Scholars Neglect Youth Activism

A scan of the Journal of Youth Studies from 2011 found only 26 titles on youth activism or political attitudes out of 224 articles and 10 of the titles were about youth attitudes towards traditional politics. [i] Amazingly, not one article was about the uprisings of 2011 to 2014 discussed in this book. A similar search of the Journal of Adolescence found only one issue on political engagement but not rebellions (June 2012), with no other such articles in other issues.[ii] An online journal called Interface: A Journal For and About Social Movements and an online magazine ROAR do provide current information but not specifically about youth.

Going through the Journal of Youth Studies from 2011 to the present didn’t turn up one article on the recent global uprisings, as discussed in Chapter 2 and 3. Other books describe the characteristics of American youth—many of the books about Generation Y are how to manage them in the US workforce, so this book focuses on other countries where most young people live. However, much of the generational research is done in the US and the UK. Psychologist Jeffrey Jensen Arnett points out that the study of adolescence began in the US early in the 20th century and the study of US adolescents still dominates the field.[iii] He reports that most of the scholarly journals devoted to this age group 10 to 25 are mostly from the US with an occasional European researcher. The Journal of Youth Studies found studies in Canada, Australia, Germany and Sweden, as well as the US and the UK.

Most of the academic books on global youth are anthologies of specialized ethnographies about small groups of young people in various regions without much connection between chapters. For example one such book includes chapters on Thai makeup saleswomen, former child soldiers in Sierra Leone, Latino use of political graphic art, a Sri Lankan refugee, etc. Searching through 15 pages of Amazon.com books listed under “global youth,” I found anthologies, youth ministry, how to market to youth, deviant behavior, by country (such as youth in China), or unemployment, but no overviews of global youth activism. The only books specifically about youth and the recent uprisings are Alcinda Honwana, Youth and Revolution in Tunisia, 2013 and Ahmed Tohamy Abdelhay. Youth Activism in Egypt: Islamism, Political Protest and Revolution, 2015 ($104).             Three books published from 2012 to 2014 cover the global uprisings but not with analysis of the role of young people: Paul Mason, Why It’s Still Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions; an anthology by Anya Schiffrin and Eamon Kircher-Allen, From Cairo to Wall Street: Voices From the Global Spring including activists in their 20s and 30s; and an Internet ebook by Werner Puschra and Sara Burke, eds., The Future We the People Need: Voices from New Social Movements, also about various ages of activists. They wrote another pertinent book available online, World Protests 2006-2013. The latest book is They Can’t Represent us! Reinventing Democracy from Greece to Occupy by Marina Sitrin and Dario Azzellini.

Two books interviewed urban youth activists in the Americas before the global uprisings: Jessica Taft, Rebel Girls: Youth Activism and Social Change Across the Americas, 2010, and Maria De Los Angeles Torres, Irrene Rizzini, and Norma Del Rio, Citizens in the Present: Youth Civic Engagement in the Americas, 2013. Taft reported in Rebel Girls that, “Despite their activism, girls are rarely considered and written about as significant political actors. They appear but do not speak.” They’re left out of academic research on girls’ studies and on youth movements. Taft says that the focus is on college students rather than teenagers. I advocate that researchers change the common practice of ignoring youth or presuming to speak for them without including their voices.

 

[i] http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cjys20?open=16&repitition=0#vol_16

Following are the topics and date posted online: Greek youth’s protests in 2008 (January 2011), theories of youth resistance (June 2012), Canadian youth activism for people with disabilities (June 2012), a student occupation of their university in 2010 (November 2012), University of Ottawa students’ political engagement (June 2012), youth involvement in politics in Scotland (June 2012), How to involve young Canadian women in provincial public police development (August 2012), Peruvian youth activism for sexual health (November 2012), Spanish youths’ attitudes towards politics—based on interviews (November 2012), British youth’s political participation (September 2013), Australian girls’ attitudes towards women leaders (January 2013), youth protests in Africa (march 2013), Australian teens political interests (May 2013), young men’s political participation in an English town (September 2013), influences on British youth’s political participation (September 2013), theories of youth agency (September 2013).

[ii] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/01401971/35/3

[iii] Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, ed. Adolescent Psychology Around the World. Psychology Press, 2012, p. IX.

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