The Great Book of the City: Children's Narratives of the City

Llamas Acosta, Lillian. 2018. The Great Book of the City: Children's Narratives of the City. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

The subjective aspect of urban experience, and urban imaginaries in particular, have not
been addressed sufficiently in studies of children in the city. This thesis will address these
imaginative and subjective issues as they play significant roles in the construction of children’s
urban lives. By referring to a set of short fictional stories that were produced by children as part
of a series of workshops titled ‘The Great Book of the City’, the thesis approaches the city as a
book made of interweaved stories, and thereby contests the idea that the city is mainly
constituted by physical structures. I contend that children make sense of the urban environment
through stories, and argue that their narratives are the place where they project their urban
imaginaries. Narratives are also a tool for understanding the particular ways in which children
perceive, experience and imagine the city.

In particular, I explore three childhood everyday practices: moving, playing and dwelling. First,
I argue that to study the child in the city we must consider the two factors of social space: the
objective element (the spatial framework within which children live) and the subjective element
(the space as perceived and imagined by children). Secondly, I claim that the way children make
sense of the urban environment is both reliant on their encounter with the social city and on
their internalisation of the cultural constructions of childhood. Finally, I maintain that children’s
experience of the city is partial and personal, since urban space is fragmented and subject to
change, and because it involves children’s own bodies at the levels of perception, memory and
agency. I conclude that the short fictional stories not only allow children to project their urban
experience, but also to (re)construct, imagine and contest their material realities.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Children's fictional narratives, children's imaginaries, urban environment, spatial practices, city, children's geographies, urban experience

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Centre for Cultural Studies (1998-2017)


31 March 2018

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

01 May 2018 10:59

Last Modified:

12 Sep 2022 14:07


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