Accepted paper:

Bystanders? Children, urban space and the uncertainties of crossing streets

Authors:

Kim Kullman (University of Helsinki)

Paper short abstract:

The presentation explores the uncertain everyday urban geographies of 7-12-year-old children in Helsinki, Finland.

Paper long abstract:

My presentation explores the uncertain everyday urban geographies of 7-12-year-old children in Helsinki, Finland, by describing their engagements with a ubiquitous piece of infrastructure: the zebra crossing. Taking visual footage produced by mobile children as my starting point, I will discuss the tension-laden bodily experiences that many children have to negotiate as they move around in their city. My argument is two-fold. First, I will discuss crossing streets as an embodied event that has important consequences for children's sense of belonging in urban space. Crossing streets is a way for young children to express their agency, as it involves bodily skills that they have learned through ongoing practise with parents and friends. Second, I will argue that crossing streets constitutes a moment of hesitation and vulnerability for children, as it brings them into contact with different modes of urban mobility, often forcing children to step aside from the path of others. I will show that children's experiences point to an everyday politics of urban space that is primarily expressed and sustained on an affective level, often producing a sense of uncertainty in children's bodies and effectively turning them into bystanders.

panel W103
Children and youth exploring uncertain realities