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Call for Papers – RGS IBG 2018 Introducing Young People to “Unfamiliar Landscapes”
Sponsored by the Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group (GCYFRG)

Dr Thomas Aneurin Smith, School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University:
Dr Hannah Pitt, Sustainable Places Research Institute, Cardiff University:

“Unfamiliar landscapes” are places young people are introduced to, voluntarily or otherwise, by a range of actors. Unfamiliar landscapes include green and blue spaces that many young people cannot experience independently, because they are difficult to access, or because they are not skilled in traversing them: mountains, hills, forests, and waterways, but also places that, although familiar, become unfamiliar as sites for formal or informal learning, about ecology, heritage, or wellbeing.

Some argue such landscapes only recently became “unfamiliar” to many young people. There has been considerable societal concern around young people’s access to nature, their freedoms to roam independently (Smith and Dunkley 2017). This has led to various claims about possible negative effects of “Nature Deficit Disorder” (Louv 2008) on their wellbeing (Witten et al. 2013). Much of this concern focuses on children, rather than the more “difficult” category of “Youth.” Equally, such concern neglects the plethora of services and organisations (schools, youth service providers, the outdoor education sector) that have long been introducing youngsters to unfamiliar landscapes. In the age of austerity and accountability these services find themselves under increasing pressure, with likely consequences for whether, how and where youth are introduced to unfamiliar landscapes.

This session will explore how introductions to “unfamiliar landscapes” are caught in a number of contemporary tensions between youth, society and the environment, and how young people navigate this terrain. Themes include:

  • sanctioning contemporary landscapes as appropriate or otherwise for youth to engage with “nature” and “the outdoors,”
  • organisations and individuals enabling youth to acquire skills and techniques for acting in unfamiliar landscapes,
  • contrasting familiar and unfamiliar landscapes, how they are discursively and practically made (un)familiar to youth,
  • ways young people understand and experience introductions to unfamiliar landscapes,
  • the role of youth organisations, professionals and volunteers, including relationships between these organisations and young people,
  • austerity’s impacts on youth provision, repercussions for youth access to, and enskilling in, unfamiliar landscapes,
  • youngsters’ boredom when introduced to the unfamiliar,
  • the culture of accountability, evidencing and evaluation, and implications for youth provision working with unfamiliar landscapes.

We welcome contributions from both researchers and practitioners who work in the youth or outdoor sectors, broadly defined. We will run two sessions – the first a paper session (15min presentations) followed by a practitioner forum in the form of a round table including invited practitioners from youth organisations and specialist youth workers.

Abstracts for paper presentations (250 words) should be sent to and by 2 February 2018.

The 2018 Annual International Conference will be held at Cardiff University in Cardiff, from Tuesday 28 to Friday 31 August 2018.

Conference web page:


Louv, R. 2008. Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books.
Smith, T. A. and Dunkley, R. A. 2017. “Technology-Nonhuman-Child Assemblages: Reconceptualising Rural Childhood Roaming.” Children’s Geographies
Witten, K., R. Kearns, P. Carroll, L. Asiasiga, and N. Tava’e. 2013. “New Zealand Parents’ Understandings of the Intergenerational Decline in Children’s Independent Outdoor Play and Active Travel.” Children’s Geographies 11 (2): 215–229.

CFP – Introducing Young People to “Unfamiliar Landscapes”