Material Sensibilities

making space for play across the life course

Ludic Geopolitics I

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

Funding: University of Exeter Open Innovation Platform Link Fund (with Sean Carter); University of Portsmouth New Staff Research Award


Ludic   adj. Of or relating to playfulness

This pilot research explored 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. Funding was used to establish academic and practitioner networks centred around the British action figure and ludic geopolitics more broadly.



Action Man Study Day, V&A Museum of Childhood, November 2012

This exciting day included talks about the museum’s collection of Action Man paraphernalia, how to care for vintage plastic figures and discussion with former Palitoy employees, including Action Man chief (1967-84) designer Bob Brechin.  It also included an opportunity to see unique Action Man prototypes and designs, and meet collectors.

War Games Exhibition Launch, V&A Museum of Childhood, May 2013

“The War Games exhibition  explores the fascinating relationship between conflict and children’s play, providing an insight into the ways toys have been influenced by warfare from 1800 to the present day. With toys and games including Risk, GI Joe and classic Britain’s toy soldiers, as well as photographs and archive documents, War Games represents differing sides of conflicts from around the world. This thought-provoking exhibition reveals the sometimes surprising links between play and wider attitudes towards warfare, and delves into the secret history of toys as tools of propaganda and espionage” (Museum of Childhood website). See more

Ludic Geopolitics, Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Los Angeles, April 2013

I co-convened this session with Jason Dittmer (UCL). It critically addressed fundamental questions about the ways in which geopolitical representations, identities and relations are shaped and sustained through play.  There was a particular focus on videogames, but also attention to simulations such as Statecraft and Model United Nations, and military action figures. See more


One response to “Ludic Geopolitics I

  1. Pingback: Lego: just imagine V « materialsensibilities

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