Geography Young People's Geography
Peter Hopkins
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 February 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0068


Young people’s geographies have emerged largely since the early 1990s or so as an important and lively subfield of human geography. The origins of this subfield are contested; arguably, an interest in the practices of young people can be traced back to those working in the Chicago school of sociology and the research that emerged from this. However, it has generally been feminist social and cultural geographers who have helped take young people’s geographies forward alongside work in children’s geographies. Generally, the study of young people’s lives has a longer history in disciplines such as sociology and cultural studies, so geographers were relatively late in starting to explore the geographies of young people. However, there are now a broad range of sophisticated studies that unpack the complex spatialities of young people’s lives. Research in this area tends to be interdisciplinary and often relies on key studies and contributions from neighboring disciplines. As such, important sources from outside of young people’s geographies are included here where relevant. Given the focus of most work in young people’s geographies, the examples discussed here tend to focus on young people aged sixteen to twenty-five, although some of the work explores the experiences of young people who fall just outside of this age boundary.

General Overviews

Although there had been important contributions previous to its publication, the engaging collection of essays on “cool places” in Skelton and Valentine 1998 was arguably the first edited collection that focused specifically on young people’s geographies, and, as such, it quickly became the leading text in the field. This was shortly followed by Aitken 2001, a sophisticated contribution that brought the field forward by drawing upon psychoanalytic perspectives and issues of embodiment. Given the different ways that youth is constructed in different geographic contexts, Ansell 2005 draws attention to the ways in which development theory and practice have shaped the lives of young people, and it is an important corrective to the tendency for some work in young people’s geographies to focus only on the global North. Evans 2008 provides a useful overview of the geographies of young people, linking in with debates about transition and engagements with public space. More recently, Hopkins 2010 maps out young people’s geographies in relation to different scales, themes, and sites, and Hörschelmann and van Blerk 2012 explores the contested urban geographies of young people.

  • Aitken, Stuart C. Geographies of Young People: The Morally Contested Spaces of Identity. Critical Geographies. London and New York: Routledge, 2001.

    Aitken seeks to challenge assumptions about childhood as a natural stage of development toward adulthood, by drawing upon psychoanalytic and feminist perspectives that focus upon issues of embodiment and the spatialities of childhood (including children’s rights, justice, and discipline).

  • Ansell, Nicola. Children, Youth and Development. Routledge Perspectives on Development. London and New York: Routledge, 2005.

    This book explores how changes in development theory and practice have shaped the lives of children and young people. Issues explored include child labor, child soldiers, refugees, education, and managing environmental change. It also explores young people’s participation in development and young people as bearers of rights.

  • Evans, Bethan. “Geographies of Youth/Young People.” Geography Compass 2.5 (September 2008): 1659–1680.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2008.00147.x

    A useful review article that locates the emergence of youth geographies alongside children’s geographies and reviews work on youth as a time of transition and young people’s engagements with public everyday environments. It also suggests potential directions for young people’s geographies, building upon existing trends in the literature. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Hopkins, Peter E. Young People, Place and Identity. London and New York: Routledge, 2010.

    This book explores the geographies of young people’s lives, with scale as a key organizing device. Chapters focus on the body, home, neighborhood and community, nation, and global scales. In addition, chapters on themes and sites such as institutions, public space, migration and mobility, and urban-rural provide further insights.

  • Hörschelmann, Kathrin, and Lorraine van Blerk. Children, Youth and the City. Routledge Critical Introductions to Urbanism and the City. London and New York: Routledge, 2012.

    Focusing on the experiences of young people growing up in urban environments, this book provides an excellent overview of the relations between youth and the city. Chapters focus on important themes such as social inequalities, globalization, youth culture, and active citizenship and are illustrated throughout with useful textboxes and engaging examples.

  • Skelton, Tracey, and Gill Valentine, eds. Cool Places: Geographies of Youth Cultures. London and New York: Routledge, 1998.

    This edited collection has provided a foundation for the study of young people’s lives in geography. It focuses on issues of representation, matters of scale, geographies of youth cultures, and sites of resistance to showcase a diverse range of scholarship about the everyday geographies of young people.

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