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Uncommon worlds: toward an ecological aesthetics of childhood in the Anthropocene

Rousell, DS and Cutter-Mackenzie, Amy (2019) Uncommon worlds: toward an ecological aesthetics of childhood in the Anthropocene. In: Research Handbook on Childhoodnature: Assemblages of Childhood and Nature Research. Springer International Handbooks of Education . Springer. ISBN 9783319519494

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In addressing the need for a more robust engagement with aesthetics in posthumanist studies of childhood and nature, this chapter makes some tentative steps towards an ecological aesthetics of childhood that is responsive to Whitehead’s speculative philosophy. In doing so, the chapter takes an alternative theoretical approach from much of the ‘common worlds’ scholarship that has emerged in recent years, while making the case for a new aesthetics of childhood that is responsive to the accelerating social, technological, and environmental changes of the Anthropocene epoch. Our approach foregrounds the singularity of children’s aesthetic experiences as relational-qualitative ‘intensities’ that alter the fabric of nature as an extensive continuum held in common. We therefore argue that every moment in the life of a child is an uncommon and unrepeatable occasion through which the common world of nature is felt, perceived, and experienced differently. This eco-aesthetic approach is developed further through the analysis of photographs taken by children as part of the Climate Change and Me project, which has mapped children and young people’s affective responses to climate change over a period of three years in New South Wales, Australia. Rather than working with images as representations or analogic signifiers for children’s experience, we analyse how each photograph co-implicates children’s bodies and environments through affective vectors of feeling, or ‘prehensions’. This leads us to reframe aesthetic notions of image, sensibility, perception, and causality in relational terms, while also acknowledging the individuation of childhood experiences as ‘creaturely becomings’ that produce new potentials for environmental thought and behaviour.

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