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making space for play across the life course
My expertise lie at the intersection of human geography and childhood studies. My work interrogates the production, exhibition and consumption of toys in both historical and contemporary contexts. The use of ethnographic and video-based research methods to examine children’s attachments to and engagements with toys is central to this work. I theorise relations between materialities, bodies and space in play. This concern extends beyond children’s cultural worlds to consider the fundamental role of play to human experience across the lifecourse.
I lead research across disciplinary borders with colleagues in geopolitics, childhood studies, social care and education in order to develop thinking on pressing social and political issues relating to children and family life. My work informs academic and public debates on contemporary cultures of childhood and their relation to commodity forms, social domains (family, education, technology) and (geo)political climates. To date, my research has been funded through a series of ESRC awards. Intellectually, I have lead initiatives on enchanting and ludic geographies, playability, and ludic and domesticating geopolitics in UK and US based academic and practitioner forums.
As a geographer, I have brought my cross-disciplinary research on play to bear in work with Hilary Geoghegan on re-enchanting geography by rethinking academic modes of critique, as well as Ian Cook on rethinking forms of commodity activism. Whilst the former was initially targeted at human geography, this approach has been adopted by physical geographers interested in new ways of working in the Anthropocene. This work forms part of a broader, on-going commitment to re-imagining the role of the academic in the neoliberal academy, particularly in relation to issues surrounding mental wellbeing.
Internationally, I have given invited talks at interdisciplinary research institutes in Germany and USA. I have held a Visiting Scholar position in the Department for Childhood Studies (Rutgers, USA). I have also been invited to chair sessions and talk at interdisciplinary conferences spanning concerns with childhood, play and war in the USA and UK. My published work has been cited beyond geography, in areas including childhood studies, playwork practice, early childhood education, age and intergenerational studies, cultural studies, and sociology.
My collaborative networks include Exeter, Royal Holloway, Reading and the V&A Museum of Childhood. I am an active participant of the Royal Geographical Society’s research community, serving as Workshop Officer for the Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group and sitting on the committee of the Social and Cultural Geography Research Group. I also serve on the advisory board of the Hampshire Geographical Association. In addition to reviewing papers for key geographical journals, I regularly review papers for journals targeted at audiences beyond my disciplinary home of geography, including Childhood: a journal of global childhood research and Children: open access paediatrics journal.
I currently supervise 5 postgraduate students in the areas of social and cultural geography, social care and education, including intergenerational care, family transitions, sport and gender, outdoor activity and risk, and creative working. Within my institution, I lead the human geography research cluster, which spans our Risk, Resilience and Citizenship and Historical Geography and Spatial Analysis research groups.