Welcome to UP2YOUTH: Youth - actor of social change

Results of the Lisbon workshop Print

The second UP2YOUTH thematic workshop took place in Lisbon in November 2007. Researchers from all over Europe working on one of the three topics young parenthood, ethnic minority youth or participation were invited to present and discuss their findings. The aim was to deepen the analysis with regard to complementary approaches and to broaden it with regard to regions and countries not involved in the UP2YOUTH consortium.

The discussions in the workshop about young people from ethnic minorities’ transitions to work were guided by a couple of guiding questions. These had emerged during the first year of the project:

  • How do different constellations of immigration/ minority/majority (‘figurations’) support particular forms of agency/agentic orientations?

  • How do young people as actors construct their orientations and alter their relationships to contexts?

  • How can we grasp these processes without either ‘reifying’/‘othering’ the young people’s social positionings nor neglecting ethnicity as a powerful structuring principle of transitions?

The workshop started from the methodological angle of dealing with second generation youngsters and questions of ‘ethnicity’ in general: Roberto Alzetta from the University of Genoa argued that the way social sciences are posing their questions is always a political statement. Therefore he proposed the perspective of the 6th framework project TRESEGY as a caution against the fallacies of ‘international’ research. He focused on the ‘intelligibility’ of social phenomena rather than on their explanation. Barbara Stalder of the Federal Ministry of Education in Berne presented data from a longitudinal study among school leavers in Switzerland. She showed that differences in post-compulsory educational choices and pathways could not be explained with the duration of stay in the country alone and contrary to the importance of opportunistic factors the country of origin did not play a crucial role. Valérie Sala Pala from the University of Saint-Etienne centred her contribution around some conceptual points she felt that the UP2YOUTH still had to clarify: the notion of ethnicity. In her opinion this was still oscillating between a constructivist and a naïve-positivist definition which tends to overlook the power relations involved. One potential issue with the research question of UP2YOUTH was the focus on individuals which makes it difficult to analyse collective actions and processes like political movements of young immigrants. Vesa Puuronen from the University of Joensuu started his observations from Kymlycka’s distinction between voluntary and forced minorities resulting in a differentiated multi-culturalism with very different outcomes for the different groups. This differentiation, as Puuronen showed for Russian speaking young people in Finland, has large impacts on young people’s identity formations and their transitions to work. He concluded that without positive action approaches the difficulties of these young people could not be overcome. Anna Kende from the Hungarian Academy of Science in Budapest provided the workshop with insights into the situation of young people from Roma minority communities in Hungary. She stressed the interplay between exclusion processes as reasons for difficult transitions andpointed to some unintended side effects of integration policies in the vocational training area.One important side effect is that by creating special needs schools exclusion in some areas even increased. Momodou Sallah from the DeMontfort Universityof Leicester analysed the development of multicultural, anti-racism and anti-discrimination policies in the UK. His main thesis was that since several years assimilation and integration have become major concepts in policies and public debateagain. Karin Schittenhelm from Siegen University in Germany presented findings from a transnational study on the role of cultural capital. In her view, the role of collective identities and the subjective sense of belonging is often under-estimated. Her own research also showed the need for comparative models that include a multi-level analysis.
In conclusion, all participants of the workshop valued the broad overview of perspectives that the choice of experts had brought to the front. While discussion on certain aspects of the contributions were very lively and certainly will go on during the whole project, there are a couple of common questions that the workshop has posed to the upcoming working phase of the UP2YOUTH working group.

  • What role do collective identities play in the development of agency in youth transitions?

  • The subjective perspective of young people on the majority society is a major factor in their social positioning. It would be worthwhile to look into its impact on their agency in school-to-work transitions.

  • Every research dealing with these questions has to be self-reflexive on the way it is conceptualising its topics, its research questions and its methods of analysis.

Last Updated ( Friday, 14 March 2008 )

Project supported by funding under the European Union's Sixth Research Framework Programme - Coordinated by IRIS e.V.

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