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MAPPING CHILDREN'S POLITICS: SPATIAL STORIES, DIALOGIC RELATIONS AND POLITICAL FORMATION

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Abstract:

ABSTRACT.

This article confronts a persistent challenge in research on children's geographies and politics: the difficulty of recognizing forms of political agency and practice that by definition fall outside of existing political theory. Children are effectively “always already” positioned outside most of the structures and ideals of modernist democratic theory, such as the public sphere and abstracted notions of communicative action or “rational” speech. Recent emphases on embodied tactics of everyday life have offered important ways to recognize children's political agency and practice. However, we argue here that a focus on spatial practices and critical knowledge alone cannot capture the full range of children's politics, and show how representational and dialogic practices remain a critical element of their politics in everyday life. Drawing on de Certeau's notion of spatial stories, and Bakhtin's concept of dialogic relations, we argue that children's representations and dialogues comprise a significant space of their political agency and formation, in which they can make and negotiate social meanings, subjectivities, and relationships. We develop these arguments with evidence from an after‐school activity programme we conducted with 10–13 year olds in Seattle, Washington, in which participants explored, mapped, wrote and spoke about the spaces and experiences of their everyday lives. Within these practices, children negotiate autonomy and self‐determination, and forward ideas, representations, and expressions of agreement or disagreement that are critical to their formation as political actors.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0467.2012.00392.x

Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Washington, Box 353550, Seattle, WA 98195, USA

Publication date: 2012-03-01

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