Michael Bourdillon

Born in Zambia, I have spent most of my life in Zimbabwe, where I am currently domiciled, and where I hold the status of Professor Emeritus in the Department of Sociology, University of Zimbabwe. I obtained a doctorate in Social Anthropology from Oxford University, and for many years worked primarily in areas of religion and symbolism. In recent years, I have turned my attention to issues of childhood, being involved practically in supporting street children and other working children. Coming out of this work, I collected in 2004 data on child domestic workers that showed how some deprived children benefit from being taken in to work for a wealthier family, while others suffer and are abused in such a situation. One of the tasks I have set myself while in Leiden is to write up this material in a manner available to potential employers and others in Zimbabwe, to raise awareness of the needs of such working children. I also intend to work towards an academic analysis of the relationship between patronage and exploitation in this context. A related and more urgent task is to complete a conceptual paper on the language of ‘child labour’. A second related task is to explore the limits of child participation in decision-making, for a presentation to the AEGIS conference in June.

Fellowship year: 
Prof. M. (Michael) Bourdillon
Former visiting fellow