CfP for GCYFRG sponsored sessions at the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2017

RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2017

The Royal Geographical Society Annual Conference will take place from Tuesday 29 August to Friday 1 September 2017 in London

Conference Theme: ‘Decolonizing geographical knowledges: opening geography out to the world’. For more information please visit

The Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group (GCYFRG) is pleased to announce the following call for papers of the research group’s sponsored sessions.

1. Constructing the higher education student: understanding spatial variations

Session Convenors:
Rachel Brooks (University of Oxford, UK)
Johanna Waters (University of Oxford, UK)

Many scholars have argued that, in contemporary society, higher education policy and practice have both been profoundly changed by globalising pressures. Indeed, some have contended that the state’s capacity to control education has been significantly limited by the growth of both international organisations and transnational companies (Ball, 2007) and that the three traditional models of university education in Europe (Humboldtian, Napoleonic and Anglo-Saxon) have been replaced by a single Anglo-American model, characterised by, inter alia, competition, marketisation, decentralisation and a focus on entrepreneurial activity. Nevertheless, this analysis is not universally held. For example, not all European nations have sought to establish elite universities or maximise revenue through attracting international students, and significant differences remain in the way in which higher education is funded. In explaining such variations, scholars have pointed to differences in political dynamics, politico-administrative structures and intellectual traditions, as well as the flexibility and mutability of neo-liberal ideas themselves. However, research to date has focussed primarily on the extent of convergence (or divergence) with respect to top-level policies; as a result, little work has explored the perspectives of social actors, nor the ways in which policy may be ‘enacted’ locally, in ways that diverge from formal policy documents.

In this session we intend to bring together papers that explore the ways in which ‘the higher education student’ is constructed across different spatial contexts. We are keen to include papers that draw on data derived from students themselves, as well as from other social actors (such as the media, policymakers and higher education staff). We anticipate that they will speak to debates about what it means to be a young person within the contemporary university, as well as to those that relate more specifically to the geographies of higher education.

Please send abstracts to Rachel by noon on 13th February for consideration for this session:

2. Contextual safeguarding: Approaches to exploitation and abuse of children and young people beyond the home

Session Convenors:
Carlene Firmin (University of Bedfordshire, UK)
Jenny Lloyd (University of Bedfordshire, UK)

Research on young people’s experiences of exploitation and abuse reveals that young people experience harm in a range of social contexts beyond the home (Berelowitz et al. 2012, Messerschmidt, 2012; Beckett et al., 2013). However despite this, traditional approaches to child protection have often focused on individuals and their families rather than the contexts and environments in which abuse occurs (Firmin et al. 2016; Firmin, Warrington and Pearce, 2016). While media attention often looks at specific towns and cities, abuse happens everywhere. An interrogation of place is needed, not only to account for prevalence, but also recognise and understand the social dynamics happening within different places and young people’s experiences of these.

Willis, Canavan and Prior (2015) suggest that geographers have remained relatively absent from work on child sexual exploitation. This session will bring together researchers and practitioners engaging original and challenging approaches to work with children and young people that explores how exploitation, violence and abuse are grounded and perpetuated within particular geographical contexts. By bringing together academics and practitioners this session aims to breakdown disciplinary boundaries to extend the reach of geographical knowledge and theory. We invite contributions by those whose research practice and methods engages innovative and challenging approaches to work on children and young people’s experiences of abuse. This session will provide an opportunity for researchers and practitioners from outside geography to present in a supportive environment, especially those whose work cuts across academia and practice.

We welcome papers that explore, but are not limited to:

· Inter-disciplinary approaches to safeguarding.
· Gendered violence, harmful sexual behaviour in young people’s relationships and serious youth violence.
· Links between crime and transport- including mapping of journeys and ‘hotspots’.
· Innovative methodologies working with children and young people- including walking interviews and photo-voice.
· Connections between research and policy practice.
· Intersectional analysis.
· Victimhood and perpetration.
· Peer-on-peer abuse and adolescent safeguarding.
· Intersectionality and de-colonial practice.
· Young people’s experiences, needs and voices.

Please send abstracts to Jenny Lloyd by 13th February 2017 –

3. Educational Landscapes: Nature, Place and Moral Geographies

Session Convenors:
Jo Hickman Dunne (Loughborough University, UK)
Sarah Mills (Loughborough University, UK)

Geographers have explored both the historical connections between nature, education, rural space, adventure, childhood and youth (Philo 1992; Phillips 1997; Matless 1998 [2016]) and the contemporary use of the ‘great outdoors’ to foster ‘life skills’ in informal educational settings (Fjørtoft 2001; Mills & Kraftl 2014). These ideas require fresh attention across different educational landscapes, not least with the (re)emerging moral geographies of learning ‘British values’ and ‘character education’ in UK schools. This session critically responds to recent calls for greater use of outdoor environments in different educational spaces, especially (but not exclusively) for children and young people. In so doing, the session seeks to engage with long-standing debates in geography on theories of nature, landscape and place.

As ‘nature’ is used in multiple ways in diverse educational landscapes by a variety of individuals, groups and organisations, we can ask critical questions of the visions, understandings and (embodied) histories of ‘natural’ spaces. Indeed, Russell (1999) reminds us to consider ‘what nature and whose experience?’ and as Kraftl (2013) notes, certain natures are always privileged as learning spaces and others are deemed undesirable or inaccessible. Overall, this session seeks to combine a focus on educational spaces with wider debates in social and cultural geography on landscape, practice and (outdoor) mobilities (Merriman et al. 2008) as well as theories of nature, embodiment and in/exclusion (Macpherson 2009; Tolia-Kelly 2007).

We welcome papers on the following topics in either contemporary or historical contexts:
• Constructions and representations of nature and educational spaces
• Changing landscapes of outdoor education
• Nature, identity formation and belonging
• Everyday and embodied encounters between youth and ‘nature’
• Geographies of in/exclusion (e.g. class, race, gender, religion, sexuality, disability)
• Morality, values and character education
• The regulation and management of nature in education settings

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words to both convenors by Friday 3rd February 2017 via and

4. Playing, listening, engaging and taking action with children

Session Convenors:
Tracy Hayes (University of Cumbria, UK)
Sruthi Atmakur-Javdekar (City University of New York, USA)

The UNCRC calls for listening to ‘all’ children’s voices, and ensuring their full participation in matters affecting them. This includes the ways in which children [1] are able to make use of the environment they inhabit to exercise their right to holistic growth and development. For children, play is integral to their physical, psychological, socio-emotional and cognitive growth and development. It is then equally necessary to understand the ways in which children make use of their environment for play, leisure and recreation. The issue of reduced access to outdoor environments is neither new nor alarming – unfortunately! We also know that nature offers a diverse range of play materials for children to engage with, but we know little about how to listen to and engage children with different abilities so that they can exercise their right to play outdoors.

We recognise two inter-related issues that are essential to fulfill children’s right to play in their environments:

1. ensuring that voices of ‘all’ children are heard; and
2. taking action to improve the environment to support their play. How do we bridge research and action to exercise children’s right to play? Essentially, how do we talk with and listen to people from different age groups and diverse abilities? And how do we then address those desires and needs in the environment? Particularly, how do we ensure participation and engagement of children with different abilities in creating opportunities and spaces for them to play?

We call for papers that seek to answer the above questions and respond to the conference theme of decolonial geographical thinking. We aim for a diverse range of presentations (we encourage alternative and creative formats) from around the world that highlight

1. different methodologies of working with children of different ages and abilities;
2. projects that engage children in improving their play, leisure and recreational spaces.

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words to both conveners by Friday 3rd February 2017 via and

5. Other’ childhoods: theories, approaches and methods

Session Convenor:
Nadia von Benzon (University of Lancaster, UK)

This session intends to explore research with children and young people who may sit outside the heteronormative or Piagian view of a ‘normal’ child.  Children and young people may experience marginalisation and othering as a result of a wide range of intersecting aspects of their identity, often outside their control, including but not limited to; their ethnicity, family status, socio-economic status, health and disability (their own or their family members’).  Parental and personal choices such as alternative education, a nomadic lifestyle or the pursuit of sporting, artistic or academic excellence, might also place a child apart from their peers.  Looking outside the Global North, what constitutes a ‘normal’, ‘mainstream’ or ‘acceptable’ childhood may be a broader spectrum of experience, requiring a more nuanced ethical, methodological and theoretical interpretation.

Considering ‘other’ childhoods, both in the Global North and the Global South can call into question many of the pre-conceived and socially constructed values and assertions concerning childhood, that underpin national and institutional policies and dictate the ways in which children and adults interact.  A broader recognition of the range of experiences of childhood, and a better understanding of the lived experience of these ‘other’ childhoods, may create space for rigorous debate around core geographical issues such as mobilities, agency, risk, work, education and play.

Papers are invited that explore all aspects of research with ‘other’ childhoods: methodological, ethical, analytical, conceptual, theoretical or practical. It is intended that papers will be short (max. 10 minutes) in order to allow plenty of time for discussion of the connections between the papers, and to encourage meaningful contributions from non-presenters.

Please submit abstracts of no more than 300 words by Friday 10th February to

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