Imagining migration: Placing children's understanding of 'moving house' in Malawi and Lesotho

Lorraine van Blerk, Nicola Ansell

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    38 Citations (Scopus)


    Research pertaining to children's geographies has mainly focused on children's physical experiences of space, with their 'imagined geographies' receiving far less attention. The few studies of children's imagined geographies that exist tend to focus on children's national identities and their understanding of distant places. However, children's lives are not necessarily static and they often move between places. Research has not so far considered children's images of these transitional spaces or how such images are constructed. Through an examination of over 800 thematic drawings and stories, regarding 'moving house', produced by children aged 10-17 years in urban and rural communities of Lesotho and Malawi, this paper explores southern African children's representations of migration. The research considers how ideas of migration are culturally-constructed based on notions of family, home and kinship, particularly in relation to the fluid family structure characteristic of most southern African societies. The results suggest tha most children imagine migration as a household rather than an individual process, rarely including micro-migrations between extended family households in their drawings. Further, children's images of migration are place-rooted in everyday life experiences. Their representations concentrate on the reasons for migration, both negative and positive, which are specifically related to their local social and environmental situations and whether house moves take place locally or over longer distances. The paper concludes by exploring the implications of these conceptualisations of moving house for children's contemporary migration experiences, particularly in light of changing family structures due to the effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)256-272
    Number of pages17
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2006


    • Children
    • HIV/AIDS
    • Imaginative geography
    • Migration
    • Place
    • Southern Africa

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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