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Session Overview
SP12: New Understandings of Children and Young People's Activism - with Sevasti-Melissa Nolas and Ilaria Pitti
Friday, 23/Aug/2019:
9:00am - 10:30am

Session Chair: Nigel Patrick Thomas, University of Central Lancashire
Session Chair: Sanna Aaltonen, University of Eastern Finland
Location: BS.G.27
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Ground Floor Oxford Road

Session Abstract

organised by RN04 and RN30

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Entanglements that Matter: Stretching the Political with the Help of the Connectors Study Children

Melissa Nolas

Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom

What are the intersections of childhood and public life? What could we learn about politics and political theory if we were to closely look at children's everyday lives and practices? The presentation focuses on the distillation of a 3-year long, international ethnographic study which took place simultaneously in three cities (Athens, Hyderabad and London). Taking a multimodal ethnographic approach, the ERC funded Connectors Study focused on the everyday lives of 45 five- to eight-year-olds, and their families, during the period between 2014-2017, a historical moment most often referred to as one of political and economic ‘crisis’. The children, and their families, who participated in the study were emblematic of a variety of urban experiences, family histories and trajectories. In moving out of institutional moments and spaces and joining children in their everyday lives, the presentation explores the idea and possible meanings of ‘a political child’ and its implications for political theory. In particular, I will focus on the sensory and embodied ways in which children encounter, experience, and engage in public life (broadly defined) and make some suggestions about how these sensory and embodied encounters might push political theory beyond the discursive (talk) and the cognitive (opinion).


Sevasti-Melissa Nolas is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research areas include: human agency and lived experience, childhood, youth and family lives, civic and political practices across the life course, and publics creating methodologies. She is the Principal Investigator of the ERC funded Connectors Study and the co-editor of entanglements: experiments in multimodal ethnography.

Youth and Politics: Avoiding or Appropriating?

Ilaria Pitti

University of Siena, Italy

Over the last 30 years, youth studies have argued in favor of the need to pay more attention and give more recognition to the less traditional forms through which young people participate in the public space. This debate has expanded common definitions of youth participation beyond the classic tools and contexts of representative democracy. The diffusion of a broader understanding of youth participation has not only changed adults’ and institutions’ views on youth engagement, but it has also increased young people’s awareness of the participative meanings of a series of apparently non-participative actions such as dancing, drawing graffiti, playing sport or cheering. In this scenario, the boundaries between the “political”, the “social”, and the “private” have become more and more blurred, while the use (or not) of the adjective “political” to describe a given action has often become a matter of choice.

Between 2015 and 2019, the Horizon 2020 project has investigated youth practices of participation in eight European cities through ethnography and biographical interviews. Considering these materials, the presentation will propose a reflection on the relationship young people have with the concept of “politics”. By exploring when and how the adjective “political” is used by young people to describe their practices in the public space, the presentation intends to highlight parallel tendencies to avoid and re-appropriate politics by younger generations. Results invite to rethink common understandings of participation and the public sphere.


Ilaria Pitti is Marie Sklodowska Curie Fellow at Örebro University (Sweden) and Vice-President (Southern Europe) of ISA’s RC34 “Youth Studies”. Her academic research is located at the crossroad between youth and social movement studies, focusing on the analysis of young people’s participation in social movement organisations and subcultures. She is also interested in the effects of precariousness on young people’s lives and on young people’s individual and collective reactions to precariousness. On these topics, she has conducted research mostly through qualitative methods, participating in national and international projects (Horizon 2020 projects Partispace and Youthblocs). Her most recent publications include the book Youth and Unconventional Political Engagement (2018) and the article "Being women in a male preserve: an ethnography of female football ultras" (2018, Journal of Gender Studies).

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