Navigating The Otherwise: Urban Imaginaries of young people about city living in Surabaya through participatory methods

  • Andal, Aireen Grace (Primary Chief Investigator)

Project: Research

Project Details


Funded by the Southeast Asia Neighborhood Network (SEANNET), this project explores the urban imaginaries of Indonesian children in Surabaya, East Java. I argue that children's viewpoints can disrupt conventional power-laden approaches to understanding urban spaces. By adopting what Donna Haraway terms the "standpoints of the subjugated," this project advocates for a participatory methodology to envision cities, contrasting technocratic and adult-centric notions of expertise.

As a spin-off from my funded project by the Institute of Human Geography, one of the highlights of this project is to conduct a worldbuilding and speculative storytelling workshop with children in Surabaya. The aim is to show how a child-led vision of cities can rebel against the culture of erasure that all too often comes with being a child in the city. I also bring forth the discussion that children are not separated from the politics of everyday spaces but are rather uniquely positioned in the urban relations and power structures in their cities. In doing so, this project emphasises the role of creative participatory methods to thicken the data on children’s urban imaginaries and acknowledge the diverse urban realities amongst children (Andal, 2023a). I aim to discuss how children can be strong allies of critical scholarship in geographical research when their voices are taken seriously. This opens a promising research agenda in children’s radical geographies. Such an endeavour, however, is only the first step in moving away from the adultist and hegemonic frameworks in the present urban discourses.


1) Worldbuilding workshop with children: Create fictional cities together!
2) Speculative storytelling: Surabaya in 100 years?
3) Dear water, we have some questions: Write a letter to the water (flood, sea) about some question you have in mind.

This study pays particular attention to how children, for, by, and among themselves, create meaning about their everyday play spaces. Responding to Hunleth’s call to “to assess the ways in which children find methods useful and employ these methods toward their own means” (Hunleth, 2011, p. 81), children in this study will serve as co-constructors of urban knowledge through collaborative discussions (Abebe, 2009). Children’s outputs and insights will serve as “as entry points into the inner lives of children, condensing an elusive essence of childhood characterised by ingenuity, freshness, spontaneity and purity” (Beauvais, 2019, p. 66). This approach also aligns with studies confirming that collaboration and participation in groups allows children for a more complex understanding of their experiences and the social contexts in which they are situated (Kellet et al., 2004; Sime, 2008; Liebenberg et al., 2018).
Short titleNavigating The Otherwise
Effective start/end date25/06/2425/09/24