Power through intersubjectivity: representing the resilient child in urban survival narratives

Yvonne Hammer

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The problematic relationship between urban dislocation, the proscribed spaces of urban childhood, child marginnalisation and the societal invisibility of under-age citizens is widely thematised in contemporary children's literature. This article examines how childhood agency, as a form of power, becomes aligned with resilience through intersubjectivity in the narrative representations of marginalised child subjects in Virginia Hamilton's The Planet of Junior Brown (1987) and Julie Bertagna's The Spark Gap (1996). Depictions of child homelessness, which construct resilience in the determination to survive experiences of marginalisation, dislocation and loss, offer an opportunity to examine representations of child subjectivity. This discussion centres on the role of intersubjectivity as an alternative construction to some humanistic frames that privilege the notion of an individual agency divested of childhood's limitations. It identifies the experiential codes which more accurately reflect the choices available to young readers, where liminal spaces of homelessness that first establish social and cultural dependencies are re-interpreted through depictions of relational connection among displaced child subjects. The discussion suggests that these multifocal novels construct dialogic representations of social discourse that affirm intersubjectivity as a form of agency.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-80
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Research in Children's Literature
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • homelessness
  • agency
  • intersubjectivity
  • children's literature
  • Virginia Hamilton
  • Julie Bertagna

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