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Displacement, children and urban play

   School of Education

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  Dr Liz Chesworth  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Part of the Centre for Doctoral Training in Emerging Urban Inequalities, this study will focus upon the play experiences of children who have recently settled in urban environments in the Global South and North as a result of displacement arising from war, conflict, natural crises and poverty. Play is globally recognised as a universal good and takes on heightened significance for uprooted children due to the potential it affords for interacting, socialising, experiencing a collective sense of belonging and dealing with traumas associated with crises and displacement. Urban play cultures are of fundamental importance because they act as physical, emotional and imagined spaces in which children can exercise their participatory rights as citizens. However, with rising privatisation of public space and new forms of social control, urban playspace is increasingly under threat. 

As such, the overarching objective for this study will be to generate new understandings of how play is experienced by recently settled children in relation to wider inequalities that contribute to urban geographies of play. Focusing upon global south contexts, the study aims to:

  • understand the meanings, purposes and values that recently displaced and resettled children ascribe to their play
  • understand the spatial affordances and constraints for children’s play, including through use of constructed and found outdoor urban spaces
  • investigate the interplay of choice, freedom, agency and control in terms of who gets to play, where and with whom

The study will take a participatory approach, engaging with children as collaborators to refine the research aims in the context of different urban outdoor spaces. A palette of participatory methods will be used, including child-led walks, child-initiated photographs and reflective dialogues. The research design and methods will be negotiated with participants in local contexts in order to ensure cultural relevance and ethical appropriateness. The study will contribute to the little understood situation of children’s play when they are displaced from their home and where they may experience ‘lost childhoods’ while living in potentially alien urban environments.


Applicants are expected to have a strong first degree (2.1 or a first class honours) ideally in a relevant social science subject. Candidates applying with a Masters degree must have obtained at least a Merit (or equivalent). 

Application process

Applications should be made through the University of Sheffield Postgraduate Online Application Form. Applications should be made to the department of the lead supervisor.

As part of the application, applicants should upload the following additional information: 

  • A one-page personal statement explaining how their skills, experiences, interests and career plans make them a suitable candidate for the studentship 
  • A 500 word statement explaining why you think this research is important. Please cite the title of this studentship in your application.

Funding Notes

This project is part of the Centre for Doctoral Training in Emerging Urban Inequalities, which is pleased pleased to be able to offer funding for three home fee paying studentships for this CDT. In addition, a Research Training Support Grant of £2,250 is available for each studentship across the funded period to support the costs of field trips.
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