Children's politicisation in diaspora?: a comparative exploration

Project timeframe
01/06/2018 - 30/04/2020
Families, young people and children
Amount awarded
Funder ID
The Leverhulme Trust

Project leader: Dr Elizabeth Mavroudi

In a time of debate around young people's politics and political participation, it is important to understand what young people themselves feel about having a voice, being heard by those in positions of power and the challenges and opportunities in relation to being political. There is also a need to understand what 'being political' means for young people who cannot vote: how does it form part of their everyday lives and what types of political activities are they involved in? How is this linked to how they experience their everyday lives and issues such as racism, prejudice, exclusion, marginalisation and so forth?

These issues are arguably particularly acute for young people with a migrant or diasporic background and for whom questions of identity, belonging and inclusion are potentially more challenging to deal with. This is because for them, the everyday also often entails transnational emotional and physical connections to homelands, countries of origin or other places they and their families have moved through. However, their voices, opinions and aspirations are often hidden and hard to uncover and this is what this research project is primarily concerned with.

We are completing exploratory research on young people's politicisation in diaspora, funded by the Leverhulme Trust on the Greek, Jewish and Palestinian diasporas in the UK aged between 11 and 25. They overwhelmingly have political opinions, are political (overtly and implicitly) through actions (e.g. attending demonstrations), thoughts (e.g. on political leadership) and more informally (e.g. how they decorate their rooms, how they feel about where they live and what they would like to change). However, it is not easy for them to have their voice heard or effect political change even though the majority want their voices to be heard by those in positions of power. This is because they feel they are dismissed because they are young and because there are limited avenues for doing so. They valued the role of political education and felt that they should be taught about how to be politically active at school/other educational spaces; they acknowledged that this is not a given and that they need to learn how to effect meaningful changes. However, many also understood how being political forms part of everyday lives and had sophisticated views on what politics entails.

Living in the UK and often having British citizenship is seen in positive ways, as enabling educational opportunities, political opinions and activism. Young people we spoke to, on the whole, do not trust politicians or the political system and they feel they are not taught how to be create change (e.g. at school) in effective ways. However, some are trying to use/reclaim space to capitalise on their age, generation, groundedness in Britain and British identity and connections to elsewhere in order to try and make a difference in broad terms (ie not just to ‘their’ diaspora). We are also interested in what shapes these young people's identities and politics so we have spoken to parents and community and religious leaders as well. We have found that young people we spoke to are indeed influenced by their parents and other close relatives, but also by their peers, the schools they attend (both mainstream and supplementary), their religious activities where relevant, the connections they have with their homeland and what they read online the social media they engage with.