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Youth Participation or Youth Exclusion? Exploring narratives of youth workers in the divided city of Gothenburg, Sweden

Conference contribution
Authors Zulmir Becevic
Published in European Sociological Association. Manchester, August 2019.
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Social Work
Language en
Keywords Youth research, youth participation, exclusion, inequality, segregation, neoliberalism
Subject categories Sociology, European research cooperation, Social Work, Youth research


Youth Participation or Youth Exclusion? Exploring narratives of youth workers in the divided city of Gothenburg, Sweden Zulmir Bečević (University of Gothenburg, Sweden) Magnus Dahlstedt (Linköping University, Sweden) During past couple of decades there has been a significant proliferation of interest regarding youth participation, on policy level as well as in research. Generally, the immense interest for the topic can be traced to a growing public concern regarding the ‘youth participatory deficit’ and youth dissatisfaction in European societies. This dominant discourse posits young people as low-degree participants in the economic, social and political processes of the established arenas of society, which in the long run threatens the foundations of democracy. Taking into consideration the neoliberal transformation of West European cities towards increasing socioeconomic and ethno-cultural segregation we argue for a pressing need to analyse youth participation as shaped by structural arrangements and unequal access to resources which create spatial and symbolic divisions between different categories of young people. This paper thus examines the enigmatic concept of ‘youth participation’ through the prism of structural inequality, placing it at the heart of the current order of neoliberal politics. The idea of structure is brought into play aiming at examining participation as embedded in the societal matrix of unequal power relations and life opportunities which are essential characteristics of the neo-liberal city. The individual acts, but always in relation to a web of relations that shape the framework within which participatory action evolves. Young people’s experiences are inevitably shaped and differentiated by social divisions. Building on data from a recently completed Horizon2020 project on youth participation in European cities (PARTISPACE), the analysis thus aims at bringing into the understanding of youth participation the idea of social stratification that profoundly shapes and structures the worlds of young people.

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