Playfully Negotiating Publics: Children, Space, and Activism in the City


The multiple dimensions of urbanity can be examined and understood through the creative agency of children who redefine and mold cities. Despite the many barriers that children face in negotiating city spaces, particularly those in vulnerable and marginal situations, we argue that children express an active citizenship through their playful everyday lives. Framing children’s geographies within a governmentality framework, we demonstrate through two case studies that children are able to renegotiate power relationships within city spaces in exciting new ways. The multiple, layered, and textured dynamics of a city are brought into full view that often escapes rational planning exercises. By means of the case studies of New York newspaper sellers at the turn of the twentieth century and child panhandlers in Fatehpur Sikri, we argue and theorize for a new city–child-scape that is less formidable and democratically engaging. This new landscape bridges the difference through the sameness of humanity, emotion, and possibilities.


Children’s geographies Governmentality Urban spaces 


  1. Ariès P (1962) Centuries of childhood. Jonathan Cape, LondonGoogle Scholar
  2. Chawla L (ed) (2002) Growing up in an urbanizing world. Earthscan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  3. Cresswell T (1996) In place/out of place: geography, ideology, and transgression. University of Minnesota Press, MinneapolisGoogle Scholar
  4. Flusty S (2000) Thrashing downtown: play as resistance to the spatial and representational regulation of Los Angeles. Cities 17(2):149–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Foucault M (1990) [1976] The history of sexuality, volume I: an introduction. Vintage Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  6. Hugo (2011) Directed by Martin Scorcese. Paramount Pictures, HollywoodGoogle Scholar
  7. Huxley M (2007) Geographies of governmentality. In: Crampton JW, Elden S (eds) Space, knowledge and power: Foucault and geography. Ashgate, FarnhamGoogle Scholar
  8. James A, Prout A (1990) Constructing and reconstructing childhood: contemporary issues in the sociological study of childhood. Falmer Press, London/New YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. Nasaw D (1985) Children of the city: at work and at play. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  10. Newsies (1992) Directed by Kenneth Ortega. Disney, BurbankGoogle Scholar
  11. Platt AM (1977) The child savers: the invention of delinquency. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  12. Selznick B (2007) The invention of Hugo Cabret. Scholastic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  13. Valentine G (2004) Public space and the culture of childhood. Ashgate, Aldershot/BurlingtonGoogle Scholar
  14. Zelizer VAR (1985) Pricing the priceless child: the changing social value of children. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environment and GeographyUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada
  2. 2.Department of GeographyYork UniversityTorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations