On 15-17 May 2013, UCSIA is organizing the academic workshop "Youth and Civic Participation: Is a Younger Generation Reshaping European Politics?". This workshop wants to investigate how a young generation of citizens tries to make sense of current social trends and problems. Whereas some researchers are convinced of the apparent civic disengagement of youth, others suggest that civic participation of young people is stable and that they may still be open to non institutionalized forms of practicing politics. The workshop wants to contribute to a European discussion about the topic, by introducing some of the American research findings and compare it with different contexts and case-studies in Europe.
As consumers (young) citizens may engage in political shopping (e.g. freedom fries); vegetarians make a political statement; ecologists experiment with alternative forms of community and decision making; Indignados demonstrate against current practices and political decision making; young Muslims organize themselves via the internet to protest against their undemocratic regimes. Yet not all young protesters seem to have a ‘just’ cause, as the riots in Greece and London, or the protests provoked by Dyab Abou Jahjah in Antwerp demonstrate.
Looking at these cases of public protest and civic participation, it is clear that young people (different groups for different issues) can still be motivated to act upon the social problems they encounter, but the question arises how a new generation of citizens tries to make sense of current social trends and problems and how they may participate in and have an impact on contemporary politics.
The programme will be clustered around four topics:
Motives and values that inspire youth to engage:
What drives young people to take part in public en political mobilization and participation? What are the values and visionthey hold dear (individual responsibility/freedom, social redistribution, fair taxes)? What do young people consider to be important problems for the future and how do they define these?
Old and new behaviour of civic participation:
What forms of behaviour and participation can young people use to voice their political and civic engagement, but also their frustration and nihilism? Do they try to go beyond mere mobilization and protest? Do they look for new and innovative solutions for the problems they encounter? What (virtual) processes do they use to transform protest into constructive action?
Context and skills that condition youth civic participation: Who are the young people that take part in public and political mobilization and participation; what are their socio-economic, educational, age-related, religious, cultural backgrounds? What are the skills, constraints and opportunity structures that condition youth civic participation and engagement in social life (time use, knowledge of the (new)media, ...)?
Impact and influence of youth civic participation on contemporary politics: In their attempt to define the issues at stake, youngsters are also becoming part of the political reality of the day. How are new problem-setting and solutions possible in a world that is so quick in labeling and claiming legacy on major protests? How can youth participation be enhanced in politics?