Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Shaping Subjects in Everyday Encounters: Intergenerational Recognition in Intersubjective Socialisation

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Shaping Subjects in Everyday Encounters: Intergenerational Recognition in Intersubjective Socialisation

Article excerpt


This article considers the role of intergenerational recognition in processes of subject formation and political development. It leans on a broad conception of politics, following a phenomenologically oriented approach and drawing from theories of contextual recognition. Intergenerational recognition is introduced as a key dynamism and practice in intersubjective socialisation, unfolding in everyday environments among 'significant others'. In these encounters, people take shape and are shaped as political subjects. Empirically, the article is based on research with 129 eleven- to fifteen-year-old girls and boys, including an analysis of their place-based biographies. By introducing different forms of intergenerational (mis)recognition, it shows how the formation of political subjects takes place in the most mundane environments where children and young people lead their lives. In conclusion, the article suggests that 'political becoming' deserves increasing attention in critical research and intergenerational recognition ought to be better identified as a social practice. Whether intentional or intuitive, the ways in which adults regard children and young people has both harmful and beneficial effects on the formation of their political subjectivities.


Subject formation, political subject, intergenerationality, recognition, socialisation, subjectivity


Some twenty years ago, Ringmar (1996) explored the Swedish intervention in the Thirty Years' War, bringing together insights from international relations and cultural studies traditions. Leaning on a recognition-theoretical framework, he came to the conclusion that we can develop interests and take part in some-things only as some-ones, referring to individual as well as collective political activities. In a similar fashion, feminist political geographer Staeheli (2008) has noted more recently that political subjectivities are the condition of and prerequisite for any political thought, claims-making and action. Both notions represent a rare perspective that places the subject of political action at the centre of enquiry, instead of issues at stake, performed deeds or effects of certain activities.

Adopting this perspective, the present article sets out to shed light on the role of intergenerational recognition in subject formation and political development. The analysis focuses on subjects who may develop interests in some-things and engage in political thought, claims-making and action, on account of their subjectivities as some-ones, now and in the future. By analysing intimate experiences of children and youths in the most mundane contexts of everyday life, I call forth fleeting moments and dynamic relations in which political subjects take shape and are shaped during the early years. Contrary to traditional studies of political socialisation, the analysis is based on an intersubjective conception of political development (e.g. Connell, 1987; Crossley, 2001; Elwood and Mitchell, 2012; Hollway, 2006; Habashi and Worley, 2009). In my research on political agency, I have worked to develop an approach that acknowledges children's active roles in the dynamic processes of political formation, namely intersubjective socialisation (e.g. Kallio, 2007, 2014a; Kallio and Hakli, 2011, 2013).

The study behind this article has explored youthful political agencies by learning with and from children and young people about their everyday worlds and about themselves as experiencers in these worlds. Leaning on a broad understanding of politics 'as a form of activity concerned with addressing problems of living together in a shared world of plurality and difference' (Barnett, 2012: 679), the research follows a phenomenologically oriented geographical reading of Hannan Arendt's (1958, 2005) philosophy (cf. Dikec, 2013; Baines 2015, for the Merleau-Pontian tradition that has a slightly different take on phenomenology, see Simonsen, 2013). …

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