"We hustle for our rights": Young people’s political engagements with environmental resources in northern Kenya

Research output: Contribution to conference without a publisher/journalPaperCommunication


This paper discusses how a group of young people in a pastoralist community in Northern Kenya engage in negotiations of the management of an environmental resource, namely sand harvested from community owned land. My ambition is to shed light on how young people experience and conceptualize their political engagements with the environment, and to discuss how these engagements intersect with educational experiences, livelihood strategies, and social as well as existential aspirations.
The presentation is based on empirical material gathered during my PhD field work in Kenya. Driven by a phenomenological interest in the everyday life experiences of young people, the field work aimed to explore ethnographically how youth engage with the environment and environmental education in conditions where both social and natural landscapes and livelihoods are under pressure and in transition. This paper discusses in particular a group of young secondary school graduates who during a number of years had received paralegal training by NGOs. They involved very actively in negotiations of the communal management of sand, drawing on local and trans-local ideas and practices related to natural resource management, rights and justice, and community, while at the same trying to enhance their own livelihood opportunities and social position.
In their own words, these young people “hustle for their rights” to benefit (individually or communally) from the sand. Inspired by other scholars who have recently discussed the notion of hustling and its use by youth involved in “informal” economic activities in African cities (e.g. Munive, 2010; Thieme, 2010), I will elaborate analytically on the empirical term of hustling. An exploration of the meanings of hustling for one’s rights illuminates, I argue, that young people's political engagements with the environment form part of a more general quest for survival and mobility, which is to a large degree shaped by their educational experiences.
Original languageDanish
Publication date2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • learning, educational science and teaching
  • children and youth
  • construction, environment and energy

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