The Concept and Meaning of Place for Young Children Affected by Political Violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

By Bree Akesson.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Young children’s lives are shaped by the socio-spatial, and there is a growing body of literature examining how they interact with place. However, there has been little investigation into what happens when young children’s places are compromised by adverse situations, such as war and political violence. By adopting a socio-spatial approach, this paper aims to illustrate how the concept of place interrelates with the experiences of young children and their families who experience political violence, with the occupied Palestinian territories as an example. Using an interdisciplinary approach, my research begins by exploring the multiple and diverse definitions of space and place. I then turn to an analysis of the places that are specific for children in times of political violence. In order to further understand how young children conceptualize place as a meaning-making process and a source of well-being, certain critical elements of place must be understood. Though there are many relevant concepts to explore, I have limited my inquiry to two elements—place access and place use—that are central to an understanding of place, and which can be applied to the lived experiences of young children affected by political violence in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Keywords: Place, Young Children, Family, Political Violence, Place Identity, Privacy

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp.245-256. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 765.717KB).

Bree Akesson

Doctoral Student, School of Social Work, McGill University, Montréal, Quebec, Canada

Ms. Akesson has more than a decade of experience working with children, families, and communities affected by poverty, war, and disaster. During this time, she has consulted for the International Rescue Committee, Bernard van Leer Foundation, Consultative Group on Early Childhood Care and Development, UNICEF, and Save the Children, working on research projects in Ethiopia, Liberia, Indonesia, the occupied Palestinian territories, Sierra Leone, and northern Uganda. After earning two Master’s degrees in public health and social work from Columbia University, Ms. Akesson is now pursuing a doctoral degree at McGill University’s School of Social Work and was recently awarded the Vanier Scholarship to support her research. Her research focuses on the meaning and concept of “place” for children and families who experience political violence. Using the context of the occupied Palestinian territories, Ms. Akesson’s research utilizes a novel geography-focused methodology-consisting of mapmaking, drawing, and narrative. Together, these approaches reveal how war-affected children and families interpret, understand, and navigate their physical and social environments, opening up new avenues to discover how children’s lives are shaped by place in the face of adversity.