Academic journal article The Geographical Review

Children's Geographies: Tracing the Evolution and Involution of a Concept

Academic journal article The Geographical Review

Children's Geographies: Tracing the Evolution and Involution of a Concept

Article excerpt

As a field of study, children's geographies is well-respected, with its own eponymous journal since 2001: Children's Geographies: Advancing Interdisciplinary Understanding of Younger People's Lives. Several other cognate international and interdisciplinary journals such as Childhood: A Journal of Global Child Research and Children, Youth and Environments (CYE,) regularly publish the work of scholars who call themselves children's geographers. In addition, a twelve volume "Major Reference Work" by Springer comprises an impressive collection of papers by geographers and others under the title Geographies of Children and Young People. Beginning as a concept in U.S. geography in the 1970s, children's geographies finds form--broadened and reworked--as an important theme in British and Scandinavian geography through the 1990s, and by the twenty-first century, with work from African, Asian, and Latin American scholars, its touch was global. In September 2017, I typed the term "children's geographies" into Google Scholar and received 22,100 citations; "young people's geographies" received 34,300 results and "youth geographies" received 70,100 results; the more general "children, youth, and environments" received an ominous 2,100,000 citations. On that same search, I found that Sarah Holloway and Gill Valentine's 2004 book, Children's Geographies: Playing, Living, Learning, was cited by 565 articles, and their 2005 article in Childhood--"Children's Geographies and the New Social Studies in Childhood"--was cited 609 times, while my book Geographies of Young People: The Morally Contested Spaces of Identity (2001) received 537 citations. These searches, of course, are not mutually exclusive, and the veracity of numbers from Google Scholar and citation metrics in general are questionable, but this evidence suggests that "children's geographies" as a concept, once dismissed as na245ve and of limited relevance (consult Hart 1982), has attained some standing.

This article is not about the rise of the subfield of children's geographies, which is covered well in both generalities and advanced specificities, through a variety of editorial, review, and prospected articles (for example Horton and Kraftl 2006; Kesby 2007; Horton and others 2008; Ansell 2009; Colls 2009; Evans and Holt 2011; Ergler and others 2016). What I want to do here is trace the evolution and involution of children's geographies as a concept, from when it first showed up the 1970s as little more than an impression, perhaps better described an idea from other disciplines that found resonance with geographers who were interested at the time in children's mapping abilities. Although what appears here suggests evolution and progress, I also want to elaborate the involution of the term. Deleuze and Guattari describe involution as the creative part of becoming, "involving" intensities and tensions that fall "beneath assignable relations" (1987, 238--40). I want to defer the assignment of categories and timelines, while recognizing the complex and fluid relations that recognize the becoming of children's geographies that is not at all about a sequence of ideas, but about creative tensions and artful resolutions.

Children's geographies show up among U.S. scholars in the 1970s. Beginning with a focus on the multiple places and environments that children experience, feminists and critical theorists who were interested in young people's identities and their diverse ways of knowing places grabbed the concept in the 1980s and 1990s and pushed it towards something more political. The critical and radical edge of this work, often springing from feminism and the margins of Marxism, involved something that pushed the agency and rights of children and young people. Two important events, the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC, 1989) and the concomitant rise of the "new sociology of childhood" (Qvotrup 1994; James and Prout 1997; James and others 1998; Prout 2011) propelled children's geographies onto a world stage and forced those working with the concept to consider its elaboration to embrace global childhoods (Aitken and others 2008). …

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