Children in the City: Home, Neighborhood, and Community

By Pia Christensen; Margaret O'Brien | Go to book overview

7

The street as a liminal space

The barbed spaces of childhood

Hugh Matthews

In this chapter, I suggest how the street 1 , a metaphor for all outdoor spaces within the public domain, acts as a liminal setting or a site of passage, a place which both makes possible and signifies a means of transition through which some young people move away from the restrictions of their childhood roots towards the independence of adulthood. I consider how the street is infused with cultural identity and how, in their attempts to claim socially autonomous space within the public domain, young people frequently collide with adults and with other groups of young people. Confrontations of this sort are the rituals of transition within the socially barbed spaces of the street. In order to disentangle these street stories, I pay particular attention to the ways in which age and gender cut across place use. In developing these ideas I draw upon the theoretical notions of habitus (Bourdieu 1977, 1992; Cahill 2000) and the rites of passage (van Gennep 1909 (1960); Winchester et al. 1999), as well as the new literature on the cultural politics of difference and diversity (Bhabha 1994; Matthews et al. 2000a; Prout 2000). To pull these ideas together, I critically discuss the social construction of binaries (Skelton 2000), in this case those common cultural practices, interpretations and assumptions that unequivocally relegate children to adult becomings or persons not of the adult world. All of these thoughts are developed with reference to an empirical study that considers how a group of young people aged 9 to 16 years in an East Midlands town within the UK make use of their local neighbourhoods. Children's own words are used extensively in the text.


Locating 'the street'

According to Bourdieu (1992:134), habitus refers to 'a durable, transposable system of definitions' that are gained by 'conscious and unconscious practices' as children move through different social institutions from home, to school and on to the worlds of adulthood. Habitus is both structured and structuring (Brooker 1999:98). It suggests that whilst children's understanding is the product of embodied histories, 'internalised as second nature and so forgotten as history' (Bourdieu 1990:56), it is 'open to creative variation as the individual meshes with a relatively stable common habitus and conducts this forward'

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Children in the City: Home, Neighborhood, and Community
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures ix
  • Tables x
  • Preface xv
  • Acknowledgements xvii
  • 1 - Children in the City 1
  • References 11
  • 2 - Place, Space and Knowledge 13
  • Notes 27
  • 3 - Children's Views of Family, Home and House 29
  • 4 - 'Displaced' Children? 46
  • 5 - Shaping Daily Life in Urban Environments 66
  • 6 - Children in the Neighbourhood 82
  • References 98
  • 7 - The Street as a Liminal Space 101
  • 8 - Neighbourhood Quality in Children's Eyes 118
  • 9 - Regenerating Children's Neighbourhoods 142
  • Notes 160
  • 10 - Improving the Neighbourhood for Children 162
  • Notes 180
  • 11 - Planning Childhood 184
  • Note 204
  • Index 206
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