Material Sensibilities

making space for play across the life course



Woodyer, T. (2018) The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers, Children’s GeographiesDOI: 10.1080/14733285.2018.1457756

Available here

Woodyer, T. (2017) War Toys and Cultural IdentityImpact, 9, pp. 76-78. DOI: 10.21820/23987073.2017.9.76

Abstract   Since the 1990s, increasing attention has been paid to how geographies of global politics are represented through popular culture, such as films, radio and magazines. Despite the enduring war play debate, children and toys have typically been excluded from these discussions. At a time when militarism is increasingly imprinting on everyday geographies well beyond areas of actual armed conflict, a grounded cultural commentary on war play and how children develop understanding of geopolitical climates is urgently needed. Working in partnership with the V&A Museum of Childhood this project analyses how military technologies and logics are made banal-like through children’s play with action figures, and thus the role of toys in the making of the citizen. Based on an innovative methodology developed as part of previous ESRC awards, this project uses interlinking strands of trade, museum and home based ethnographic research to ask: how has the history of the British action figure been shaped by wider geopolitical climates; what geopolitical narratives have shaped, and are shaped by contemporary action figure ranges; how do children make sense of contemporary geopolitics through play with action figures; how can toys be used as an educational tool for understanding historical/contemporary geopolitical climates?

Available open access here

Schaefer, M. & Woodyer, T. (2015) Assessing absolute and relative accuracy of recreation‐grade and mobile phone GNSS devices: a method for informing device choice, Area, 47(2), pp.185-196. DOI: 10.1111/area.12172

Abstract  The affordability/availability and portability of recreation-grade receivers and mobile devices, compared with commercial survey Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), commonly referred to as Global Positioning System, make them worthy of consideration for student fieldwork and research. While empirical evidence of the relative accuracy of low-cost GNSS receivers in open areas is currently limited, initial findings suggest that levels of relative accuracy, as opposed to absolute accuracy, make these devices an inexpensive and manageable technology for measuring the relative location of land features. Given the current speed at which GNSS technology advances, it is important to have an appreciation of any proposed device’s accuracy. This paper presents a method for evaluating the levels of absolute and relative accuracy of various devices, which can inform the choice of device for particular survey-based projects. It can also be used to indicate a ‘best practice’ approach to using GNSS devices in a research and study context, through an assessment of the factors influencing levels of relative accuracy, such as the length of time a device is left to settle before recording a point. In addition, this method can be a useful exercise in and of itself for helping students better understand absolute and relative accuracy, the capabilities of their own mobile hardware, and the potential use of recreation-grade and mobile devices in a range of scenarios both within and beyond the academy.

Available here

Geoghegan, H. & Woodyer, T. (2014) Cultural geography and enchantment: the affirmative constitution of geographical research, Journal of Cultural Geography, 31(2), pp.218-229. DOI: 10.1080/08873631.2014.906850

Abstract  Thrift (2008, p. 65) has identified disenchantment as “[o]ne of the most damaging ideas” within social scientific and humanities research. As we have argued elsewhere, “[m]etanarratives of disenchantment and their concomitant preoccupation with destructive power go some way toward accounting for the overwhelmingly ‘critical’ character of geographical theory over the last 40 years” (Woodyer and Geoghegan 2013). Through its experimentation with different ways of working and writing, cultural geography plays an important role in challenging extant habits of critical thinking. In this paper we use the concept of ‘enchantment’ to make sense of the deep and powerful affinities exposed in our research experiences and how these might be used to pursue a critical, yet more cheerful way of engaging with the geographies of the world.

Available open access here

Woodyer, T. & Geoghegan, H. (2013) (Re)enchanting geography? The nature of being critical and the character of critique in human geography, Progress in Human Geography, 37(2), pp.195-214. DOI: 10.1177/0309132512460905

Abstract This paper outlines an agenda for taking forward recent geographical interest in enchantment, calling for a recuperation of enchantment within human geography. Whilst enchantment is a term frequently used by human geographers to express delight or wonder, the concept has yet to be subject to sustained investigation. We review the debate surrounding enchantment focusing on the nature of being critical and the character of critique in human geography, offering a new ‘enchanted’ stance to our geographical endeavours. We argue that the moment of enchantment has not passed with the current challenging climate, if anything it is more pressing.

Available here

Woodyer, T. (2012) Ludic Geographies: not merely child’s play, Geography Compass, 6/6, pp.313-326. DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2012.00477.x

Abstract More often than not, play is assumed to be the activity of children. To date, this has limited academic engagements with play as a significant geographical concern in its own right. This paper challenges the common association of play with children through discussion of three frames of reference – play and the everyday, the politics of play, and how play exceeds representation – that are particularly instructive when developing broader conceptualisations of this phenomenon. In sketching out a broader space for ludic, or playful, geographies I am able to mark the critical and ethical potential play, discussed here as a form of coming to consciousness and a way to be otherwise, and the cultivation of a mode of ethical generosity.

Available open access here

Woodyer, T. (2008) The body as research tool: embodied practice and children’s geographies, Children’s Geographies, 6(4), pp.349-362. DOI: 10.1080/14733280802338056

Abstract Recently, attempts have been made to advance our ways of thinning and doing Children’s Geographies. This paper contributes to this endeavour in two respects. Firstly, it considers how the concept of heterogeneous (or hybrid) geographies may offer a new framework for the study of childhood. Secondly, and more substantively, it explores how ‘non-representational’ ideas and approaches – concerned with the non cognitive and profoundly practical – may be employed to inform our empirical engagements within a new theoretical framework.

Available open access here



Carter, S., Kirby, P. & Woodyer, T. (2016) Ludic – or playful –  geopolitics, in Benwell, M. & Hopkins, P. (eds) Children, Young People and Critical Geopolitics, Farnham: Ashgate, pp.61-73. ISBN 978-1-4724-4493-6.

Woodyer, T., Martin, D. & Carter, S. (2015) Ludic Geographies, in Horton, J. & Evans, B. (eds) Play, Recreation, Health and Wellbeing, Vol. 9 of Skelton, T. (ed.) Geographies of Children and Young People. Springer, Singapore, pp.1-18. ISBN: 978-981-4585-96-5. DOI: 10.1007/978-981-4585-96-5_1-1.

Woodyer, T. (2013) Play, in Bragg, S. and Kehily, M. (eds) Children and Young People’s Cultural Worlds, Bristol: The Policy Press, pp.53-107. ISBN 9781447305828.

Cook, I. & Woodyer, T. (2012) The Lives of Things, in Barnes, T.J., Peck, J. & Sheppard, E. (eds) The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Economic Geography, Oxford: Blackwell, pp.226-239. ISBN: 9781444336801

Woodyer, T. (2011) Toys, in Southerton, D. (ed) Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture, London: CQ Press, pp.1468-1470. ISBN: 9780872896017



Woodyer, T. (2016) Are toys becoming more violent…and should we be worried? The Conversation, 2 June

Available open access here

Kirby, P., Carter, S. & Woodyer, T. (2014) More than child’s play? War toys; then and now, History Today, 64 (12), pp.20-27

Available here

Woodyer, T. (2014) Action Figures, Cultures of Militarism and Geopolitical Logics, Online Essay, War Games Perspectives, V&A Museum of Childhood website

Available open access here



Woodyer, T. (2013) Designing for Play, Space & Polity, pp. 257-260. DOI: 10.1080/13562576.2013.781353

Available open access here



Woodyer, T., Carter, S. & Dodds, K. (2014) War games, Toy News, 147, p.25

Woodyer, T. & McBirnie, E. (2009) Supporting the women in black, Get into Football,

McBirnie, E. & Woodyer, T. (2009) “Lino, Lino…” “You can’t call her Lino, she’s a girl! The Warbler. Monhtly Magazine of the Woking Referees’ Society. May edition, p.7



Woodyer, T. (2010) Playing with Toys: the animated geographies of children’s material culture, PhD thesis, University of London

Abstract  This PhD thesis develops a relational approach to the study of childhood and children. Drawing on the ecumenical approaches of non-representational theory, material culture studies and hybrid geographies, it explores the assemblages of human and non-human entities through which childhood comes into being. More specifically, this thesis considers the socio-material assemblages involving children and toys, principally through an ethnographic study of children’s everyday practices with this particular type of object. To this end, it addresses a paucity of empirical work conducted with child consumers. To unpack how and why these (often highly commodified) objects matter to children, I address the precise contributions of toys to relational agency in terms of the creative capabilities they possess. Toys, like objects in general, motivate particular inferences, interpretations and responses. These are a function of three broadly conceived prompts to object agency: the sensual and material properties of the toy itself; the socio-material relations in which the toy is embedded; and the representational qualities of the toy. Through a series of case studies involving cuddly toys, model aeroplanes, trading cards, Bratz fashion dolls, Harry Potter media, dollhouses and videogames, I trace the various agencies of toys. This discussion of object agency is then extended through an examination of toys as technologies, which are productive in terms of the co-configuration of imaginative spaces of play in and of the everyday. In this regard, I address magical lands, miniature worlds and virtual spaces of play. By attending to the intimate, embodied ways in which toys matter to children, this thesis examines children’s engagements with consumer cultures. In so doing it presents an alter-tale to contemporary debates about the demoralised character of contemporary childhoods and children.

Woodyer, T. (2005) ‘Im not allowed to go there cos my mum can’t see me!’ Researching children’s outdoor geographies: accounts of negations and methodological reflections, MA Thesis, University of London

Abstract  This dissertation explores how children, as active social agents, negotiate parental values and directives in the creation of personal social geographies of play. These social geographies of play are complex, interweaving both general perceptual geographies of fear and localised geographies of anxiety and tension. This study challenges the angel/devil dichotomy by illustrating how children, as active social agents, are capable of both resistance and self-discipline. The study also contests the literature’s prevailing interest in ‘informal geographies of play’ by highlighting the significance of ‘formal’ play spaces in children’s outdoor geographies. Drawing on the importance of these ‘formal geographies of play’ and the children’s socio-spatial practices of self-discipline, this study develops the concept of ‘conventional geographies of play’. Through an open account of research practice, this dissertation also critically evaluates how children’s outdoor geographies might be researched. It is suggested that if we are to approach children as social actors we need to recognise their individual preferences and capabilities in relation to research methods. Thus, researchers need to adopt a flexible and open approach to research with children.

Woodyer, T. (2003) Creating the Magic: the workplace geographies of display in a theme park, Dissertation, University of London

Abstract  Studies concerned with the labour process – how, why and to what effect people are turned into labour and thus commodified – have typically looked at production from the perspective of the capitalist. Following the notion of scientific management, these studies focus on the organisation of labour for the purpose of controlling it. To date, there is relatively little empirical examination of the response of employees to corporate control. The commodification of workers involves processes that are organised geographically. These workplace geographies are fundamental in shaping the character of the labour process and experience of work. This study looks at production from the perspective of the labourer. Rather than exploring strategies employed to control workers, this project examines tactics employed by workers to contend with this control and commodification of the self. This is achieved by examining the geographies of display and non-display in the work place, specifically a theme park in the south of England, UK.



Woodyer, T. Playing with Toys (Forthcoming)

Woodyer, T. Material Sensibilities

Woodyer, T. Playability: exploring material connections in play


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: