In this paper we explore the ways in which the methodological and analytical complexities that are encountered when researching with children have stimulated particular approaches that are useful to consider in the context of research with both adults and children who are refugees or seeking asylum. We draw upon ideas related to performativity to argue that the methods and activities we employ in research encounters 'in-the-field' play a key role in facilitating research participants' efforts to express their subjectivities and identities. Drawing on fieldwork with children in an accommodation centre for asylum-seeking families in Ireland, we argue that using child-centred research methods can be understood as specific moments within which materials become available for research participants (children) to develop and enhance their social and cultural identities in many different ways. The use of multiple and participatory methods that children engaged with, adapted or ignored (as they chose), enabled and resulted in children representing themselves as individuals in families seeking asylum, rather than as 'asylum-seeker children'. This paper supports work that suggests that ways of approaching participatory research with children may be useful when researching other populations, but it goes beyond this point to assert that research encounters may provide participants with exceptional resources for explaining their lives. Copyright (C) 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.