Children’s spaces and bodies of resistance: The hidden, the vertical and the mundane in the elementary school classroom

Authors: Katharine Terrell*, Sheffield Hallam University
Topics: Social Theory, Social Geography, Qualitative Research
Keywords: Children, childhood, education, school, non-representational theory, embodiment, the body, Merleau-Ponty, Deleuze, Europe, UK, spatiality, human geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: 8211, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This presentation outlines methodological discussions and empirical data analysis from a qualitative study of the embodied experiences of children at a British primary school. It explores key themes emerging from my data analysis, including children co-opting space designed (by adults) for their own, creative uses.

Over 6 months I spent time at an English inner-city school with children aged 5 to 7. During that time, the children and I (co-)produced data through conversations, drawings, observations and photographs. In presenting this data, I avoid focusing on “special” children, “special” moments and “special” places. Instead, I wish to consider the apparently normal and mundane moments that might be overlooked.

Through listening to children’s experiences, and by reflecting on my own experiences as an embodied researcher, I will show how adults attempt to create and control physical and symbolic spaces, especially focusing on vertical space. The everyday, mundane environment – doors and door-handles, cupboards, bulletin boards – take on new meaning when examined through the lens of embodied Deleuzian “becoming” (Stephens, Ruddick and McKeever, 2015). I will think through the ways in which adults' and children's bodies relate to each other and create/resist/transform school spaces. I will argue that my data shows how children’s bodies in space become sites of struggle through acts of creative resistance. My theoretical basis is a multidisciplinary. non-representational understanding of embodiment and how bodies and spaces co-produce each other. I borrow from Merleau-Ponty’s work that considers the body as lived and active, in constant interactions with the world.

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