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

Document Type

Book chapter

Publication details

Rousell, D, Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles, A in press, 'Uncommon worlds: toward an ecological aesthetics of childhood in the anthropocene', in A Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles, A Malone & E Barratt Hacking (eds), Research handbook on childnature: assemblages of childhood nature research, Springer, Switzerland. ISBN: 9783319672854

Peer Reviewed



In addressing the need for a more robust engagement with aesthetics in posthumanist studies of childhood and nature, this chapter aims to make some tentative steps toward an ecological aesthetics of childhood that is grounded in 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. In the second part of the chapter, we use this eco-aesthetic framework to analyze a series 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 3 years in New South Wales, Australia. Rather than working with images as representations or analogic signifiers for children’s experience, we analyze how each photograph co-implicates children’s bodies and environments through affective vectors of feeling or “prehensions.” In doing so, we actively work 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 behavior.