global crisis of childhood.


Introduction; 1. Speaking of the street; 2. Being in the street; 3. 'Home' children: nurtured childhood and nurturing childhood; 4. Betraying motherdom: Maloqueiros and 'that life' in the street; 5. When life is nasty, brutish and short: violence and street children; 6. Curing street children, rescuing childhood; 7. Street children and their 'clients', conclusion: the ephemeral lives of street children; Appendix: the setting: Recife, Olinda, and Northeast Brazil; Glossary; References cited; Notes.

Prize Winner

American Anthropological Association 2001 Margaret Mead Award


"This is a powerful ethnography which puts children's reports at the centre of its analysis. We learn how street children speak about their families, the violence in their everyday lives, their bleak futures, and interventions from welfare organizations." Catherine Panter-Brick,Durham University

"Hecht has been very lucky in the appropriation of the ethnographer's tape recorder by the street children themselves to hold their own 'radio workshops.' As a result, this work achieves something very special: the children themselves set the frame and limits of the otherwise inevitable and predictable outsider's sympathetic discourse on their plight. Never in ethnography has the agency of the subject's voice been so creatively present; never have the stories of such children who partly stand for contemporary Brazil been so plainly compelling." George Marcus, Rice University

"A moving, provocative study that probes below the surface of everyday Brazilian life. Tobias voice to the country's marginalized street children, tens of thousands of whom roam the cities, orphaned or abandoned by their families, seeking through petty crime and by living by their wits to avoid being sent to the repellent state institutions. This is ethnography at its best: riveting, compassionate, pithy, handsomely illustrated with photographs, always aware of the larger social and political context." Robert M. Levine, University of Miami

"Hecht's work is graceful, thorough, and level-headed. The power of his analysis is magnified by its compassion, and by the clarity and elegance of his completely approachable writing. This book is a much-needed contribution to the literature of Brazil, of children, and of anthropology. It will no doubt be read and argued for years to come." Robin Nagle, author of Claiming the Virgin: The Broken Promise of Liberation Theology in Brazil (Routledge, 1997)

"In the 1980s and '90s, the world was shaken by images of Brazilian street children, children who came to symbolize the inhuman and unjust side of Brazilian society. At Home in the Street: Street Children of Northeast Brazil, by Tobias Hecht, is an important contribution to our understanding of the topic. Hecht's analysis is marked by sensitivity to children for whom the streets have become home and who daily suffer from scorn, abandonment, neglect, and violence. The care with which Hecht carried out his research, enriched by coexistence with the children, resulted in a document that offers Brazilians and foreigners a better understanding of the challenges faced worldwide by young and socially excluded populations." Irene Rizzini, Director, Center for Research on Childhood, Universidade Santa Ursula, Rio de Janeiro

"In reading Hecht's powerful and accessible book, we become familiar with a dozen children of the street. If you want to know what happened to them, read the book. You will not be the same." Donna J. Karen, Luso-Brazilian Review

"Hecht's research on the street children of Recife and Olinda and the activist organizations that deal with them provides richly detailed observations and a well-studied challenge to the popular image of Brazilian street children and their suffering at the hands of the police. Recommended for undergraduates and above." Choice

"Hecht affirms that the decisions that lead children to the streets are understood by knowing them, and their families over time, and need to be understood with a home based childhood examination." Child Development Abstracts & Bibliography

"This is one of the rare books that touches on the social constructions of childhood as it relates to class in Brazil." Marcia Mikulak, Journal of Anthropological Research

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