Skip to main content

Toying with Militarization: Children and War on the Homefront


This chapter reflects upon some of the broad themes from our Ludic Geopolitics research project, a project that seeks to explore and understand the politics around childhood and play, specifically in relation to so-called ‘war toys’. Critical approaches to such war play and war toys have tended to stress their militarizing effects—our main argument is that too often these fail to adequately recognize the political lives of children, and render them instead as passive subjects. As a response, we argue that in order to develop more nuanced accounts of the entanglements of childhood and IR, child-centred methodological approaches are necessary. We illustrate this argument through reference to the embodied and ethnographic approach that characterizes our Ludic Geopolitics research project. The chapter also reflects more generally on the promises, problems, and prospects for taking children seriously within IR. In this we argue for a multi-sited research perspective that places children and their agency at the centre. However, the chapter also recognizes that there are challenges in doing so—for example, multi-sited approaches present both methodological and analytical challenges; and emphasizing childhood agency and political subjectivity potentially risks downplaying issues of power, vulnerability, and often well-founded concerns around militarization.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-46063-1_8
  • Chapter length: 24 pages
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
USD   119.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-030-46063-1
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book
USD   159.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book
USD   159.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Fig. 8.1

(Source Authors)


  • Åhäll, Linda. 2016. “The Dance of Militarisation: A Feminist Security Studies Take on ‘the Political’.” Critical Studies on Security 4 (2): 154–168.

  • Änggård, Eva. 2016. “How Matter Comes to Matter in Children’s Nature Play: Posthumanist Approaches and Children’s Geographies.” Children’s Geographies 14 (1): 77–90.

  • Arvidsen, Jan. 2018. “Growing Dens. On Re-grounding the Child-Nature Relationship Through a New Materialist Approach to Children’s Dens.” Children’s Geographies 16 (3): 279–291.

  • Barad, Karen. 2007. Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham: Duke University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Basham, Victoria M. 2016. “Raising an Army: The Geopolitics of Militarizing the Lives of Working-Class Boys in an Age of Austerity.” International Political Sociology 10 (3): 258–274.

  • Beier, J. Marshall, ed. 2011. The Militarization of Childhood: Thinking Beyond the Global South. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Beier, J. Marshall. 2015. “Children, Childhoods and Security Studies: An Introduction.” Critical Studies on Security 3 (1): 1–13.

  • Bleiker, Roland. 2018. “Mapping Visual Global Politics.” In Visual Global Politics, edited by Roland Bleiker, 13–41. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bonte, Eleanor Palmer, and Mary Musgrove. 1943. “Influences of War as Evidenced in Children’s Play.” Child Development 14 (4): 179–200.

  • Bos, Daniel. 2018. “Answering the Call of Duty: Everyday Encounters with the Popular Geopolitics of Military-Themed Videogames.” Political Geography 63: 54–64.

  • Bourke, Joanna. 2014. Wounding the World: How Military Violence and War-Play Invade Our Lives. London: Virago.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brocklehurst, Helen. 2011. “Education and the War on Terror: The Early Years.” In The Militarization of Childhood: Thinking Beyond the Global South, edited by J. Marshall Beier, 77–94. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brocklehurst, Helen. 2015. “The State of Play: Securities of Childhood—Insecurities of Children.” Critical Studies on Security 3 (1): 29–46.

  • Campbell, David. 2003. “Cultural Governance and Pictorial Resistance: Reflections on the Imaging of War.” Review of International Studies 29 (S1): 57–73.

  • Carter, Sean, and Derek P. McCormack. 2006. “Film, Geopolitics and Affective Logics of Intervention.” Political Geography 25 (2): 228–245.

  • Carter, Sean, Philip Kirby, and Tara Woodyer. 2016. “Ludic—Or Playful—Geopolitics.” In Children, Young People and Critical Geopolitics, edited by Matthew C. Benwell and Peter Hopkins, 61–73. Farnham: Ashgate.

    Google Scholar 

  • Caso, Frederica, and Caitlin Hamilton, eds. 2015. Popular Culture and World Politics: Theories, Methods, Pedagogies. Bristol: E-International Relations Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  • Christensen, Pia, and Alan Prout. 2002. “Working with Ethical Symmetry in Social Research with Children.” Childhood 9 (4): 477–497.

  • Corsaro, William A., and Luisa Molinari. 2000. “Entering and Observing in Children’s Worlds: A Reflection on a Longitudinal Ethnography of Early Education in Italy.” In Research with Children: Perspectives and Practices, edited by Pia Christensen and Allison James, 179–200. London: Falmer Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Crowe, Lori. 2011. “Superheroes or Super-Soldiers? The Militarization of Our Modern-Day Heroes.” In The Militarization of Childhood: Thinking Beyond the Global South, edited by J. Marshall Beier, 111–132. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Danchev, Alex. 2009. On Art and War on Terror. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Debrix, François. 2008. Tabloid Terror: War, Culture and Geopolitics. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Der Derian, James. 2001. Virtuous War: Mapping the Military-Industrial-Media-Entertainment-Network. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dyvik, Synne L., and Lauren Greenwood. 2016. “Embodying Militarism: Exploring the Spaces and Bodies In-Between.” Critical Military Studies 2 (1–2): 1-6.

  • Enloe, Cynthia. 1989. Bananas, Beaches and Bases. London: Pandora.

    Google Scholar 

  • Enloe, Cynthia. 2000. Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women’s Lives. Oakland: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Etaugh, Claire, and Arlene Happach. 1979. “Effect of Aggressive Play on Children’s Subsequent Aggressive Behaviour.” Psychological Reports 45 (2): 656–658.

  • Feshbach, Seymour. 1956. “The Catharsis Hypothesis and Some Consequences of Interaction with Aggressive and Neutral Play Objects.” Journal of Personality 24 (4): 449–462.

  • Fraser, Antonia. 1966. A History of Toys. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

    Google Scholar 

  • Goldstein, Jeffrey H. 1992. “War Toys”: A Review of Empirical Research. Philadelphia and Utrecht: The British Toy and Hobby Association.

    Google Scholar 

  • Goldstein, Jeffrey H. 1998. “Immortal Kombat: War Toys and Violent Video Games.” In Why We Watch: The Attractions of Violent Entertainment, edited by Jeffrey H. Goldstein, 53–68. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Grayson, Kyle, Matt Davies, and Simon Philpott. 2009. “Pop Goes IR? Researching the Popular Culture-World Politics Continuum.” Politics 29 (3): 155–163.

  • Gribbin, Mary. 1979. “Granny Knows Best.” New Scientist 84 (1179): 350–351.

    Google Scholar 

  • Harker, Christopher. 2005. “Playing and Affective Time-Spaces.” Children’s Geographies 3 (1): 47–62.

  • Holland, Penny. 2003. We Don’t Play with Guns Here: War, Weapon and Superhero Play in the Early Years. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Holloway, Sarah L., and Gill Valentine. 2000. “Spatiality and the New Social Studies of Childhood.” Sociology 34 (4): 763–783.

  • Holt, Louise. 2007. “Children’s Socio-spatial (Re)Production of Disability Within Primary School Playgrounds.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 25 (5): 783–802.

  • Horton, John, and Peter Kraftl. 2006. “Not Just Growing Up but Going On: Materials, Spacings, Bodies, Situations.” Children’s Geographies 4 (3): 259–276.

  • Kallio, Kirsi Pauliina. 2007. “Performative Bodies, Tactical Agents and Political Selves: Rethinking the Political Geographies of Childhood.” Space and Polity 11 (2): 121–136.

  • Kallio, Kirsi Pauliina. 2008. “The Body as Battlefield: Approaching Children’s Politics.” Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography 90 (3): 285–297.

  • Karlinsky, Neal, and Dan Przygoda. 2012. “Video Games and Violence: Every Generation Blames Newest Media, Expert Says.” ABC News. Accessed 16 June 2014.

  • Katz, Cindi. 2004. Growing Up Global: Economic Restructuring and Children’s Everyday Lives. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kelly, John. 2013. “Popular Culture, Sport and the ‘Hero’-Fication of British Militarism.” Sociology 47 (4): 722–738.

  • Marsh, Jackie. 2004. “Book Review. We Don’t Play with Guns Here: War, Weapon and Superhero Play in the Early Years.” Journal of Early Childhood Research 2 (3): 319–322.

  • Marsh, Jackie, and Julia C. Bishop. 2013. Changing Play: Play, Media and Commercial Culture from the 1950s to the Present Day. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • McDonnell, Susan. 2019. “Nonsense and Possibility: Ambiguity, Rupture and Reproduction in Children’s Play/ful Narratives.” Children’s Geographies 17 (3): 251–265.

  • Mitchell, Katharyne, and Sarah Elwood. 2012. “Mapping Children’s Politics: The Promise of Articulation and the Limits of Nonrepresentational Theory.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 30 (5): 788–804.

  • Ogilvie-Whyte, Sharon. 2003. “Building a Bicycle Ramp: An Illustrated Example of the Process of Translation in Children’s Everyday Play Activities.” Paper presented at the Childhood and Youth Studies Network Meeting, Stirling, April 30.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pain, Rachel. 2015. “Intimate War.” Political Geography 44: 64–73.

  • Philo, Chris, and Fiona M. Smith. 2003. “Guest Editorial: Political Geographies of Children and Young People.” Space and Polity 7 (2): 99–115.

  • Power, Marcus. 2007. “Digitized Virtuosity: Video Games and Post-9/11 Cyber-Deterrence.” Security Dialogue 38 (2): 271–288.

  • Prout, Alan. 2000. The Future of Childhood: Towards the Interdisciplinary Study of Children. Abingdon: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rautio, Pauliina. 2013. “Children Who Carry Stones in Their Pockets: On Autotelic Material Practices in Everyday Life.” Children’s Geographies 11 (4): 394–408.

  • Rautio, Pauliina. 2014. “Mingling and Imitating in Producing Spaces for Knowing and Being: Insights from a Finnish Study of Child-Matter Intra-Action.” Childhood 21 (4): 461–474.

  • Rech, Matthew, Daniel Bos, K. Neil Jenkings, Alison Williams, and Rachel Woodward. 2015. “Geography, Military Geography, and Critical Military Studies.” Critical Military Studies 1 (1): 47–60.

  • Reynolds, Kimberley. 2013. “‘A Prostitution Alike of Matter and Spirit’: Anti-war Discourses in Children’s Literature and Childhood Culture Before and During World War I.” Children’s Literature in Education 44 (2): 120–139.

  • Robinson, Nick. 2015. “Have You Won the War on Terror? Military Videogames and the State of American Exceptionalism.” Millennium: Journal of International Studies 43 (2): 450–470.

  • Rosen, Rachel. 2017. “Between Play and the Quotidian: Inscriptions of Monstrous Characters on the Racialised Bodies of Children.” Race, Ethnicity and Education 20 (2): 178–191.

  • Salter, Mark B. 2011. “The Geographical Imaginations of Video Games: Diplomacy, Civilization, America’s Army and Grand Theft Auto IV.” Geopolitics 16 (2): 359–388.

  • Stahl, Roger. 2006. “Have You Played the War on Terror?” Critical Studies in Media Communication 23 (2): 112–130.

  • Sutton-Smith, Brian, John Gerstmeyer, and Alice Meckley. 1988. “Playfighting as Folkplay Amongst Preschool Children.” Western Folklore 47 (3): 161–176.

  • Thorne, Barrie. 1993. Gender Play: Girls and Boys in School. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thrift, Nigel. 1997. “The Still Point: Resistance, Expressive Embodiment and Dance.” In Geographies of Resistance, edited by Steve Pile and Michael Keith, 124–151. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tidy, Joanna. 2015. “Forces Sausages and Eggs for Soldiers: Food, Nostalgia, and the Rehabilitation of the British Military.” Critical Military Studies 1 (3): 220–232.

  • Toys N Playthings. 2009. “Boys Just Want to Have Fun.” Toys N Playthings 28 (7): 24–33.

    Google Scholar 

  • Turner, Charles W., and Diane Goldsmith. 1976. “Effects of Toy Guns and Airplanes on Children’s Anti-social Free-Play Behaviour.” Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 21 (2): 303–315.

  • UK Parliament. 2011. “Early Day Motion 2427.” Accessed 16 June 2014.

  • Weber, Cynthia. 2005. Imagining America at War: Morality, Politics, and Film. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Woodyer, Tara. 2008. “The Body as Research Tool: Embodied Practice and Children’s Geographies.” Children’s Geographies 6 (4): 349–362.

  • Woodyer, Tara. 2012. “Ludic Geographies: Not Merely Child’s Play.” Geography Compass 6 (6): 313–326.

  • Woodyer, Tara. Forthcoming. “Using Ethnomethodologically Informed Ethnography for a Shared Process of Knowledge Creation.” In Embodied Research Methods, edited by Jennifer Tantia. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Woodyer, Tara, and Sean Carter. 2018. “Domesticating the Geopolitical: Rethinking Popular Geopolitics Through Play.” Geopolitics. Online in Advance of Print.

  • Woodyer, Tara, Diana Martin, and Sean Carter. 2015. “Ludic Geographies.” In Play, Recreation, Health and Wellbeing, edited by John Horton and Bethan Evans and Tracey Skelton, 1–18. Singapore: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Tara Woodyer .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2020 The Author(s)

About this chapter

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Woodyer, T., Carter, S. (2020). Toying with Militarization: Children and War on the Homefront. In: Beier, J. (eds) Discovering Childhood in International Relations. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Download citation