Self, Place, and Memory: Spatial Trauma Among British and Finnish War Children

  • Anna-Kaisa Kuusisto-ArponenEmail author
Living reference work entry
Part of the Geographies of Children and Young People book series (GCYP, volume 11)


This chapter discusses the existential relations of self and place among war children. During World War II, more than 1.6 million British and Finnish children of various ages were sent away for safety from their homes either within their country or abroad. Forced displacement changed children’s familial social and physical environment and created fractures in spatial belonging. War children’s oral accounts on displacement describe a sense of placelessness, irrespective of the length or physical distance of their displacement. Typically, war children’s autobiographical memories of their displacement are fragmented and temporally disoriented. However, recalled memories often include emotionally and bodily vivid accounts on particular events, places, smells, sounds, and kinesthetic information. Given the ambiguousness of displacement experience, the concept of spatial trauma is introduced here. Spatial trauma means that forced displacement has created drastic, bodily experienced and memorized, psychophysical experiences that continue to affect people’s ties, sights, and practices of belonging later in their life. Empirically, this chapter is based on oral narrative interviews and written memories. It looks at how displacement experiences and partial effacements of memories affected war children’s sense of belonging. What kinds of socio-spatial coping mechanisms were deployed during the displacement? How and what do former war children tell about their experiences, and how does spatial trauma practically manifest itself in their childhood memories and their overall life course? By tracing existential spatial practices, this chapter provides new insights into postwar and post-conflict literature on the experiences and aftercare of displaced people.


Forced displacement Spatial trauma War child World War II Great Britain and Finland 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Management, Space and Political Agency Research GroupUniversity of TampereTampereFinland

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