K.E. (Kristen) Cheney

Kristen Cheney
International Institute of Social Studies (ISS)
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Dr. Cheney’s research deals with children’s survival strategies amidst difficult circumstances and the politics of humanitarian intervention for such children, mainly in Eastern and Southern Africa. Her first book, Pillars of the Nation: Child Citizens and Ugandan National Development (2007), looks broadly at the social intersections of childhood and nationhood in international development, while her new book, Crying for Our Elders: African Orphanhood in the Age of HIV/AIDS (2017, University of Chicago Press) draws on youth participatory ethnographic research with orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) to examine issues of social exclusion, policy, and protection for children affected by HIV/AIDS.

Her most recent research examines the impact of the global 'orphan industrial complex' -- including orphan tourism, childcare institutions, and intercountry adoption practices-- on child protection in developing countries. She has also led several studies using youth participatory research to explore issues of youth sexual and reproductive health. 

From 2007-13, Dr. Cheney served as co-founder and advisory board chair for the American Anthropological Association’s Anthropology of Children & Youth Interest Group. She is currently on the editorial board of the journal Childhood, a member of the CABA Working Group Netherlands, and ISS representative to the European Network of Masters in Children’s Rights (ENMCR) and Share-Net NL (Netherlands Network on Sexual and Reproductive Health and AIDS).

Dr. Cheney has participated in research, consultancy, and capacity-building projects in Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East on issues from children’s rights to youth sexual and reproductive health. Her work takes an explicitly child-centered approach that considers how children experience and respond to the various hegemonic institutional and structural elements of global and local development practices. 

  • K.E. Cheney & A. Sinervo (Ed.). (2019). Disadvantaged Childhoods and Humanitarian Intervention: Processes of Affective Commodification and Objectification. New York: Palgrave-MacMillan
  • K.E. Cheney (2017). Crying for our elders: African orphanhood in the age of HIV and AIDS. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press
  • K.E. Cheney (2007). Pillars of the Nation: Child Citizens and Ugandan National Development. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press
  • K.E. Cheney (2019). Anthropology and the Politics of Childhood in Africa. In R.R. Grinker, S.C. Lubkemann & C. Steiner (Eds.), Companion to the Anthropology of Africa (Wiley Blackwell Companions to Anthropology) (pp. 307-322). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell
  • K.E. Cheney (2018). The making of 'orphans': How the 'orphan rescue' movement is transforming family and jeopardizing child wellbeing in Uganda. In M.R.T. de Guzman, J. Brown & C. Pope Edwards (Eds.), Parenting From Afar and the Reconfiguration of Family Across Distance (pp. 133-149). Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • K.E. Cheney (2018). International commercial surrogacy: Beyond feminist conundrums and the child as product. In R. Rosen & K. Twamley (Eds.), Feminism and the Politics of Childhood: Friends or Foes? (pp. 155-171) London: UCL Press
  • K.E. Cheney (2018). Decolonizing Childhood Studies: Overcoming Patriarchy and Prejudice in Child-related Research and Practice. In S. Spyrou, R. Rosen & D.T. Cook (Eds.), Reimagining Childhood Studies (pp. 91-104). London: Bloomsbury
  • K.E. Cheney & K.S. Rotabi (2017). Addicted to Orphans: how the orphan industrial complex jeopardizes child protection. In T. Skelton, C. Harker & K. Hörschelmann (Eds.), Conflict, Violence and Peace (Geographies of Children and Young People, vol 11) (pp. 89-107). Singapore: Springer
  • K.E. Cheney (2016). Blood always finds a way home: AIDS orphanhood and the transformation of kinship, fosterage, and children’s circulation strategies in Uganda. In C. Hunner-Kreisel & S. Bohne (Eds.), Childhood, Youth and Migration: Connecting Global and Local Perspectives (Children’s Well-Being: Indicators and Research, 12) (pp. 245-259). Switzerland: Springer International Publishing
  • K.E. Cheney (2014). Conflicting protectionist and participation models of children’s rights: Their consequences for Uganda’s orphans and vulnerable children. In A. Twum-Danso Imoh & N. Ansell (Eds.), Children's lives in an era of childrens rights : the progress of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Africa (Routledge Research in Human Rights Law) (pp. 17-33). New York: Routledge
  • K.E. Cheney (2013). Malik and His Three Mothers: AIDS Orphans¿ Survival Strategies and How Children¿s Rights Translations Hinder Them. In K. Hanson & O. Nieuwenhuys (Eds.), Reconceptualizing Children's Rights in International Development: : Living Rights, Social Justice, Translations (pp. 152-172). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • K.E. Cheney (2012). Seen but not Heard: African Orphanhood as Lived Experience. In M.O. Ensor (Ed.), African Childhoods: Education, Development, Peacebuilding, and the Youngest Continent (pp. 95-108). New York: Palgrave Macmillan
  • K.E. Cheney (2011). Ethnographic research with young people on AIDS orphans¿ survival strategies in Uganda. In P. Alderson & V. Morrow (Eds.), The Ethics of Research with Children and Young People : A Practical Handbook (pp. 61-61). London: Sage
  • K.E. Cheney (2008). Forced military conscription. In C.M. Renzetti & J.L. Edleson (Eds.), Encyclopedia of interpersonal violence . Los Angeles: Sage publishers
  • K.E. Cheney & L.A. Okwany (Eds.). (2017) Childhood in Africa, 4 (1) .
  • K.E. Cheney (2016). The making of 'orphans': How the adoption movement is transforming family and jeopardizing child wellbeing in Uganda. 5th International Conference on Adoption Research (ICAR5): Auckland, New Zealand (2016, januari 7 - 2016, januari 11).
  • K.E. Cheney & A. Sinervo (2015, november 17). Children as objects of humanitarian intervention: NGO commodification of disadvantaged childhoods. Denver, CO, USA, American Anthropological Association NGO and Nonprofit Interest Group conference “NGO-graphies”.
  • K.E. Cheney (Ed.). (2015) AnthropoChildren: Perspectives ethnographiques sur les enfants et l’enfance .
  • K.E. Cheney (2015, april 20). Feeling 'Blue': exploring the influence of pornography and sexualised media on young people's sexual identity formation in Eastern Africa. University of Groningen, Netherlands, Population Policies and Interventions Masters course.
  • K.E. Cheney & A. Okwany (2015, juni 9). Promoting Youth-Led Participatory Research: overcoming presumptions and prejudices. European University, Nicosia, Cyprus, 3rd international conference of the International Childhood and Youth Research Network.
  • K.E. Cheney (2014, april 10). Waithood and Restricted Futures: focusing on the involvement of youth in the development of SRHR programmes. ISS, The Hague, Netherlands:, Partos Symposium on Youth Research and Development.
  • K.E. Cheney (2015, november 4). ‘Feeling Blue’: studying the effects of children’s exposure to pornography and other sexually explicit media. Harare, Zimbabwe, Child Sensitive Social Policies conference, ‘Tracking child rights in Africa through research’.
  • K.E. Cheney (Ed.). (2015) Global Studies of Childhood, 5 (2).
  • K.E. Cheney (Interview) (2015, okt 18). De Bulgaarse adoptie-industrie. [televisie-uitzending]. In Brandpunt Reporter . The Hague: KRO. http://www.npo.nl/brandpunt-reporter/18-10-2015/KN_1673048
  • K.E. Cheney (2015, november 22). “Feeling 'Blue': exploring the influence of pornography and sexualized media on young people's sexual identity formation in eastern Africa”. Denver, CO, USA, American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting.
  • K.E. Cheney (2014). Organizer, International Forum on Intercountry Adoption and Global Surrogacy.
  • K.E. Cheney (2014). Expert Meeting on Comprehensive Sexuality Education.
  • K.E. Cheney (2014, februari 21). 'Addicted to Orphans': Donor Influence in Uganda's Child Protection System. ISHS, University of Liège, Belgium, Young Lives and Globalization in Africa.
  • K.E. Cheney (2014, februari 14). Blood Binds: confronting the moral and political economies of orphanhood and international adoption in Uganda. Berlin, Germany, Doing Politics – Making Kinship: Back towards a Future Anthropology of Social Organisation and Belonging.
  • K.E. Cheney (2014, november 21). Why does the post-2015 development agenda need to pay more attention to children’s issues? University of Amsterdam, Netherlands, International Development Studies Lecture Series.
  • K.E. Cheney (2014, september 16). Manning Up Women or Resisting Pornification? Interrogating Daily Sexism and Misogyny. University of Amsterdam, Netherlands:, Discussant for IS Academie Education and International Development lecture series event.
  • K.E. Cheney (2014, augustus 22). ‘Addicted to Orphans’: The Orphan Industrial Complex and Donor Influence in Uganda’s Child Protection System. National University, Galway, Ireland, Keynote Speaker for Symposium on 'Children, Young People and Development'.
  • K.E. Cheney (Ed.). (2014) Childhood-A Global Journal of Child Research .
  • K.E. Cheney & L.A. Okwany (2013, juni 10). Neocolonialism and Homophobia in Uganda. ISS, The Hague, Netherlands, Development Research Seminar/Sexuality Research Initiative series.
  • K.E. Cheney (2013). AIDS Orphanhood and the Transformation of Kinship, Fosterage, and Children’s Circulation Strategies in Uganda. International Conference on Children and Migration: Gendered and Generational Perspectives: University of Vechta, Germany (2013, december 5 - 2013, december 6).
  • K.E. Cheney (2013, november 20). Recontextualizing the NGO as Fieldsite: Questions from the Field [Roundtable]. Chicago, IL, The Future of NGO Studies conference.
  • K.E. Cheney (2013, april 5). Theorizing intercountry adoption in the global economy of childhood. San Diego, CA, USA, Society for Psychological Anthropology/Anthropology of Children and Youth Interest Group joint meeting.
  • K.E. Cheney A Multidisciplinary Approach: Anthropological Perspectives. Antwerp, Belgium, Human Rights for Development (HR4DEV) international training programme 2013.
  • K.E. Cheney Rendering Invisible Children Visible: New Media, 'Spectacular Humanitarianism', and the Problem with Youth Activism in Kony 2012. Chicago, IL, USA, American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting.
  • K.E. Cheney (2013). 'Baby Come Back': Child Circulation, Crises of Social Reproduction, and the Politica. IIPPE - International Initiative for Promoting Political Economy 4th Annual Conference in Political Economy: The Hague, Netherlands (2013, juli 9 - 2013, juli 11).
  • K.E. Cheney (2013, november 7). ‘Baby come back’: inter-country adoption, globalization, and crises of social reproduction. Bilbao, Spain, 4th International Conference on Adoption Research / ICAR4.
  • K.E. Cheney Adoption and the Contradictory Significance of ‘Blood’ in the Era of AIDS Orphanhood. Center for the Study of Childhood and Youth, University of Sheffield, UK, Centre for the Study of Childhood and Youth 4th International Conference, ‘Celebrating Childhood Diversity’.
  • K.E. Cheney (2012, augustus 28). ‘Giving Them a Better Life’?: Poverty, Inequality, and the Circulation of Children in Difficult Circumstances. University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, Children and Youth Studies program lecture.
  • K.E. Cheney Seen but Not Heard: African Orphanhood as Lived Experience. San Francisco, CA, USA, American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting.
  • K.E. Cheney “Blood Always Finds a Way Home": AIDS Orphanhood and the Transformation of Kinship, Fosterage, and Children’s Circulation Strategies in Uganda. The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, UK, AEGIS Thematic Workshop: Children & Migration in Africa: an Interdisciplinary Perspective.
  • K.E. Cheney Children as ethnographers: Reflections on the importance of participatory research in assessing orphans’ needs. KIT, Bhubaneswar, India, International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences Inter-Congress on ‘Children and Youth in a Changing World’.
  • K.E. Cheney HIV/AIDS Orphanhood, Vulnerability, and the Conundrum of Humanitarian Intervention in Africa. Liege, Belgium, Towards an Anthropology of Childhood and Children conference.
  • K.E. Cheney Rethinking Humanitarianism Involving Children. Charleston, SC, USA, American Anthropological Association Childhood Interest Group (AAACIG) joint meeting with the Society for Cross-Cultural Research (SCCR).
  • K.E. Cheney Locating Neocolonialism, ‘Tradition’, and Human Rights in Uganda’s ‘Gay Death Penalty’. Montreal, Canada, American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting.
  • K.E. Cheney (2011, april 4). Killing Them Softly? Conflicting Protectionist and Empowerment Models of Children’s Rights and their Consequences for African AIDS Orphans. New York, NY, USA, Columbia University Human Rights Seminar.
  • K.E. Cheney (2011, juni 9). Locating Neocolonialism, ‘Tradition’, and Human Rights in Uganda’s ‘Gay Death Penalty’. Leiden University, Netherlands, African Studies Center Seminar.
  • K.E. Cheney Children as Ethnographers of Childhood: the benefits of participatory research with African AIDS orphans. VU University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, The Doors of Perception: Viewing Anthropology through the Eyes of Children conference.
  • K.E. Cheney Whose ‘Best Interests?’ Revisiting African Orphan Circulation and Children’s Rights in the Age of HIV/AIDS. New Orleans, LA, USA, American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting.

Editorial positions

  • Childhood-A Global Journal of Child Research


Side positions

  • American Anthropological Association Anthropology of Children & Youth Interest Group

    Co-founder and Convener


Visiting address

Office: 4-11
Kortenaerkade 12
2518 AX The Hague

Postal address

Postbus 1738
3000 DR Rotterdam