Rats, assorted shit and ‘racist groundwater’: Towards extra-sectional understandings of childhoods and social-material processes

Reflecting on a study of children’s outdoor play in a ‘white, working class estate’ in east London, this paper argues that social-material processes that are characteristically massy, indivisible, unseen, fluid and noxious have, problematically, remained hidden-in-plain-sight within multidisciplinary research with children and young people. For example, juxtaposing qualitative and autoethnographic data, we highlight children’s vivid, troubling narratives of swarming rats, smearing excrement, and percolating subsurface flows of water, toxins and racialised affects. In so doing, we develop a wider argument that key theorisations of matter, nature and nonhuman co-presences have often struggled to articulate the indivisibility of social-material processes from contemporary social-political-economic geographies. Over the course of the paper, as children’s raced, classed, exclusionary, disenfranchised narratives accumulate, we recognise the urgency of reconciling microgeographical accounts of play and materiality with readings of geographies of social-economic inequalities, exclusions, ethnicities, religions, memorialisations and mortalities. To this end, we initiate an argument for a move from intersectional to extra-sectional analyses that might retain intersectionality’s critical and political purchase, whilst simultaneously folding social-material complexities and vitalities into its theorisation.

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Volume 36 Issue 5

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