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Current and Past Research Projects

Young Boy in a Museum

With Dr. Naomi Hamer.

Children's story museums have become distinctive venues for public awareness and critical engagement
with the representations and constructions of childhood; however, only limited scholarly work has focused
on these sites. This proposed research examines the children's story museum as a dynamic transmedia
platform for the design of participatory exhibits and critical dialogue. While many current exhibits affirm
idealized childhood representations, transmedia engagements (across old and new media formats) within
these spaces have significant potential for critical and subversive dialogue with ideological constructions
and representations of childhoods. Framed by participatory and activist museum movements, towards
'queering the museum' and 'decolonizing the museum', this proposed project will focus on the negotiation
of youth citizenship through emerging technologies in these spaces. From this perspective, we query how
current children's museum exhibits focused on childhood texts and cultures present opportunities to
negotiate, subvert, and/or reaffirm cultural discourses of childhood, nationalism, gender, race, sexuality,
and ability. The proposed research aims to harness the potential of transmedia storytelling with the
invitation for critical dialogue with childhood discourses across media. While museum education has
employed interactive media for visitor engagement, the inclusion of digital storytelling and transmedia
practices for critical dialogue and intervention is relatively new. Drawing upon theoretical and
methodological frames from museum studies and the field of children's media cultures, this project invites
children to engage as collaborative curators in the transmedia design of a pilot story museum exhibit
rooted in local rare books and archival collections including the Osborne Collection of Early Children's
Books, Ryerson University's Children's Literature Archive, Toronto, and Ontario Archives, alongside the
child participants' own stories and imagined narratives.

This project is funded by an Insight Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada until 2021.



With Dr. Sara Edge and Dr. Sutama Ghosh.

For urban planning and development initiatives to be socially just and inclusive, investment decisions must promote equitable access to healthy environmental conditions. This study employed spatial analysis and mixed qualitative methods to examine:

  1. patterns of investment/dis-investment in high-rise residential towers across Toronto,

  2. how select neighbourhoods with high proportions of immigrants compare with other parts of the City

  3. impacts of built, social and environmental conditions upon the well-being of immigrant families, and

  4. barriers and opportunities facing immigrants in having greater influence over processes that shape their living environments

Results revealed how substandard conditions and gentrification are unduly impacting low-income newcomers, particularly those with precarious status, forcing individuals into unsafe situations. Results also revealed stories of resilience and innovation. This work contributes to the growing evidence-base on healthy built environments by asserting an equity and inclusion lens that is largely absent. Findings reveal impacts and barriers that are unique to newcomer populations, and include recommendations on how to better support their inclusion in urban development processes such as Community Benefit Agreements, resident councils or City renewal strategies. Examples of health promoting investments in high-rises are also documented such as spaces that support community-organizing, community kitchens, gardens, or resident-based microenterprises. Community Engagement and Knowledge Exchange Workshops communicated findings back to those most affected and enabled opportunity for immigrants and service providers to share their interpretations and reactions to the results and strengthen opportunity for underrepresented voices to influence existing knowledge on high-rise conditions, redevelopment and planning initiatives.

This project was funded by RBC Immigrant, Diversity and Inclusion Project Funding for 2017-2019.



With Dr. Laura J. Shillington.

This project sought to interrogate the relationships between children and nature through the lens of urban political ecology. A journal article and book length manuscript were published from this work. 

This project was funded in part by the University of Manitoba and the United Nations University for Peace.

Film Reels


With Dr. Tyler McCreary.

About the project:

This Project focuses on a process of community engagement in northern British Columbia.  Witsuwit'en and Gitxsan elders reinterpret cultural and environmental histories in ethnographic films taken for the National Museum of Canada’s educational programming in the 1920s.  The project produces new educational material and resources for children in local schools.

Project Description

The Carrier Indians of British Columbia (1927) and The Tsimshian Indians of the Skeena River of British Columbia (1927) were both written and directed by Harlan Ingersoll Smith, an archaeologist at the National Museum of Canada and pioneer in documentary film and museum education in Canada.  These films contain the earliest motion picture recordings of members of the Witsuwit'en community and are an important source for Witsuwit'en community history and cultural revitalization.

The Reclaiming Aboriginal Knowledge and Remembering Colonial Histories Project centres around a process of community engagement to reinterpret early these ethnographic films.  This reinterpretation, by Witsuwit'en and Gitxsan elders, is used to construct new multimedia educational materials to teach children about both Aboriginal and colonial histories. The results of this initiative will be reviewed by a process of community consultation before release on a website jointly owned by the three partners: Hagwilget Village Council, School District #54, and the Moricetown Band.  Our process has been guided through the involvement of the Wisuwit'en hereditary chiefs.

Working principally in the Aboriginal communities of Kyah Wiget and Hagwilget, and the adjacent communities of Smithers and Houston, this project will engage the community through a documentation of historic representations of Witsuwit'en people in early ethnographic film. Alongside archival research, Tyler McCreary conducted interviews with Aboriginal elders, hereditary chiefs, and cultural experts to resituate the films in a community context.  Through a series of private screenings and interviews, the elders advise on the most appropriate way to frame the films as a community educational and historical resource.  While the original films did not recognize the names of particular hereditary chiefs and community members, the project restores recognition of these predecessors of current members of the Witsuwit'en.  The film’s records of traditional practices are supplemented with the histories from traditional knowledge holders.

This project serves several objectives:

  • Brings attention to the role of historical cinema in constructing cultural and environmental histories of northern British Columbia;

  • Supports Aboriginal peoples' efforts to bring Aboriginal cultural and ecological knowledge collected in the early twentieth-century back into the community;

  • Educates future generations of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children about Aboriginal cultural traditions and traditional ecological knowledge;

  • Demonstrates the impact of colonial policies on Aboriginal communities;

  • Celebrates Aboriginal cultural resiliency;

  • Builds unity and strength within Aboriginal nations through sharing knowledge of Aboriginal history and culture.

This research resulted in two journal articles here and here.

This Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council subgrant project was funded by the Network in Canadian History and Environment from 2010-2011.



This project is continuing, and the site of speculative research into the theoretical causes for discrimination against children.

Presentation at Fourth International Conference on the Geographies of Children, Youth and Families,

Childist landscapes: Spatializing Young‐Bruehl’s analysis of childism 
January 14, 2015

Paper Abstract:  
Since exploring the metaphorical landscapes of childhood is at the core of psychoanalytic practice, psychoanalytical theory and children’s geographies have an expected affinity (Sibley, 1995; Aitken and Herman, 1997). This speculative paper will help to uncover and map the geographies of prejudice, discrimination, violence, and abuse of children, at micro‐ and macro‐scales using psychoanalyst Elisabeth Young‐Bruehl’s framing of childism (2012). Contrary to other works that have set up childism as a positive movement akin to feminism (Mannion, 1999; Wall, 2007), Young‐Bruehl sets up childism as akin to sexism, racism, and anti‐Semitism. Here, legacies of prejudice are born in the life of the perpetrator of child abuse or neglect through narcissistic, obsessional‐eliminative, and hysterical, role‐manipulative forms, each with their own set of typical issues and effects.  I argue that extending these sets of dispositions to children’s geographies can help to explain how abuse and neglect are spatialized in the landscape, and account for  the construction of childist landscapes. In addition, I discuss some general fields and topics where this framework could be usefully applied.  Since the field of children’s geographies has an important history of documenting and addressing inequalities in the urban landscape with regard to age (Bunge and Bordessa, 1976; Bunting, 1982), the connection of this research to both more micro‐ (home, body) and macro‐scales (nation, globe) is a valuable and novel contribution.

Childist Landscapes: Geographies of child abuse and neglect, and the  maltreatment of young people 
Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, San Francisco, March 29 - April 2, 2016

Session Abstract:

"If one's experience of life is rooted in one's childhood, a richer understanding of social malaise could be gleaned by examining the most prevalent and widespread form of violence in society: the abuse, neglect, and maltreatment of children" (Alice Miller, 1981). 

This session addressed issues of child abuse, neglect, and the maltreatment of young people through geographical research. We seek papers that address, together or separately, the theoretical, methodological, and empirical elements of this issue from a variety of positions, perspectives, and geographical locations. For the purposes of this session, abuse includes physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual forms of violence, neglect means the absence of the provision of children's basic needs of food, shelter, education, respect, boundaries, and love, and maltreatment includes a wide range of everyday acts of prejudicial treatment that are based on the belief that children are lesser beings than adults.

Theoretical analyses could include speculative papers on the roots and shoots of child abuse, psychoanalytical geographies of childism (the prejudice against children, Young-Bruehl, 2012), or frameworks for integrating childism with other forms of discrimination such as racism, classism, sexism, ablism, heterosexism.

Methodological analyses may include ways of accessing child abuse through various techniques, interpreting and using surveys and other existing data sets, quandries about childhood memories, issues of authoethnographies, the challenge of overcoming the idealization of the parent and various other resistances, or hypnotic approaches to early life regression.

Empirical analyses could address experience doing research on child abuse and neglect, adult psychoanalytic geographies having their roots in child abuse, or adult child abusers among others.

Other research could include both macro and micro incidents of violence and care
-the maltreatment of young people in school geographies, for example, in curricula that exclude certain groups -the maltreatment of young people in home geographies, for example in housing policies that encourage crowding -geographies of bullying -geographies of hospitalizations  -geographies of public space and prohibitions of use -geographies of mental health  -child abuse, neglect, and maltreatment in art, literature, and popular culture (for example, graphic autobiography and recent Broadway musical, Alison Bechdel's Fun Home)

Geographers and other scholars have addressed issue of child and adult abuse through various angles (see references below). 

Aitken, S. C. (2001). Geographies of young people: The morally contested spaces of identity. Routledge. 
Aitken, S. C., & Herman, T. (1997). Gender, power and crib geography: transitional spaces and potential places. Gender, Place and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography, 4(1), 63-88.
Bauder, H. (2003). "Brain Abuse", or the Devaluation of Immigrant Labour in Canada. Antipode, 35, 699-717.

Bunge, W. W. (1971). Fitzgerald: Geography of a Revolution. Schenkman.

Bunge, W., & Bordessa, R. (1975). The Canadian alternative: survival, expeditions and urban change (No. 2). Dept. of Geography, Atkinson College, York University.

Cream, J. (1993). Child sexual abuse and the symbolic geographies of Cleveland [England]. Environment and Planning D, 11, 231-231.

De Leeuw, S. (2007). Intimate colonialisms: the material and experienced places of British Columbia's residential schools. The Canadian Geographer/Le Géographe canadien, 51(3), 339-359.

De Leeuw, S. (2009). ‘If anything is to be done with the Indian, we must catch him very young’: colonial constructions of Aboriginal children and the geographies of Indian residential schooling in British Columbia, Canada. Children's Geographies, 7(2), 123-140.

Ernst, J. S. (2000). Mapping child maltreatment: Looking at neighborhoods in a suburban county. Child welfare, 79(5), 555.

Fluri, J. L. (2011). Bodies, bombs and barricades: geographies of conflict and civilian (in) security. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 36(2), 280-296.

Gray, H. (2015). Domestic abuse and the public/private divide in the British military. Gender, Place & Culture, (ahead-of-print), 1-14.

Hall, E. (2004). Social geographies of learning disability: narratives of exclusion and inclusion. Area, 36(3), 298-306.

Hall, J. M. (1996). Geography of childhood sexual abuse: Women's narratives of their childhood environments. Advances in Nursing Science, 18(4), 29-47.

Huang, S., & Yeoh, B. S. (2007). Emotional labour and transnational domestic work: the moving geographies of ‘maid abuse’ in Singapore. Mobilities, 2(2), 195-217.

Lamme III, A.J. (1977) `A Geographical Perspective on Child Abuse and Neglect‘, Geographical Survey 6: 3-9.

Miller, A. (1981). Prisoners of childhood: How narcissistic parents form and deform the emotional lives of their gifted children [The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self]. Basic Books.

Pain, R. H. (1997). Social geographies of women's fear of crime. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 22(2), 231-244.

Roberts, D. (2008). The racial geography of child welfare: Toward a new research paradigm. Child welfare, 87(2), 125-150.

Ruddick, S. M. (1996). Young and homeless in Hollywood: Mapping the social imaginary. Routledge.

Ruddick, S. (2006). Abnormal, the "new normal," and destabilizing discourses of rights. Public culture, 18(1), 53-77.

Ruddick, S. (2007). At the Horizons of the Subject: Neo-liberalism, neo-conservatism and the rights of the child Part One: From ‘knowing’fetus to ‘confused’child. Gender, Place and Culture, 14(5), 513-527.

Stoltenborgh, M.,  Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., Van Ijzendoorn, M. H., Alink, L. R. A. (2013) Cultural–geographical differences in the occurrence of child physical abuse? A meta-analysis of global prevalence. International Journal of Psychology, 48(2): 81-94.

Warrington, M. (2001). ‘I must get out’: the geographies of domestic violence. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 26(3), 365-382.

Warrington, M. (2003). Fleeing from fear: The changing role of refuges in meeting the needs of women leaving violent partners. Capital & Class, 27(2), 123-150.

Winchester, H. P. (1991). The geography of children. Area, 357-360.

Young-Bruehl, E. (2012). Childism: Confronting prejudice against children. Yale University Press.

1: Ann Marie F. Murnaghan, Research Associate, Centre for Research in Young Peoples’ Texts and Cultures, University of Winnipeg
Childist Urban Landscapes

Paper Abstract: 

In this paper I examine how childism, the prejudice against children, has and continues to structure the construction and production of urban landscapes. Beginning with an approach rooted in the psychoanalytical framing of Elisabeth Young-Bruehl and continuing into the post-analytical oeuvre of Alice Miller, my research on childist landscapes explores how multiscalar and pervasive this form of discrimination is. Using a case study from the playground movement in early twentieth-century Toronto, Canada, I discuss how childhood was used as a trope to organize land uses in the city, and how children were similarly employed as markers of an organized landscape. As other forms of discrimination employ the rhetoric and positioning of childism, I am offering a key linkage to creating a coalitional politics of resistance to ongoing urban oppressions in space.

2: Ann Marie Masangcay, Educational Outreach, ESRI and MGIS Student, Penn State University
Social Workers Finding Common Ground with Human Geographers

3: Bree Akesson, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Social Work, Wilfrid Laurier University
The Miasma of Occupation: The Effects of Seen and Unseen Violence on Palestinian Children and Families

4: Kathryn Kulbicki, GIS Analyst, Westat, Inc.
Geographic Challenges of Children in Foster Care

Childism in Children’s Geographies: Can we have it both ways?   

May 9, 2023 Canadian Association of Geographers' Annual Meeting

Ann Marie Murnaghan, York University

The concept of childism has received varied treatment in the study children, childhood, and youth in the last 50 years. On the one hand, childism has referred to the anti-child opinions and behaviours of adults, influenced by the work of psychoanalyst and political scholar Elisabeth Young-Breuhl in her 2011 text Childism: Confronting Prejudice Against Children. On the other hand, a pro-child version of the concept has also emerged from the work of John Wall (2019), in the sense of an academic and activist movement designed to foreground the importance of acting and creating rules in the (purported) interests of the child. This paper intends to address how these two theoretical stances can stand together and apart, how the field of Children’s Geographies might benefit from a psychoanalytic perspective on the treatment of young people, and assess where each approach would be more useful. By questioning whether these two opposing meanings of the term can productively live together in the study of children and childhood, I inquire about the purpose of research questions and their relation to the “best interests of the child.”

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