CERG Research Associates, Sruthi Atmakur-Javdekar and Jennifer Tang presented at the fourth International Conference on the Geographies of Children, Youth & Families in San Diego California held January 12-15, 2015. The conference provided an opportunity for anthropologists, sociologists, landscape architects, planners, and development workers to join geographers in reflecting, discussing, and contributing to the growing field of children’s geographies.
Organized by the San Diego State University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Youth and Space, the conference featured two thought-provoking keynotes. Tracy Skelton traced the development of children’s geography, marking the contributions of feminism and radical scholarship, and highlighting the connections between the field and recent forays of inquiry into political geography, mobilities, and relationality. As the field of children’s geography becomes theoretically and methodologically richer, Tracey asks, “what will children’s geographies contribution be to the larger discipline of geography?” Katharyne Mitchell used her research on conducting counter-mapping with children to highlight the power children have in surfacing histories and places that are often forgotten. Through counter-mapping, children evoke forgotten knowledges in culture, civics and geography as a way of challenging spatial and social injustices. Mitchell urged those of us working on children’s geographies to use our research as a pedagogical tool to critically engage with the world, fostering and furthering a commitment to social justice in our work and the children with whom we work.
In the sessions on Child Friendly Cities, Sruthi Atmakur-Javdekar presented a methodological and epistemological framework of ‘child-friendliness’ in the context of the Child Friendly Places (CFP) Initiative in two cities of India – Mumbai (Maharashtra) and Bhavnagar (Gujarat) – through Participatory Action Research and Feminist inquiry. CERG’s Child Friendly Places – (Places are communities, schools and cities) – initiative is a participatory, intergenerational, and child friendly assessment and planning methodology. Recognizing children as active agents who influence change in matters concerning their well being, Sruthi’s presentation critically reviewed the CFP initiative in India as a way to democratize research by unpacking CFP resource kit adaptations, bottlenecks and opportunities, and experiences of working with children and young people, thereby, heading towards an epistemology of ‘Situated Knowledges’ within scholarly work of children’s geographies.
Jennifer Tang presented on the perception of youth political identity in New York City. By charting the development of the Mayors Youth Leadership Council and the change in the Public Officers Law to include 16 and 17-year-olds on community boards, Jennifer finds that the conception of children’s political agency, children’s rights to political space, and the recognition of children’s own political tactics to be insufficient. Although New York City government is working to engage young people in formal city governance, a more inclusive and meaningful system of governance needs to be implemented in order to actualize children’s rights to political participation.
The conference included a panel on the upcoming Springer Major Reference Work on the Geographies of Children and Young People. Volume editors Tracy Skelton, Stewart Aiken, Louise Holt, Nancy Worth, and Sarah Mills celebrated the forthcoming series as an indicator that the calls to recognize and expand research on children’s geographies have been heeded, and that this is a moment for researchers and practitioners to push forward and critically engage. Research Associates Sruthi Atmakur-Javdekar and Jennifer Tang have chapters forthcoming in the series.
The conference was a generative experience and CERG looks forward to connecting, sharing, and learning at the next International Conference on the Geographies of Children, Youth & Families at the University of Loughborough.