Tag Archives: Children

‘Fun gifts for boys’ and the geographies of ‘aww’, ‘umph’, ‘wow’ and ‘cool’

By Ashley Crowson, King’s College London

As manufacturers and retailers prepare to sell huge quantities of toys and gadgets in the run up to Christmas, at least one seven-year-old girl has protested this week at the marketing of such products according to gender.

Karen Cole tweeted a photo of her daughter, Maggie, next to a sign for Marvel Comics merchandise in a branch of Tesco that read ‘Fun gifts for boys’.

7-year-old Maggie not impressed with 'fun girts for boys' sign

Maggie, who is a big fan of Spider Man, Wonder Woman, The Flash and Doctor Who, spotted the sign and told her mother that Tesco was “being stupid” as “anybody can like superheroes”. The photo was retweeted more than ten thousand times, forcing an apology and the removal of the signs from all Tesco stores.

These superhero characters and toys are clearly important to lots of children like Maggie; it is this relationship, alongside the role played by popular culture characters and products in children’s lives, that John Horton seeks to examine in a recent edition of Geography Compass. The paper calls for “more direct, careful, sustained research on geographies of children, young people and popular culture.”

Horton outlines ‘classic’ works from cultural and media studies, which, he contends, have been “centrally concerned with meanings of popular culture designed for children and young people”. The likes of Barbie and GI Joe, Horton argues, have often been central to such discussions, with Barbie being widely critiqued as “a ‘condensed’ representation of normative ideals of ‘emphasised femininity’ and female body image”.

While Horton recognises the value and importance of this kind of work, he argues that “if one jumps to write about meanings of popular culture, it is all too easy to overlook how popular cultural texts, objects and phenomena matter in practice within people’s everyday geographies.”

Horton presents an analysis of ‘Toys ‘Я’ Us’ brochures old and new, but reflects that in attempting to write about their meanings and representations “I have suppressed (or at least distanced myself from) what I felt as I browsed the 1975 Toys ‘Я’ Us catalogue and other decades-old toy catalogues: feelings of ‘aww’, ‘umph’, ‘wow’, ‘cool’, ‘I remember that’, that are not easy to put into words.”

Geography, then, has an important role to play in addressing questions of both meaning and Mattering in this context. This involves examining the more-than-representational ways in which popular cultural texts, objects and phenomena are encountered and experienced by children in a diverse range of everyday spaces.

As Horton acknowledges, this raises important questions of how to conduct research attentive to both the political-representational concerns of the sort quite rightly raised by superhero-loving Maggie, and to the complex nonrepresentational materialities that constitute young people’s geographies – the ‘awws’, ‘wows’ and ‘cools’ evoked by the bodily practices of play, the meanings of which may not be sayable or may simply not exist.

 Girl, 7, gets Tesco to remove ‘stupid’ sign suggesting superheroes are ‘for boys’ The Independent, 25 November 2014

 John horton, 2014, For Geographies of Children, Young People and Popular CultureGeography Compass 726-738

I Predict a Riot: A Research Agenda One Year On

By Fiona Ferbrache

It was a year ago last week that riots broke out in several English cities and our television screens portrayed scenes of violence, looting and arson.  Last week, journalists were sent back to some of the sites where anti-police demonstrations had turned into unrest in order to construct narratives of “the English riots one year on” (The Guardian).  A quick review of this coverage reveals stories from different people who were there at the time –policemen, looters, demonstrators, shopkeepers and property owners.  Next month, academics attending an interdisciplinary conference at London South Bank University will discuss “Collisions, Coalitions and Riotous Subjects: The Riots one year on”.

A specific geographical focus on the riots is proposed in an early view article by Phillips, Frost and Singleton (2012).  Essentially, they propose a research agenda that comprises lessons learnt from research undertaken in the aftermath of riots in Liverpool (1981) and more recent investigations of the 2011 disturbances.  One of the finer examples is a study by Burgess that exposed the way in which media representations created specific ideas of the riots.  Making a comparison between 1981 and 2011, Phillips et al. illustrate the way in which the Liverpool riots were placed within geographies of the inner city, while the more recent riots were positioned through geographies of children and young people.

Alongside consideration of media representations, Phillips et al. recommend an agenda that listens directly to those who were involved in the riots and one which triangulates qualitative and quantitative research.  Such an approach, they argue, will help to ensure that riots become catalysts of change.

Thinking back to the media representation of last week, to what extent did they provoke a narrative of change?

Richard Phillips, Diane Frost and Alex Singleton, ‘Researching the riots‘, The Geographical Journal, DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2012.00463.x, Article first published online: 21 MAR 2012

 The English riots one year onThe Guardian, 6th August 2012

The 2011 English summer riots revisitedThe Telegraph, 5th August 2012

Content Alert: New Articles (30th March 2012)

These Early View articles are now available on Wiley Online Library.

Adapting water management to climate change: Putting our science into practice

Ecological benefits of creating messy rivers
Nicholas C Everall, Andrew Farmer, Andrew F Heath, Timothy E Jacklin and Robert L Wilby
Article first published online: 16 MAR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01087.x

Original Articles

Anticipatory objects and uncertain imminence: cattle grids, landscape and the presencing of climate change on the Lizard Peninsula, UK
Catherine Leyshon (née Brace) and Hilary Geoghegan
Article first published online: 16 MAR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01082.x


Researching the riots
Richard Phillips, Diane Frost and Alex Singleton
Article first published online: 21 MAR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2012.00463.x

In today’s unsustainable consumer culture, are young people part of the problem… or the solution?

by Rebecca Collins

Shopping Centre. Photo by Gordon Griffiths, via Wikimedia Commons

Most young people like to have new things.  This much has been true since the birth of the ‘teenager’ in the 1950s when young people were first recognised as a distinct – and influential – group of consumers.  In the summer of 2011, the strength of young people’s desire for the newest, most fashionable, most up-to-date material things was made clear with devastating consequences.  While there was certainly no single driving factor behind the riots of August 2011, the extent of the looting that took place has led analysts studying the events to point to an acquisitive consumer culture as a key factor – and one that has become even more potent in the context of dismal economic circumstances that are biting harder for youth than for any other group.

In recent months, more than 250 participants in the riots have spoken about what motivated their involvement.  70% have stated that “free stuff” was a key factor.  As one fifteen year old female participant said, “In our generation it’s important – having the nicest clothes, up-to-date things…”  The desperate ‘need’ for items from iPhones to Nike trainers reported by many of the looters paints a grim picture of the pressures experienced by young people as a result of contemporary consumer culture.

Admittedly, the events of August 2011 represent the actions of an angry, socially marginalised minority.  But they raise important questions about young people’s actions: on the one hand, how they respond to increasingly powerful consumerist pressures; and on the other, their capacity to take action in the face of perceived injustice.  In “A Tale of Two Teens: disciplinary boundaries and geographical opportunities in youth consumption and sustainability research”, my co-author, Russell Hitchings, and I consider how geographical research might uncover facets of young people’s consumption that get closer to the heart of what young people are actually seeking to achieve or experience when they consume material things.  We contrast the image of the hedonistic young consumer with the actions of other young people who seek to balance their responsibilities as citizens with their consumer aspirations, and suggest that geographical input into youth consumption research may help to articulate the profoundly social concerns that often underpin young people’s consumption choices.

The author: Rebecca Collins is a PhD candidate in the Department of Geography, University College London.

Collins R and Hitchings R 2012 A Tale of Two Teens: disciplinary boundaries and geographical opportunities in youth consumption and sustainability research Area DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01075.x

Topping A and Bawdon F 2011 ‘It was like Christmas’: a consumerist feast amid the summer riots The Guardian, 5 December

Family Returns: Children Seeking Asylum

Sarah Mills

In the recent special section of Area on ‘Upscaling young people’s geographies’, Heaven Crawley examines the role of children in the UK asylum system.  She focuses specifically on the asylum interview, which she argues “not only indicates a basic lack of humanity and care in engaging with the experiences of separated asylum-seeking children, but also a particular conceptualisation of ‘childhood’ that undermines the ability of children to fully articulate their experiences and to secure access to the protection to which they are entitled.”  This research on the way in which children are positioned and framed within broader asylum practises is vital in understanding the varied and complex geographies of young people as well as creating a more complete picture of asylum and migration in the UK.  Crawley argues that “current understanding of the experiences of separated asylum-seeking children is dominated by adult explanations and rationalisations which fail to engage directly with children and young people themselves. Separated asylum-seeking children are acted upon but they do not act: they are assumed to have no agency.” (2010: 163).

Asylum in Britain is a controversial and complex issue.  In a recent segment on Radio Four’s Today Programme, Mike Lanchin reports on a new, alternative scheme to detention centres (see Crawley and Lester, 2005) where children of failed asylum applications were previously sent.  His report charts recent government moves towards schemes of accommodation instead of detention, focusing specifically on Glasgow and the ‘Family Returns’ project.  He interviews Robina, a failed asylum seeker with 3 children, awaiting removal from UK for the last four months, but currently living in a flat with her children.  Previously, the children would have been locked up in detention centre, and so whilst clearly an improvement, this situation and the constant moving around has taken its toll on the children; Robina’s five year old son has difficulties sleeping.  Damien Green, immigration minister, is also interviewed and states the success of the new government’s change in policy over the detention of children.  Lanchin concludes, however, that there are no easy solutions to asylum and we should not forget that vulnerable children are caught up in these debates.  There is also a need, however, to remember the agency of children and the pervasive adult framings and articulations of asylum that Crawley highlights in her recent article.

Read H. Crawley (2010) ‘No one gives you a chance to say what you are thinking’: finding space for children’s agency in the UK asylum system’, Area 42 (2): 162-169

Listen to Mike Lanchin‘s report ‘Glasgow’s alternative to child detention’ on the Today Programme, Radio Four, 6 August 2010.

Reference: H. Crawley and T. Lester (2005) No Place for a Child: Children in Immigration Detention in the UK – Impacts, Alternatives and Safeguards, London: Save the Children UK

The Social Geography of Youth

City Centre, Belfast, Northern Ireland

by Benjamin Sacks

Naomi Bushin and Allen White’s excellent article in the June 2010 issue of Area analyses the critical impact of migration in conflicting zones through the spatial geography of youth. In the past decade the Republic of Ireland has become a popular destination for EU and non-EU immigrants alike; the result of extended economic growth. Irish society, however, remains caught between traditional conservatism and progressive globalization – a quagmire that has served to isolate children of immigrants. Bushin and White ‘illuminate the “tangled politics” of immigration procedures that are constructed by adults and imposed upon young people, often with little regard for opportunities for their participation’ [Naomi Bushin and Allen White, “Migration Politics in Ireland: Exploring the Impacts on Young People’s Geographies,” Area 42 no. 2 (June, 2010): p. 170].

Why is this is the case? Academic and professional attention  historically focused on the composition of migrant workers and their reasons for migrating to Ireland. As Bushin and White argue, many recent arrivals are migrant workers; short-term employees seeking higher wages than the equivalent in Eastern Europe or North Africa. But the children and teenagers who are brought along are often ignored, their experiences in Ireland undocumented. Area sheds new light on migrant youths’ travels and decisions.

In a survey of twenty-four students, fourteen returned to their native countries during holidays, in order to reconnect with family and friends. One student, Adam, “Said that his Mum is worried that he will lose his Lithuanian if he doesn’t have any Lithuanian friends” (Bushin and White, 173). Migrant youth struggle to find a socio-cultural balance between their desires to learn, make new friends, and ‘fit-in’, while parents and other adults strive to instill their children with the beliefs and languages of home.

Read ‘Migration Politics in Ireland’ here.

Learn more about Ireland and the immigration question in this BBC article.

The Geographies of Childhood Obesity

Sarah Mills

The recent criticism Jamie Oliver received for his attempts to combat obesity in the US highlight how emotive the issue of childhood obesity can be.  The American backlash to Oliver’s latest show – Food Revolutions – has been widely reported and analysed in British newspapers.  Some commentators have remarked it is merely a response to ‘pushy’ Brits and demonstrative of the dwindling ‘special’ relationship between US and Britain.  It has, however, raised the issue of childhood obesity and policies regarding school dinners once more.  This latest venture by Oliver follows on from Jamie’s School Dinners, which aired in the UK in 2005 and focused on improving healthy-eating in British schools.  Whilst his approach received criticism from some quarters, it has had a marked effect on the approach and policies of the UK Government towards school meals.  Indeed, recently published research has shown an overall improvement in children’s health and performance at schools that participated in Oliver’s ‘Feed Me Better’ campaign.  It is yet to be seen how successful Oliver’s campaign in the US will be, yet I would argue his programmes and the debates they raise clearly demonstrates the need for a critical geography of obesity.

Geographer Bethan Evans has focused specifically on childhood obesity and UK policies in her recent article in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers.  She explores geographical work on obesity and pre-emptive biopolitics, before examining the “dystopian production of the future nation in obesity policy” (2010:21).  She argues how “children are central to the production and pre-emption of obese futures because of the affective potential of childhood and the paradoxical position of children’s bodies both as children in the present and adults of the future” (2010:21).  Though focusing on the spatiotemporalities of obesity policies, Evans speaks to broader debates about the role of young people in pre-emptive politics and the geographies of ‘globesity’.

Read Toby Young in The Guardian on Jamie Oliver’s US criticism

  Read the BBC Online Story on Oliver’s successful ‘Feed Me Better’ Campaign

  Read Evans, B. (2010) ‘Anticipating fatness: childhood, affect and the pre-emptive ‘war on obesity’’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 35 (1): 21-38