Heo/Geo Lecture Series 2023-04: Aireen Andal on urban world-building among children

What ideas might geographers learn if children were to plan a fictional city?

For the fourth Heo/Geo Lecture Series, sponsored jointly by the UP Department of Geography and the Philippine Geographical Society, the focus is on urban imaginaries among slum-dwelling children in San Jose del Monte City. Aireen Andal from Macquarie University presents children’s urban imaginaries through a worldbuilding workshop with slum-dwelling children in the Philippines. Building on Donna Harraway’s notion of “standpoints of the subjugated”, making fictional cities prioritises the engagement of children as active participants in urban discourses, rejecting a technocratic and adultist approach in knowledge production. 

The lecture, entitled What if children created a fictional city? Urban imaginaries of slum-dwelling children in San Jose del Monte City, Philippines happens on 31 March at 4:00PM (Philippine Standard Time) | 7:00PM AEDT.

Fifteen children, 9-12 years old, created four fictional cities in groups of four. This method used a low-tech cartographic technique, including a big paper and art materials for children to design their fictional cities. Findings reveal that the fictional cities embody children’s lived realities and their aspirational visions. On the one hand, the fictional cities are tethered to slum life. On the other hand, these fictional cities also reflect children’s ideal cities. Analysis shows that children’s insights shed light on how city-building is an ongoing and evolving process, subject to the complexities and limitations of human experience. It is also argued that children are not separated from the politics of everyday spaces but are rather uniquely positioned in the power structures in their cities. Ultimately, the creation of fictional cities illustrates the role of creative methodologies to thicken geographical data and to acknowledge that children can be strong allies of critical scholarship in geographical research when their voices are taken seriously.

Aireen Andal (she/her) is a PhD candidate under a Double-PhD track in Social Sciences (Macquarie University, Australia) and Social Philosophy (Ural Federal University, Russian Federation). She is also a research fellow at the Space for Engagement and Epistemic Diversity (SEED) (University of Melbourne) and Centre of Global Urbanism (Ural Federal University). Her research pays particular attention to children and children’s spaces and the importance of children as co-creators of spatial knowledge. Majority of her academic engagements involve children’s voices on the urban spaces they occupy, with emphasis on slum-dwelling communities in the global South. Some of her recent publications include topics in the fields of children’s geographies, childhood studies, and urban and regional studies, on top of serving as a reviewer of manuscripts related to childhood research. Aireen is a scholar for and with children and their spaces. Her academic life is devoted to making children’s voices heard, their insights acknowledged, and their lives seen—matters that are hitherto often dismissed. This project is funded by the Institute of Human Geography.

The Heo/Geo Lecture Series is a space that encourages geographers and geography-oriented researchers, activists, writers, artists and civil society to engage interventions and provocations with various publics. This lecture series is part of the UP Department of Geography’s 40th-year celebration and an acknowledgment that 2023 is the 100th-year when geography was first taught in UP.

To participate in the lecture, please check this link to register.


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