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Doctoral Students

Sarah Smith

An exploration of the relationship between youth cultures and community space

I am a PhD student based at the University of Leicester and my PhD is part of the New Urbanisms, New Citizens project. I am researching the relationship between youth cultures and community spaces and I am interested in the way young people use both physical and virtual spaces. Having successfully completed my first year upgrade, I have recently begun my fieldwork.

I conduct my research in one of the project’s case study communities and I am using a range of ethnographic techniques including interviews with 16-25 year olds and key stakeholders and observations of the way young people use physical and virtual spaces. I plan to be taken on ‘guided walks’ by some of the young people I interview which will give them the opportunity to show me their community and what is important to them there.

I have also set up a facebook group as a forum for young people aged 16-25 year olds in the community. I will be setting up discussion topics within the group which will ask similar questions to those which I am asking in interviews. This will give me the opportunity to reach more young people than I am able to via using interviews alone and will also help me to check the validity of my interview findings. I am also interested in the potential of social networking as a research tool and I hope to present a poster based on this at the festival of post-graduate research held in Leicester later in 2011.

I am also looking at the way young people are represented in local and national media and the way young people themselves feel about these representations. I am in the process of colleting local and national newspaper articles and I will conduct a textual analysis of them alongside using them in interviews to attempt to understand how young people themselves feel about the way their age group and cultures are represented.

If you would like any further information about my project I would like to hear from you. You can contact me on:

Gabriela Trevisan

My PHD research in Childhood Studies – speciality in Sociology of Childhood – is carried out in Minho University, under the supervision of Prof. Manuel Sarmento, and with the co-supervision of Prof. Pia Christensen, Institute of Education, University of Warwick. It focuses on research with children in arenas and domains where they have traditionally been excluded from decision-making in matters that affect them, directly or indirectly, in their everyday life. Historically as well as socially “omitted” in producing their own “histories”, since the Children’s Rights Convention (UN, 1989), children have been given greater protection rights but also new participation ones. In this sense, children are recognized as having the right to participate in decisions affecting them and of expressing themselves according to their capacities. However, what could be designated as a political participation rights – or citizenship – is not clear in the Convention.

The aim of my research is to reflect on children’s possibility of exercising citizenship, especially throughout participation in their everyday life settings, such as primary school and the city. If we are to analyse the theoretical possibility of children’s political participation – in public discussions, in decision-making and in applying policies directed to them – we should theorize about children’s political competences as active members of societies in which they exist and help to transform.

Empirical work is being developed in a primary school, with a 1st grade class and a 3rd grade class, using ethnographic research approaches such as participant observation, walking interviews, and focus groups, as well as activities designed to explore their weekly activities and the theme of “Who Decides”. School assemblies of 3rd year students are also being observed and analysed. In the community/city context, specific programs of children in the city are being analysed, with special attention to children’s participation through such means as City Council Assemblies