Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts




Dr. Anthony Weis

Second Advisor

Dr. Rachel Bezner Kerr


Malawi has almost one million orphans; half of whom were orphaned because of AIDS. The situation is often framed as an ‘orphan crisis,’ which is a problematic concept because of the shifting definitions of orphanhood, the cultural connotations of abandonment and helplessness associated with orphanhood, and the diversity of causes and experiences of orphanhood. This thesis sets out to challenge assumptions about childhood and domesticity that are often embedded in discussions of orphanhood in Malawi through a methodological approach grounded in children’s geography that views children as social actors. The research, which is focused on orphans’ daily lives and perspectives, suggests that most orphans receive good psychosocial care through kinship networks, although serious problems related to poverty are commonplace in some areas. These problems may not be the result of orphanhood; rather they are linked to broader processes that help to create and perpetuate child poverty in Malawi.



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