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The city and childhood - images, narratives and spaces

La ville et l'enfant

Images, récits, espaces

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Published on Friday, October 25, 2019 by Céline Guilleux


De manière générale, les enfants ont longtemps été marginalisés dans les études anthropologiques, sociologiques et géographiques. Les sciences s'intéressant aux objets culturels de l'enfance semblent travailler de manière isolée. L'un des principaux objectifs de ce colloque serait de se faire rencontrer sciences sociales et sciences de l'image et du texte, architectes et urbanistes. La ville serait alors abordée comme un espace bâti, vécu et raconté. Trois axes de recherche pourraient être envisagés : la ville bâtie, la ville vécue et la ville racontée.



Children  seem  to  have  been  forgotten  by  cities  (urban  planners?).  This  is  what  the  urban  philosopher,  Thierry  Paquot,  was  led  to  conclude  in  2015,  at  the  end  of  a  series  of  conferences  over  three  years  held  in  Dunkerque  (France)  about  the  place  of  children  in  the  city.  This  cycle  of  confe-rences  ended  with  an  exhibition  in  the  Halle  au  Sucre of Dunkerque, and the publication of a book, La Ville recreative (2015). In the same year, the on-line revue, Metropolitiques, dedicated an entire is-sue to children in the city. This issue was edited by two sociologists, Carole Gayet-Viaud and Clément Rivière, and a philosopher of urban spaces and ar-chitecture, Philippe Simay. The report is the same: “urban studies have not been interested in children yet”. However, in 1991, the city of Fano, in the centre of  Italy,  organised  a  workshop  called  “The  Children’s  City”  whose  work  would  become  a  reference  for  urbanists,  associations,  councils  and  children.  The  experiment  was  developed  and  led  by  a  psychologist,  Francesco  Tonucci.

More  generally,  children  have  been  margi-nalized for a long time in anthropological, sociolo-gical  and  geographic  studies.  However,  as  the  an-thropologist  Lawrence  A.  Hirschfield,  underlines,  “children  are  strikingly  adept  at  acquiring  adult  culture  and,  less  obviously,  adept  at  creating  their  own  cultures”  (Hirschfield,  2002).  They  acquire  very quickly and very strikingly the faculty to adapt to  the  cultures  that  surround  them.  Judith  Harris,  writes  in  1998:  “A  Child’s  goal  is  not  to  become  a  successful adult, any more than a prisoner’s goal is to  become  a  successful  guard.  A  Child’s  goal  is  to  be  a  successful  child...  Children  are  not  incompetent members of adult’s society; they are competent members  of  their  own  society,  which  has  its  own  standards  and  its  own  culture”  (Harris,  1998). 

In The Shape of a City, French writer Julien Gracq expresses how much growing up behind the walls of a boarding school, in the centre of Nantes, had “shaped him, as he writes, that is to say, partly encouraged him, partly forced him to see the imagi-nary world, that I discovered through my readings, through a distorted reality. [...] When access to the city  is  for  so  long  denied  you,  it  ends  up  symbolizing  freedom  itself.”    Research  on  the  material  culture  of  child-hood  has  for  a  long  time  been  interested  in  toys,  children literature, cartoons and video games, have hitherto  not  engaged  in  dialogue  with  urban  studies.  One  of  the  main  purposes  of  this  conference  would  be  to  bring  together  scholars  working  in  the  social  sciences  and  literary  and  visual  studies.  The City would be approached as a built, lived and imagined  space,  following  Heidegger’s  speech  in  Darmstadt,  in  1951,  Building  Living  Thinking.We propose three main areas for discussion:   

1rst Area : The Built City

“The overwhelming majority of children are condemned to play in confined spaces called “play-grounds”,  sometimes  they  escape  in  derelict  areas  and  other  wastelands.  School  yards  are  generally  ugly and unsuitable. The school run is often unsafe and bleak. The place where the child feels happiest is,  most  of  the  time,  at  home,  in  front  of  his  com-puter screen or his i-pad. In fact, we could say that he  lives  in  a  world  he  constructs  from  his  dreams  and his desires “(Paquot, 2015). How do contempo-rary architects and urbanists take into account ur-ban children? What place do they give to children in the City? How is urban space built for children?  Is there any experimentations where children’s opi-nion  about  their  playgrounds,  their  schools,  their  district  area,  their  city  is  taken  and/or  followed?   

2nd Area : The Lived City

Children  either  live  in  their  daily  lives  in  the  city,  or  when  they  visit.  They  have  a  praxis  of  the  City:  they  have  their  own  places,  their  habits.  How is the City lived by children? What are child-ren’s practices in urban spaces?  Do they change as children grow up? Are these urban practices diffe-rent  in  each  country  in  Europe?  In  the  world?    

3rd Area : The Imagined City

Toys,  games,  movies,  children  books  evoke  the  city  or  often  are  set  in  the  city.  From  around  2000  onwards  the  city  has  even  become  a  regular  subject in children’s picturebooks (Meunier, 2016). This final theme is interested in both the city as told to children and the city as understood by children. Cartoons, comics, movies, TV series describe cities where children are the heroes. What is the image of the city that these media products project to child-ren?  How  do  children  perceive  the  city  through  these  different  media?  And  what  about  children  themselves, what kind of image do they have of the City? Not just the one they live in but also about the one  they  would  like  to  live  in?


Please  send  and  abstract  of  300  mots  maximum  and a short biography of 100 words as two attached documents   to   Christophe   Meunier   (christophe.meunier@univ-orleans.fr).Each abstract should include the area of the conference  selected,  a  title  of  proposal,  abstract,  3  or  5  references,  author’s  e-mail  address.

E-mails should have the subject line : The City and The Child.

All abstracts and papers accepted for and presented at the conference must be in French or in English.

Deadline for submission : january 10, 2020.

Notification of acceptance : febuary 28, 2020.

Organizing Committee

  • Cécile Boulaire Maître de conférences HDR Littérature, Université de Tours Laboratoire InTRu
  • Laurent Gerbier Maître de conférences HDR Philosophie Université de Tours, Laboratoire InTRu
  • Christophe Meunier Docteur en Géographie Université d’Orléans Laboratoire InTRu Laboratoire ERCAé

Scientific Committee

  • Christophe Meunier, Docteur en Géographie, Université d’Orléans, Laboratoire InTRu, Laboratoire ERCAé
  • Mathilde Lévêque, Maître de conférences Littérature Université de Paris 13, Laboratoire CENEL/Pléiade
  • Sophie Heywood Associate Professor, Université de Reading (UK)
  • Ana Margarida Ramos, Docteure en Littérature, Département Langues et Cultures, Université de Aveiro (Portugal)
  • Nina Goga, Professeure Associée Littérature, Western Norway University of Applied Language (Norvège)
  • Marnie Campagnaro, Docteure en Education et Littérature, Université de Padoue
  • Laurent Cailly, Maître de conférences Géographie, Laboratoire CITERES
  • Michel Lussault, Professeur des Universités en Géographie, École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, Laboratoire EVS
  • Thierry Paquot, Professeur des Universités émérite en Philosophie
  • Laurent Gerbier, Maître de conférences HDR Philosophie, Université de Tours, Laboratoire InTRu
  • Nicolas Oppenchaim, Maître de conférences en sociologie, Université de Tours, Laboratoire CITERES


  • Université de Tours, 3 rue des Tanneurs
    Tours, France (37)


  • Friday, January 10, 2020

Attached files


  • enfance, espace, ville, urbanisme, représentation


  • Christophe Meunier
    courriel : christophe [dot] meunier [at] univ-tours [dot] fr

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Christophe Meunier
    courriel : christophe [dot] meunier [at] univ-tours [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« The city and childhood - images, narratives and spaces », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Friday, October 25, 2019, https://calenda.org/693293

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