In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Common World Childhoods

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Common World Theoretical Frameworks
  • Common World Pedagogies
  • Common World Methods
  • Common World Childhoods in the Anthropocene
  • Indigenous/Settler Common World Relations
  • Children’s Common World Place Relations
  • Children’s Common World Material Relations
  • Children’s Common World Multispecies Relations

Childhood Studies Common World Childhoods
Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw, Affrica Taylor
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 August 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 August 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0174


Scholars who study children’s common worlds are primarily interested in the real life-worlds that 21st-century children inherit, inhabit, and share with others—human and more-than-human. They acknowledge that these life-worlds come with legacies and that they are imperfect and complex. They position the diversity of global childhoods within a correspondingly diverse array of local life-worlds that are shaped by the legacies of anthropogenic environmental damage, imperial expansion, and colonial dispossession and are characterized by global inequalities, mobilities, and displacements. Scholars who engage with the notion of common world childhoods pose challenges to the structures and habits of childhood studies and its guiding concepts. In particular, they challenge the concepts of childhood innocence, purity, and protection that are based on a belief that childhood can be separated from the rest of the world. An understanding of childhood as always already embedded in messy and heterogeneous common worlds also brings new methods and pedagogies to the fields of childhood studies and education. The notion of common worlds is an actively inclusive, more-than-human notion. It works to reassemble worlds by countering the divisive distinction that is often drawn between sociocultural contexts and natural environments. It resists the epistemological division between society and/or culture as distinct from nature and other living things that underpins post-Enlightenment Western thinking. Within a common world approach to childhood, the overarching question becomes, “How can we live well together in the more-than-human common worlds that we inherit?” This central question has clear political and ethical framings. It responds to the considerable challenge of finding ways in which all (human and more-than-human) can flourish in the face of incommensurable differences, confront losses, and face uncertain ecological futures. The movement to reposition childhood within common worlds represents an emerging field of inquiry within childhood studies. It is a field that crosses disciplinary boundaries and engages childhood studies in conversation with human geographies, science and technology studies, environmental education, and the Indigenous and environmental humanities. This article reviews the growing body of literature at these interdisciplinary intersections that addresses children’s entanglement in common worlds and maps out its significance, theoretical inspirations, pedagogical and methodological innovations, and key research themes.

General Overviews

Common world childhoods scholars are concerned with the ways in which the lives and futures of 21st-century children are affected by the entwined social and ecological legacies of (neo)colonialism and the excesses of capitalist modernity. Many engage with calls by environmental humanities scholars to rethink our place in the world and our relations with earth others in the Anthropocene—the proposed name for the era in which human activities (particularly fossil fuel–related) have become an earth-changing force, effecting climate change and biodiversity loss and causing fundamental changes to the earth’s elemental cycles. Common world childhoods scholars seek ethical responses to the Anthropocene that highlight the need for intergenerational environmental justice. A central theme is the formation of new kinds of ethical relations with the more-than-human, which is addressed in terms of exploring and supporting children’s relations with place, with other species, and with the material world. The first major publication promoting a common world approach to childhood was Reconfiguring the Natures of Childhood (Taylor 2013). In addition to this monograph, four journal special issues have been themed around children’s common world relations (Blaise, et al. 2013; Pacini-Ketchabaw, et al. 2015; Taylor, et al. 2012; and Taylor, et al. 2015). The central body of literature and resources pertaining to common world childhoods are accessible on the website Common World Childhoods Research Collective.

  • Blaise, Mindy, Bidisha Banerjee, Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw, and Affrica Taylor. “Editorial.” In Special Issue: Researching the Naturecultures of Postcolonial Childhood.” Edited by Mindy Blaise, Bidisha Banerjee, Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw, and Affrica Taylor. Global Studies of Childhood 3.4 (2013): 350–354.

    DOI: 10.2304/gsch.2013.3.4.350

    This editorial article introduces research that draws together postcolonial and more-than-human common world perspectives on childhood in New Zealand, Canada, Australia, and Hong Kong. It introduces common world childhoods research that engages with feminist post-humanist philosophies and with Indigenous ontologies.

  • Common World Childhoods Research Collective.

    This website showcases research that focuses on the ways in which children’s past, present, and future lives are entangled within a more-than-human world. It provides a comprehensive overview of relevant publications, as well as the events and research projects undertaken by members of the collective.

  • Pacini-Ketchabaw, Veronica, Affrica Taylor, Mindy Blaise, and Sandrina de Finney. “An Introduction.” In Special Issue: Learning How to Inherit Colonized and Ecologically Challenged Lifeworlds. Edited by Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw, Affrica Taylor, Mindy Blaise, and Sandrina de Finney. Canadian Children 40.2 (2015): 3–8.

    This article is an introduction to a special issue that considers how childhood studies practitioners might support young children within their local common world environments to respond ethically to the Anthropocene. It explores how to reconfigure pedagogies in relation to the new synergies across the Aboriginal and environmental humanities.

  • Taylor, Affrica. Reconfiguring the Natures of Childhood. London: Routledge, 2013.

    This key work argues for a paradigm shift in conceptualizations of childhood and nature. It provides a genealogy of entrenched romantic alignments of “childhood” and “nature” in Western epistemologies, exposes their limits, and extrapolates on the common world framework as an alternative conceptualization that is attuned productively to contemporary childhoods.

  • Taylor, Affrica, Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw, and Mindy Blaise. “Editorial.” In Special Issue: Children’s Relations with the More-Than-Human World. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood 13.2 (2012): 81–85.

    DOI: 10.2304/ciec.2012.13.2.81

    This editorial outlines research that is focused on children’s relations with the more-than-human world. It argues that such research provides a timely alternative to the individualistic and child-centric perspectives that prevail in early childhood studies and connects the field to important more-than-human conversations in the humanities and social sciences.

  • Taylor, Affrica, Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw, Sandrina de Finney, and Mindy Blaise. “Inheriting Ecological Legacies of Settler Colonialism.” Environmental Humanities 7 (2015): 129–132.

    DOI: 10.1215/22011919-3616362

    This article introduces a special section that brings common world childhoods scholars into conversation with the environmental humanities. It is themed around the question of inheriting worlds damaged by settler colonialism and bequeathing these worlds to future generations.

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