Material Sensibilities

making space for play across the life course

Ludic Geopolitics II

Ludic Geopolitics: Children’s Play, War Toys and Re-enchantment with the British Military’ II

Funding: ESRC Standard Grant; UoP RIS award

PI: Tara Woodyer (Portsmouth)

Co-Is: Sean Carter (Exeter), Klaus Dodds (Royal Holloway)

Research Associates: Phil Kirby (Exeter), Diana Martin (Portsmouth), Matthew Rech (Exeter)

Project partner: V&A Museum of Childhood, London


Ludic   adj. Of or relating to playfulness

imagesThis project analyses the HM Armed Forces toy range ( for the purpose of examining a ‘ludic geopolitics’: how contemporary geopolitics are expressed and enacted through play. Studies of the ‘military entertainment complex’ have documented the entanglement of the military and toy industry, however work has focused on videogames in a US context. Despite the iconic status of traditional toys like Action Man, and the commercial success of the contemporary HM Armed Forces brand, action figures are yet to receive critical academic attention. Using an ethnographic approach, this project examines children’s embodied practices with the HMAF range. To contextualise and historicise the brand, this work is complemented by archival and museum-based research of the British action figure’s trajectory. This research critically reviews the status of children, mundane everyday practice and the more-than-textual in critical geopolitics, and makes a significant intervention in the interdisciplinary war toy debate by addressing war toys not just as ideological texts, but as objects in playful practice. See more

Highlights so far:

War Games and the Cold War, essay for the V&A Museum of Childhood’s War Games exhibition.

Action Figures, Cultures of Militarism and Geopolitical Logicsessay for the V&A Museum of Childhood’s War Games exhibition.

Check out the museum’s exhibition web pages

War Games, series of research reports on visitor engagement at hosts of travelling War Games exhibition.

War and play, public lecture at Tullie House Museum, Carlisle.

The Political Geographies of War and Play, A-level session, Explore Geography Widening Participation scheme.

TV and radio appearances on BBC World Service, BBC Radio Devon and British Forces Broadcasting Service.

Press coverage in The Independent, The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian.

More than child’s play? War toys; then and now, article in History Today, 2014, 64 (12), pp.20-27.

War games, article in Toy News, 2014, 147, p.25.

Ludic – or playful –  geopoliticschapter in Children, Young People and Critical Geopolitics, 2016, pp.61-73.

Playing war: the action figure’s role in the domestic co-constitution of geopolitical cultures, paper presented at RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, 2015, Exeter, UK.

Domesticating Geopolitics, double session convened at RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, 2015, Exeter, UK. Sponsored by RGS Social and Cultural Geography Research Group and RGS Political Geography Research Group.

Play, War, Toys and Conflict through the lens of Ludic Geopolitics, paper presented at Play, War, Toys and Conflict conference, 2014, London, UK.

Re-enchantment with the British Military? From Action Man to the HMAF Toy Range, paper presented at RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, 2014, London, UK.

The Ludic Geopolitics of War Toys, paper presented at RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, 2014, London, UK.

Ludic geopolitics: Children’s play, war toys and re-enchantment with the British military, paper presented at ‘Gaming and games’ seminar series, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford.



2 responses to “Ludic Geopolitics II

  1. Pingback: Letters to Santa, letters to self | materialsensibilities

  2. Pingback: HOT OFF THE PRESS! Ludic Geographies | materialsensibilities

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: