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Youth Activism in the City Part 2: youth movements in East Asia and Hong Kong

UCL Global Youth20 October 2021

 Wednesday, 10th November from 12 noon – 1pm (UK time). To register for this event and receive a Zoom link for the webinar, visit our Eventbrite page. 

This week we return to the theme of youth activism in the city, this time taking a closer look at youth movements in East Asia and Hong Kong.

We will be joined by Dr Sonia Lam-Knott (DPhil Anthropology, Oxon), a Research Affiliate of the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford. Her research focusses on the interplay between politics, temporality, and urban space in the contemporary East Asian context, with emphasis on the experiences of young people. She has published her work in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies and Space and Polity, and co-edited volumes on youth politics and post-politics in Asian cities.

In this webinar, Dr Lam-Knott will present a paper entitled Resilience or Resignation? Youth Mobilisations in/ from Hong Kong. This presentation examines youth movements in Asian cities during the 2010s, with emphasis on the quasi-democratic context of Hong Kong. Using ethnographic observations and documentary data, it outlines the variegated political aspirations, strategies, and spatial manifestations seen in the city’s youth-led mobilisations. It then addresses how Hong Kong civil society’s ability to access and use public space has been disrupted by a combination of heavy-handed police responses, COVID-19 public health measures, and by the introduction of the 2020 National Security Law aimed at curtailing a broad array of dissent. Under these circumstances, young people have broadly responded in two ways. Some have engaged in novel forms of physical and digital mobilisations, as a means of reclaiming and re-imagining political spaces in the city. At the same time, driven by their seemingly bleak realities, other young people are seeking to permanently emigrate and re-establish their futures in spaces of elsewhere. The presentation concludes by noting how these actions highlight fissures – as dictated by respective differences in affective outlooks, life stages, and socio-economic capital – within the category of ‘youth’ in Hong Kong.

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.

The webinars will also be recorded and later posted on the CGY YouTube channel for those who cannot attend during the live session.

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.

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

UCL Global Youth12 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.

Youth voice in the city: involving young people in research and planning and decisionmaking – 17th November.

UCL Global Youth8 October 2021

The fourth webinar in our Youth and the City webinar series takes places on Wednesday, 17th November from 12 noon – 1pm (UK time). This webinar will focus on the theme of youth voice, and will feature research from London and Athens.

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.

The practical ethics of doing urban planning research with young people

Hannah Sender, Institute for Global Prosperity, UCL

In this presentation, we’ll talk about what makes co-producing research with young people possible, and a positive experience. We’ll touch on different matters to do with practical ethics, including project management and design, mental health support, and payment. Whilst we’ll draw on our own experiences of working with/as young researchers in London, we aim to tease out some lessons we’ve learned which can be relevant for others working in different contexts.

Author Biography: Hannah Sender is a PhD student and Research Fellow at the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment. She is interested in how changes in urban areas affect adolescents’ everyday lives, subjectivities and futures. Hannah works with young people of different genders, nationalities, ethnicities and with different abilities, in Lebanon and the UK. She develops creative and collaborative methodologies which support young people to be researchers of their own lives and neighbourhoods.

Youth voice in the city – involving young people in research and planning and decision-making

Dr. Tom Western, UCL Department of Geography

This talk details a set of collaborative methods for creative activism. It centres on Athens, and the ways that people build autonomous spaces of research, knowledge, and cultural production – both as techniques of voice and mobilisation, and as means of remapping and remaking the city. I will narrate these methods through a project called the Active Citizens Sound Archive, which I run with my colleagues in the Syrian and Greek Youth Forum (SGYF). The archive is a space for amplifying citizenship work, youth activism, and community mobilising. It sings relational and collective geographies. It foregrounds imagination as a tool of social and political transformation, required to think things otherwise: to unmake borders, to form counterpublics, to assert presence and belonging, to open the city. The talk aims to share these methods of collaboration, relation, and imagination – detailing how academic and activist knowledges combine, and how vocal politics carry into research, planning, and decision-making.

Author Biography: Tom Western is a Lecturer in Social and Cultural Geography at UCL. His teaching and research centre on movements and migrations, cities and citizenships, relations and imaginations, activisms and anticolonialisms. Tom works primarily in Athens, Greece, where he studies and contributes to migratory activisms and creative citizenship movements. Based on this work, Tom is currently writing a book titled Circular Movements: Migratory Citizenships in Athens. The book hears how people in Athens creatively contest the logics of borders and citizenship regimes, reimagining questions of being and belonging in the city, and remaking citizenships against citizenship.

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.

Jeremy Corbyn the trend or Jeremy Corbyn the politician: Thoughts on the General Election

UCL Global Youth19 July 2017

A guest blog from Rosie Beacon, the Centre for Global Youth intern

As a politically engaged university student, I have mixed feelings about the general election. In crude terms, the youth voted Labour, the older generations voted Tory. Why? It would be unwise to reduce the exceptional voter turnout to the tuition fees extravaganza. What else could it have been? It is slightly more likely that the youth were more inclined to voting Labour, but what was it that actually pushed them to get up and go to the polling station this time?

Party preferences in the 2017 UK general election by age

Party preferences in the 2017 UK general election by age

It is no secret that social media has become a political campaigning vehicle in its own right. The growth of micro-targeting in electoral campaigns is unprecedented; Labour, in particular, invested heavily in this through ‘Promote’, their own social media micro-targeting wing. Momentum also perfected social outreach through contemporary platforms such as Facebook.

While this was certainly effective, an immense tool which no political party can attempt to control but only to influence, is ‘organic’ social media activity. By organic social media activity, I mean the ways in which people share political material on social media because they are interested in or entertained by the material, not because they have been asked or paid to do so. The term ‘political material’ is now increasingly flexible due to the way that social media has casualised politics, so that ‘organic sharing’ now includes a plethora of political news – it can be funny, it can be informative, it can be incredibly opinionated, or a combination of all of the above.

From my personal experience, it wasn’t the micro-targeting revolution that helped Labour capture the attention of the youth. It was memes, videos, photos, Facebook statuses, and tweets. Jeremy Corbyn was presented on social media as a trend, not a politician. I personally didn’t vote Labour, but I can certainly see why its enticing. Jeremy Corbyn seems like a cool guy and has a cat who features in his Snapchat stories. How likely is it that I know this from reading The Guardian? The fact that he managed to transcend politics and present himself as a person that just happened to be a politician (with ‘hopeful’ policies) is what made him so appealing – a persona he determined for himself and with the help of spin doctors no doubt, but a persona that captured the beady eyes of the social media generation who thrived off it.

The Social Media Generation

Thus the 2017 general election – and the EU referendum for that matter – symbolise a far more endemic trend in the future of youth politics; the social media generation. The formative years of this generation have been characterised by myspace, Bebo, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Snapchat – sources of socialising but also immediate sources of information.

Would being part of this ‘information generation’ necessarily affect political literacy? Not completely, but social media has certainly provided an innovative platform for those who were already engaged with politics, and it also allows for those that were not necessarily interested to follow it to varying degrees. Whether you want to follow it or not, especially during the general election, it’s highly likely you saw something to do with politics on your timeline once a day. Its mere appearance on our news feeds equates politics and current affairs with off-the-cuff events happening among your friends, not only making it seem casual but this subtly and incrementally builds up an awareness of what’s going on in the seemingly distant world of politics.

But then, on the other hand, couldn’t you just ignore political news if it appears on your timeline? Not everyone follows the Independent and the Times? Crucially, social media has not only created a contemporary platform for politics, but it has fundamentally altered the face of it. It has turned politics into something you wouldn’t necessarily want to scroll past. Politics on social media can be incredibly personal but it can also be lighthearted, humorous and very witty. This could mean anything from reading your friend’s Facebook status debate disputing how corporation tax should be managed or more likely, one of your other friends sharing a video compilation of Joe Biden telling Barack Obama how much he adores him.

Two political memes that have gone viral in the US and the UK

Biden memeTheresa May meme

The latter demonstrates how social media has made politics casual and easily digestible, and has exacerbated the trend for ‘personality politics’, which, based on my peer group, Jeremy Corbyn hugely benefitted from. Particularly in the context of the 2017 general election, this is evident in the unforgettable wheat fields trend with Theresa May, heightening her representation as the ‘Maybot’, and further alienating younger voters from someone who looks like just another right wing politician who doesn’t quite ‘get’ the youth. This trend in particular shouldn’t be underestimated – it was massive because ultimately it’s funny and easy to find funny, meaning new audiences could engage with this trend, and thus politics, in a simple way. Social media also allowed for nostalgic photos to be shared of Jeremy Corbyn protesting in the 80s and for videos with Stormzy to become viral, furthering his persona as a man who doesn’t just know the people, he’s another one of the people.

Moreover, it is not just viral videos and memes that build up a political awareness among young people. As we start to make progress with our careers, we are starting to recognise our dependence on political decisions. Now, when young people appreciate how politics affects their adult lives, there is a platform in which they can voice their opinions through status updates and comments on others’ status – a new mechanism of debating and reasoning with other political views that hasn’t always existed. All of these trends are also inevitably heightened against a background of drastic political upheavals, such as Brexit and Trump’s election, which saw young people turning to social media sites as a way of voicing their opinions on these dramatic events.

Is social media a political opportunity or political danger?  

In many ways, the general election 2017 crystallized the relationship between social media and politics that has been building for some time. Social media is ultimately invasive (which is why we love it) but this means political personalities are now more important than ever. This is why Corbyn was so successful. Snapchat stories of his cat might not seem like much, but politics has a tendency to dehumanize politicians and he managed to fight against this with the social media generation massively on his side, encouraging a huge and powerful demographic to go out and vote for a man that seemed like he was an actual human being.

However, this social media facet to politics isn’t always a blessing. Social media is a source of misinformation just as much as it is actual information. With such a poor system of compulsory political education in the UK, social media can make voters vulnerable to persuasive views that they’re not well equipped to challenge, particularly when it’s their friends or family sharing them as opposed to a newspaper – people they actively trust. Moreover, the downside to personality politics is that it fails to take into account the whole picture, such as their party platform and their general aptitude as a politician, negotiator and leader. Social media is an innovative new outlet that exposes people to myriad of political news and opinions which they may not have noticed or spoken about before, which is good. However, just like with a newspaper, not everything you read on social media will be true nor impartial. While social media may be the future for politics and political campaigning, we should also be treating it with caution.

 

Politics, economics, children and young people

Dr Laila Kadiwal14 June 2017

A guest post from Prof.  Priscilla Alderson, Professor Emerita of Childhood Studies, Social Science Research Unit, University College London Institute of Education

The ‘youthquake’ in the June 2017 UK election promises two important developments. One is young people’s new interest in voting, debating politics, and attending political meetings. This was partly encouraged by Labour’s promotion of social media contacts, rallies and gigs where star musicians were very keen to perform. The second development we can hope for is that governments will have to take young people’s needs and interests far more seriously in all their policy making.

However, to date children and young people under-18 tend to be excluded from politics and economics in two main ways. The mainstream researchers, policy makers and journalists tend to ignore young people, while those who research, discuss and write about people aged under-18 tend to avoid politics and economics. They concentrate instead on services and amenities for young people, their relationships and daily experiences, the personal rather than the political.

Yet policies affect the youngest generations most of all. Brexit, for instance, will shape many decades of their lives, but few decades for older people. Taking the legal definition of childhood to include everyone aged under-18, my book The Politics of Childhoods Real and Imagined examines how they are central to mainstream society and policy.

politics priscila book

In the book, I review three main areas: climate change, the breaking up of the welfare state especially the NHS, and neoliberal economics. Academics are supposed to stay inside their very small area of expertise, not to risk showing their ignorance if they venture beyond it. And yet childhood and youth can only be understood within their broad, complex social and political contexts, not apart from them. And each context, such as climate change, can only be understood in relation to the others, to global politics and economics, trade, conflict and inequality.

So I have risked exploring large areas at the level of the informed citizen, to search for the missing children and young people in the policy debates and reports, and to fill in some of the missing analysis of how they are so greatly affected by policies and events. I’ve aimed to summarise knowledge and debates on topics from climate change to neo-liberalism in ways that will interest general readers and not offend experts.

I hope everyone concerned with children and young people will look at the book, so that they can further the book’s aims: to see how deeply current affairs affect young people, and to urge everyone to recognise this and take the youngest generations far more seriously when they think about and work for ‘society’.

To take the NHS and the rapid privatising, for example (see here),  children are among the highest users of healthcare, which can give lifelong benefit by preventing and healing problems or at least reducing them. When the NHS opened in 1948, for the first time, most children in Britain began to have access to healthcare, and therefore the numbers of paediatric staff and researchers quickly grew. By the 1960s-1970s, new services for premature babies and for children’s heart surgery were beginning to save many lives. Children’s heart services depend on swift referral and close contact between local and regional centres, while young people with diabetes need care from a wide range of specialities, which the National Health Service is uniquely able to coordinate.

For 70 years, older people have enjoyed the welfare state, relative peace and a fairly stable climate. But great changes and losses are now starting to affect everyone, and most of all those who may live into the 22nd century. My book ends with a chapter on how to work for utopian change towards more just and peaceful societies with and for young people as well as adults.

The Politics of Childhoods Real and Imagined: Practical Application of Critical Realism and Childhood Studies, Volume 2 (2016 Routledge).

Understanding youth turnout in GenElec2017: some comments, cautions and caveats

UCL Global Youth11 June 2017

Posted by Dr. Avril Keating, Director of the Centre for Global Youth.

Youth turnout in the British general election has once again been the focus of much media attention and social media comment, with some calling this election a “youthquake”. In this blog, I provide some contextual information for these stories, and some words of caution for interpreting the data that is currently available.

1. It is widely being claimed that 72% of young people turned out to vote in the General Election. This is an early estimate, and likely to be contradicted. After the EU referendum in 2016, the headlines focused on initial claims that only 36% of young people aged 18-24 voted, however subsequent polls estimated that turnout among this age group was closer to 60%.
2. The best sources to look for are the How Britain Voted series (published by Ipsos-MORI, usually a few weeks after the election) and the British Election Study (which will release its figures in the Autumn).
3. Even these two sources are likely to contradict each other. In 2015, Ipsos-MORI data suggested that turnout among the 18-24s was 43%, while BES data put turnout at 57%. The Ipsos-MORI data tends to be more widely cited, but the BES data has important methodological advantages and allows us to look at turnout trends as far back as the 1960s.

Screenshot 2017-06-11 16.39.52

4. All of these figures are estimates. The Electoral Commission does not collect data on the demographic characteristics of voters. Instead, we have to rely on surveys that ask people if they voted after the fact, and studies have regularly shown that some people claim that they voted when they have not, as they are embarrassed to admit that they did not vote. This is known as social desirability bias, and studies such as the BES are devising methods to estimate the level of over-claiming so that we can take this into account. Interestingly, their methods suggest that young people are even more likely than other age groups to say that they voted when they have not.
5. Despite their differences (and their flaws), both show that turnout fell among all age groups between 1992 and 2010, and has been increasing across all age groups (including the 18-24s) since 2010.
6. For this reason, it is also important to look at the change in the inter-generational gap, and not just the change in proportions over time. By doing this, we can see that the inter-generational gap has existed since the 1960s, increased in the late 1990s and over the course of the 2000s, but seems to be closing again since 2010.

Screenshot 2017-06-11 16.37.45

7. We also need to look at trends among the slightly less, ahem, ‘young’ voters (the 25s-44s), and not just the 18-24s. Although the level of support varies, it appears that a majority of all voters under 44 voted for Labour in 2017 and against Brexit in 2016. In addition, youth turnout first began to decline when the current cohort of 35-44 year olds were 18-24 (i.e. in the 1990s). The generational dividing line may therefore be between the under-45s versus the over 45s.
8. Is Brexit the reason for the apparent increase in young people voting in the 2017 election?
Brexit is likely to be one reason (at least for some), but far from the only one. When analysing these patterns in the next weeks, months, and years, we will need to take into account other factors including: campaign effects (including how good Corbyn’s campaign was and how poor the Conservative’s campaign was); the appeal of the Labour Party’s policy proposals (e.g. NHS spending and the abolition of tuition fees); the upwards trend in youth voting (see point 5); the impact of 7 years of Conservative government and anti-austerity policies that hit young people and youth services particularly hard; the continued rise in house prices and rents at a time when real pay for young people is falling; and generational differences in cultural values. All of these factors (and more) are likely to have galvanised younger voters.

9. Finally, if, as we expect, there has been a substantial increase in the proportion of young people voting, the next question we need to be asking is how can we sustain this and more importantly, broaden the range of young people voting? Among the 18-24s, the rise in turnout is likely to be among young people that are studying for degrees, or are on their way to getting one. The debate is currently focused on the inter-generational gap, but we should also start paying more attention to the intra-generational gap, so that we don’t overlook that the most excluded young people are still not voting. Let’s find out why not, and try to address this also.