During the vastly transformative stages of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, notions of the urban and definitions of childhood mutually intersected to create and define a modern Argentine landscape. The construction of new urban environments for children defined and reflected larger liberal elites’ definitions of childhood writ large. To better understand the production of this modern childhood in Argentina, this dissertation examines its other through the spatial-discourses behind constructions of childhood for the socio-economic lower classes - children who largely did not meet the expectations of the elite.
I employ the use of both published and archival sources, from 1880 to 1955, providing textual analyses of the language of reformers – primarily state and municipal authorities, pedagogues, hygienists, philanthropists and urban planners – alongside spatial analyses of the built environment, including kindergartens, playgrounds, and open-air schools within the city of Buenos Aires, as well as a healthcare facility and themed park in the province of Buenos Aires. Urban intellectuals, educators and overall reformers increasingly considered play as paramount to children’s physical and psychological development, focusing on where children played, how they played and what their play meant. Childhood became a contested ideological space, constructed and negotiated alongside notions of Argentine national identity. By moving beyond textual analyses of professionals’ discourses, this dissertation not only contributes to our understanding of Argentine childhood, but also points to ways in which the built environment embodies modern notions of childhood.