Youth, normality and belonging - How young people construct and understand youth, identity and normality in their local environments.

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Title: Youth, normality and belonging. How young people construct and understand youth, identity and normality in their local environments. Authors of proposal: Peter Hornbæk Frostholm, David Thore Gravesen and Sidse Hølvig Mikkelsen Research topic/Aim This presentation is based on qualitative research concerning young people’s place and activity constructions in the tension between everyday life perspectives and structural, societal imperatives. In our research, we are interested in examining how young people in 8th grade experience, define and construct youth, identity, normality and a sense of belonging in their local environments. Theoretical framework: With inspiration from relational sociology and Richard Jenkins’s understanding of classifications, social identity and the categorization of others (Jenkins, 2006; Bourdieu 1999, 2004), we ask: How do young people understand and construct their everyday lives and cultural practices when away from adult supervision? What role do such unstructured socializing play for young people's communities and sense of belonging? Which of the young people's communities are by the young people themselves regarded as legitimate and why? How do young people construct meaning and a sense of belonging in a contingent late modern society? The classic distinction between the normal and the outsiders, by Howard Becker (Becker, 2013) is used in our analysis to initially shed a light on and ultimately come closer to an understanding of the young people’s constructions of norms and their understanding of mutual solidarity through symbolic demarcations. Methodology/research design: With relational sociology as our theoretical starting point (Bourdieu, 2004; Börjesson, 2009; Prieur, 2002) we picked out as informants three different classes of eight-graders in a mid-sized Danish provincial town. This project makes use of a strictly qualitative mixed-methods approach (Brinkmann, 2012; Denzin & Lincoln 2011; Featherstone, 1992; Hastrup, 2003, 2010; Spradley, 1980; Zahavi & Overgaard, 2014), with the empirical data collection falling into three phases: Phase 1: We conduct researcher-initiated workshops using socio-matrix-inspired (Beum & Brundage 1950) cartographical mappings of the young peoples every-day whereabouts (Anvik & Gustavsen 2012). This is done to gain an insight into how the young people move around their local environments making use of the different spaces and places found in their everyday milieus. Phase 2: On a basis of inductive analyses of the data material gathered from the workshops we carry out interview guides for use in focus group interviews (Halkier, 2016) – also conducted in phase 2. In Phase 3, the walking interviews, we follow the informants in smaller groups out into their local environments to witness how the young people spend their leisure time taking in use and negotiating meaning of their local spaces and places. Expected conclusions/Findings: With the young people trying to define selves and creating identity markers, our analyses makes it clear, that the young people group themselves according to their local milieus and often in opposition to other groupings. Typically, this means groups of young people from other surrounding neighbourhoods with different socio-economic conditions. The question of whether to commence in smoking and consummation of alcohol becomes important markers, that illustrate the different youth groupings’ internal distancing and positioning themselves in opposition to each other. In that sense, a notion of belonging emerges within the groups, and is intensified through the young peoples’ use of social media such as My Stories on Snapchat. The idea of individualisation, which by many a sociologist is considered one of the late modernity’s most significant characteristics of the norm- and tradition free youth, appear to be a bit simplified in the light of this research, as the young informants of our project seem to identify themselves according to norms and understandings occurring in the nearest of their local environments. Our analyses help to show, that what could be deemed a normal youth life varies greatly from school district to school district. Even though the physical distance between the youth groupings is only a few kilometres, the symbolic distance should rather be measured in light years. Relevance for Nordic Educational Research: The understanding of young people’s take on youth, normality and sense of belonging, will shed light on important issues regarding socializing practices and formal/informal learning processes among young people in contemporary Nordic societies.
Publikationsdato8 mar. 2018
StatusUdgivet - 8 mar. 2018
BegivenhedNERA 2018 - 46th Congress. Educational Research: Boundaries, Breaches and Bridges. - University of Oslo, Oslo, Norge
Varighed: 8 mar. 201810 mar. 2018


KonferenceNERA 2018 - 46th Congress. Educational Research: Boundaries, Breaches and Bridges.
LokationUniversity of Oslo


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