Friday, June 03, 2011

CRRC Starts Youth Engagement Research | European Project

As of June 1, CRRC has started work on a collaborative project on youth engagement, called MYPLACE. MYPLACE is an FP7 Collaborative Large-scale integrating project funded under the 2010 Social Sciences and Humanities call ‘Democracy and the shadows of totalitarianism and populism: the European experience’. It brings together a consortium of 16 research institutions from 14 European countries as well as 14 stakeholder public institutions (museums, NGOs, archive and document centres).

The coordinating institution is the University of Warwick. The coordinator is Professor Hilary Pilkington (Department of Sociology).

In addition to CRRC, the other project partners are:
  • Tallinn University, Estonia
  • University of SS Cyril and Methodius, Trnava, Slovakia
  • University of Bremen, Germany
  • Jena University, Germany
  • University of Eastern Finland, Finland
  • University of Southern Denmark, Denmark
  • ISCTE, Lisbon University Institute, Portugal,
  • ‘Region’, Ul’ianovsk State University, Russian Federation
  • Daugavpils University, Latvia
  • Ivo Pilar Institute of Social Sciences, Zagreb, Croatia
  • Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Spain
  • University of Debrecen, Hungary
  • Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
  • Panteion University of Athens, Greece
The project runs from June 1st 2011-31 May 2015.

MYPLACE stands for Memory Youth Political Legacy And Civic Engagement. The project investigates how young people’s social participation is shaped by the shadows of totalitarianism and populism in Europe.

Why is this an important question to ask? The current generation of young people is united by the experience of growing up in a Europe that is largely free of both right and left-wing authoritarian regimes. They also share the lack of any first-hand memory of the cold war and the associated fears and prejudices that divided Europe or direct experience of living under a communist, authoritarian or fascist political regime. At the same time, they share the experience of growing up in the first global economic crisis in the post-World War Two period, which we might expect to provide the far right a fertile ‘recruitment’ ground. Moreover, because the current generation of young people in Europe has little or no experience of extremist and populist politics, it may be particularly vulnerable to radical political agendas.

Why is it important to ask this question now? In the current context of economic recession political parties and movements of the far right are becoming increasingly visible. In the 2009 European parliamentary elections, far-right political parties won substantial support in a number of EU member states. They also made parliamentary representation breakthroughs in countries where they have had little previous success. This is a pattern repeated in a number of European countries in national and regional elections.

In this context MYPLACE asks how young people’s engagement with the past is likely to shape their reception to contemporary populist political agendas. It draws no simple ‘straight lines’ from ‘authoritarian’ pasts to precarious democratic presents or futures. It is premised on the assumption that radical and populist political and philosophical traditions are pan-European and cyclical rather than embedded in discrete national ‘political cultures’ or based on rigid classifications of political heritage (‘totalitarian’, ‘communist’, ‘fascist’) and open to ‘healing’ through ‘democratization’. This makes the project genuinely trans-European.

Expertise in youth studies of the project partners means we start with a clear understanding of young people not as passive objects of political manipulation but as active political agents. Evidence from a number of ‘colour revolutions’ in countries of former communist Europe as well as anti-globalization, anti-poverty, anti-war and anti-cuts campaigns, indeed suggests that young people’s political consciousness is not a blank canvas and that young people are not only mobilised but can effectively network, organise and lead major political actions.

MYPLACE is interdisciplinary, bringing together researchers trained in a range of social sciences (sociology, politics, anthropology, psychology and cultural studies). It will include a large scale survey in 14 countries to measure young people’s political and civic participation and attitudes. Interviews and focus groups will be used to understand the meanings young people attach to such participation as well as to explore how these meanings are transmitted across generations. Around 50 ethnographic case studies of young people’s actual civic participation and political activism will also be conducted across the countries of the project.

Policy makers and practitioners are involved in the project from its outset through nationally based Youth Policy Advisory Groups. Through these groups, the project will implement its objective of creating an active and sustainable dialogue between academic, public and policy institutions. The project’s findings will feed into regional, national and EU level policy making centres as well as a range of youth activist, anti-racism/xenophobia networks. An important objective of the project is to inform policy-makers about the range of political and civic activities in which young people are involved, rather than focusing on ‘problems’ in the youth sphere.

If you want to know more, the contact details for further information about the project are the following:
  • Project Coordinator: Hilary Pilkington, Dept of Sociology, University of Warwick, h.pilkington [att]
  • Project Manager: Martin Price, Dept of Sociology, University of Warwick, M.R.Price [att]

Project website: 

For CRRC Tina Zurabishvili will be the lead on most of this project, and we will inform you about further updates through our blog. Get in touch if you want to find out more. 

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