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Youth activism in the city: Part 1- 3rd November

By UCL Global Youth, on 12 October 2021

The third webinar in our Youth and the City webinar series takes places on Wednesday, 3rd November from 12 noon – 1pm (UK time). This webinar will focus on the theme of youth activism and will feature research from Nigeria and Glasgow at the start of the UNCCC COP26 negotiation 2021.

To register for this event and receive a Zoom link for the webinar, visit our Eventbrite page. The webinars will also be recorded and later posted on the CGY YouTube channel for those who cannot attend during the live session.

Presentation 1: Understanding youth restiveness in contemporary Nigeria – Street Protests and Dissent as forms of claim-making.

Dr. Joseph Egwurube, University of La Rochelle

The Nigerian youth, people aged between 15 and 35 according to the Nigerian National Youth Policy of 2009 revised in 2019, have been struggling to be seen and heard by successive Nigerian governments. Though the Youth Policy declares the intention of governments at all levels to accelerate youth empowerment and cater for the welfare of those in this age bracket, to be young in Nigeria remains very challenging today. With a median age of 18, the country is relatively young demographically. However, while the youth wield demographic muscle, they continue to suffer from neglect and economic, social, and political marginalization and deprivation. I will explore how in the absence of political, economic, and social capital by the young on the one hand, and the high level of citizen distrust of governmental institutions coupled with State intolerance to freedom of expressing dissent on the other hand, young Nigerians have taken to street protests, among other avenues, as a vehicle to articulate their interests and make claims on public policy makers.  I will examine what these interests are, and how street protests designed to advance them nation-wide in major cities have been organized, drawing from the experience of some protests from the 1989 riots against the IMF imposed Structural Adjustment Programme to the End SARS movement in 2020 which began as a fight by the youth against police brutality before it evolved into a demand for good governance and accountability. I will explore what generated the youth street protest movements chosen, how support was mobilized and by who, what actions were taken by young protesters, how governments reacted and if the desired outcomes by the young were attained or not. I will draw attention to how the digital tool provided a very potent mobilizational and federating trans-regional, trans-ethnic, and trans-religious tool for the youth during the 2020 End SARS street protests before assessing the relative capacity of the Nigerian youth to use ‘parliament on the streets in cities’ as an avenue to initiate social and political change.

Author Biography: Joseph Egwurube holds a Ph.D in Political Science from the University of Bordeaux in France. He was a Senior Lecturer for several years at Ahmadu Bello University in the city of Zaria in Nigeria before he moved in 1990 to France for family reasons. At present, he teaches Business and Legal English to post-graduate students at the University of La Rochelle in France and is an Associate Researcher with the CRHIA, the Centre for Research on International and Atlantic History. His research focus is on inter-group relations in Nigeria. He is interested, among others, on women empowerment and student activism.  His first novel, which deals with the resilience of women, has been accepted for publication by a British publisher. He is also interested in exploring adjustment problems faced by Nigerian and other sub-Saharan African immigrants in the USA and has written a few published articles on this theme.

Presentation 2: Contestation in the city and COP26: the voices of young environmental activists taking to the streets

Dr Sarah Pickard, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris and Dena Arya, Nottingham Trent University

Sit-downs, die-ins and lock-ons are just some of the ways that young people are increasingly engaging in peaceful protests through non-violent direct action (NVDA). Young people are drawing on and expanding the repertoire of contention, including civil disobedience. By disruptively occupying public (and sometimes private) spaces in the city, these young protesters are using their agency to draw attention to situated injustices and specific issues, with the aim of putting pressure on powerholders to bring about change. The collective performance of protest also brings feelings of solidarity, joy and hope to those participating in often aesthetic acts of contestation. Thus, young people are taking part in Do-It-Ourselves (DIO) politics; they feel the need to do something together because they feel frustrated and angry with politicians not doing enough. The collective act of doing something with like-minded youth in public arenas provides an existential outlet for their anxiety, fear and rage.

This seminar builds on interviews carried out with young environmental activists in FFF and XR in late 2019. It will be given from Glasgow at the start of the UNCCC COP26 negotiations. With a focus on ‘youth and the city,’ it will address, why young people have been taking to the streets, where they have come from to participate, how they are using public spaces to protest, and what reactions their disruptive actions solicit from the public and the police. It will include insights from observations and interviews with young environmental protesters at COP26, as well as thoughts on carrying out research with young people in situ during protest actions.

Author Biographies:  Dr Sarah Pickard is a Senior lecturer in British Politics and Society at Université Sorbonne Nouvelle and her research examines different dimensions of young people’s political participation. In addition to publishing a monograph on Politics, Protest and Young People in 2019. Sarah has also co-edited several edited collections on youth political participation. Most recently, she co-edited (along with Judith Bessant and Analicia Mejia Mesina) a three volume edicted collection on When Students Protest.

Dena Arya is a doctoral researcher at Nottingham Trent University and her research focuses on the role that economic inequality plays in how young people participate in environmental politics in the UK. To find out a little more about her research you can check out her NTU profile page, Twitter page (@dnaarya) or her Instagram (@dena.arya). You can also have a look at some of her recent published work on ethnography with young environmental activists during the COVID-19 pandemic here.

About the Youth and the City webinar series

This term the Centre for Global Youth is using its webinar series to explore the latest research on youth and cities. Over 5 weeks during October to November 2021, these 1-hour seminars will bring together a range of guest speakers to share new research and engage in dialogue about how young people use, relate to, challenge and remake urban spaces. Spanning research in cities from the Global North and South, session topics will include precarity, race, social class, activism, music, and youth voice. Contributors will draw on theories from sociology, human geography, anthropology, political science, and beyond. Overall, the aim of the program is to overcome silos of urban sociology, youth studies and allied fields, and encourage further conversations at critical intersections of youth and cities.

Organisational details: The series is co-ordinated by Avril Keating, Caroline Oliver, and Brett Lashua, UCL-IOE.

Privacy: For information about UCL’s privacy practices and how UCL uses your data, please see the UCL General Privacy Notice.

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