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Research : Children / Family

Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Youth and Space

The ISYS Center supports critical research on the geographies of children, families, and communities. The Center is a catalyst for cross-disciplinary and international collaborations and enhances the Department of Geography?s capacity to support qualitative and interpretive research.

Global Childhoods: Globalization, Development and Young People

Recent work on children?s geographies and the new sociology of childhood is about the practices of young people, their communities, and the places and institutions that shape (and are shaped by) their lives. It is about quirky local geographies that spiral children into despair and violence, it is about youth movements and communities of rage and mayhem, and it is about omnipresent global geographies with uneven outcomes that conspire to commodify and exploit the lives of young people. With this project we argue that places are important for young people because they play a large part in constructing and constraining dreams and practices, but local contexts may complicate our understandings of young people?s geographies and highlight relativism to the extent that there is nothing critical to say. Through our study of local places we should not be silent about larger concerns. This international project involves researchers from the US, UK, Canada, Denmark and Norway. It initiates a broad discussion about how we place children, but it does not seek to dwell on the abiding (and important) complexities of local comparisons. Rather, it seeks to elaborate larger concerns about the changing nature of childhood, young people?s experiences and the embodiment of their political identities as they are embedded in processes of globalization.

The project advances ideas generated in a 1998 National Science Foundation-sponsored (SES 97-32469) workshop in San Diego and a workshop that took place in Norway in 2004 (sponsored by the Norwegian Research Council). The earlier NSF workshop focused on children?s geographies in general. The NRC workshop highlighted children?s political identifies with a specific focus on young people as part of globalization.

A book based on this project is due out in 2008: Aitken, Stuart C. Anne Trine Kjorholt and Ragnhild Lund, eds. (2008). Global Childhoods. Routledge.

The Awkward Spaces of Fathering

Social science research often defines a father?s relationship and involvement with his children as a form of co-parenting that is interdependent with, in opposition to, and at times less than mothering. It is a position that tends to avoid issues of power, dominance and positioning, and often soft-pedals the emotional bonds between fathers and their children. This project seeks to advance knowledge of the mythic ideals that help structure the gender and spatial relations of fathering, and to understand more fully how these get in the way of the day-to-day work of fathering. There are two sub-components to this project.

I. The Emotional Work of Fathering: A Study of the Spatial Construction of Fathering

An ongoing ten-year longitudinal study using ethnographic interviews and participant observation explores how much of the institution of fatherhood hinges on an ?idea? that does not embrace the ?fact? of fathering as a daily emotional practice that is negotiated, contested and resisted differently in different spaces. Of central importance is the assumption that these spaces are highlighted and questioned or put in jeopardy.

II. Recovering Fatherhood: A Study of the Social and Spatial Politics of Exclusion

This part of the study explores normative views of ?being a father? amongst a sample of fathers whose place in a family is contested by past behaviors and practices. The specific focus of change for this project is exclusion from, or tension within, families due to a father?s past substance abuse and other dependencies. The project seeks to understand how fathers in recovery from addictive diseases create new and complex spaces of interaction with their families.

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