Being out of place: where do urban children belong?

Ms Lynette Spence1

1RMIT, Melbourne, Australia


Adults, through deed and word, can construct childhood as an imaginative worlding of past times and places. When these imaginative worlds are read within the Romantic legacy – as nature/culture and past/present dualisms – everyday lives of urban children are gathered into the childhood concept as a spatial ideology, enabling adults, perhaps haunted by their past, to diagnose urban children with a nature deficit syndrome in need of rewilding. From this process, nature, as an elsewhere, is reproduced as the authentic spatial container for the being and becoming of a child. This Romantic legacy, of re-marked nature, has implications for how childhood is read in theories of representation and experience, and in discourse on rights to the city. If, for example, childhood authenticity is named by adult interlocutors, how can the child speak, or be? This presentation approaches these questions from a discussion on the poetics of place, with reference to Jeannie Baker’s picture books of re-marked nature: Window and Belonging. Reading registers illustrate how adults place childhood as historical and spatial imagination, alongside the ways in which childhood can belong in the urban landscape.


Lynette Spence is a PhD student in the The School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT.

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