1st Edition

The Ethnopoetics of Space and Transformation
Young People’s Engagement, Activism and Aesthetics

ISBN 9781138212947
Published August 3, 2016 by Routledge
218 Pages

USD $62.95

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Book Description

Change is inevitable, we are told. A job is lost, a couple falls in love, children leave home, an addict joins Narcotics Anonymous, two nations go to war, a family member's health deteriorates, a baby is born, a universal health care bill is voted into law. Life comprises events over which we have considerable, partial, or little or no control. The distance between the event and our daily lives suggests a quirky spatial politics. Our lives move forward depending upon how events play out in concert with our reactions to them. Drawing on nearly three decades of geographic projects that involve ethnographies and interviews with, and stories about, young people in North and South American, Europe and Asia and using the innovative technique of ethnopoetry, Aitken examines key life-changing events to look at the interconnections between space, politics, change and emotions. Analysing the intricate spatial complexities of these events, he explores the emotions that undergird the ways change takes place, and the perplexing spatial politics that almost always accompany transformations. Aitken positions young people as effective agents of change without romanticizing their political involvement as fantasy and unrealistic dreaming. Going further, he suggests that it is the emotional palpability of youth engagement and activism that makes it so potent and productive. Pulling on the spatial theories of de Certeau, Deleuze, Massey, Agamben, Rancière, Zizek and Grosz amongst others, Aitken argues that spaces are transformative to the degree that they open the political and he highlights the complexly interwoven political, economic, social and cultural practices that simultaneously embed and embolden people in places. If we think of spaces as events and events encourage change, then spaces and people become other through complex relations. Taking poetry to be an emotive construction of language, Aitken re-visualizes, contorts and arranges people's words and gestures to

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Birthing the poetics of space and transformation; Ethnopoetics; Disrupting spatial competencies and affordances; Development, figured worlds and affective ecologies; Schoolyards, violence and landscapes of revolution; Children’s work, civic responsibilities and refashioning citizenship; Poets and stateless children; The poetic aesthetics of children’s politics; References; Index.

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Stuart C. Aitken is June Burnett Chair of Children’s and Family Geographies, Director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies of Youth and Space (ISYS) and Professor of Geography at San Diego State University, USA.


"The Ethnopoetics of Space and Transformation: Young People’s Engagement, Activism and Aesthetics is a book that not only requires – but because of its breadth – enables revisiting. As such, the reader must admit that it does what it preaches: illustrates in the said spirit of DeCerteau and Laclau of how ‘way-finding’ in life is a process of complexity, confusion, playfulness and miss-steps rather than a straightforward endeavour (33)."Children’s Geographies, Pauliina Rautio, University of Oulu, Finland

"This book is a serious attempt to move children and youths from their subdisciplinary crib to the world of people, placing their lived worlds at the core of critical geographical inquiry. By re-exposing himself to the experiences and expressions of the differently situated children and youths he has worked with over the years, Aitken proves such binaries as Politics/politics, adult/child, homed/homeless more harmful than useful in understanding the contemporary change."Kirsi Pauliina Kallio, University of Tampere, Finland

"Stuart Aitken elegantly weaves the lives and voices of children, young people, and their families into an ethnographic narrative of spirit, hope and belief in the possibility of transformation. Traversing the world through his research, he explores the ways that young people experience, give meaning to, and disrupt the places they create. It is a beautiful and necessary book."Lynn A. Staeheli, Durham University, UK

"We are used to seeing children as subjects of protection, care and rights. Aitken adds another dimension, regarding children as political beings, being involved in transformations of social relations and spaces in their own playful and surprising ways. Read this book for its concrete transformative practices, a true remedy against deep inequalities and injustices."Jelka Zorn, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

"This is a necessary and innovative book: it succeeds in vividly painting a well-researched map of emotional landscapes, shaped as they are by youth across the globe in their response to adverse circumstances, as well as including expressive poetry as an amplification of critical theory. It is an excellent guide to the contemporary forms of social and economic, moral and aesthetic change."Aleš Debeljak, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

"I was grateful for the focus on the importance of context including histories of institutions, spatial affordances, and emotion as drivers for change and value that this text is ultimately hopeful without romanticizing young people."Children, Youth & Environments