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The significance of ethnography in youth participation research: active citizenship in the UK after the Brexit vote

Banaji, Shakuntala ORCID: 0000-0002-9233-247X, Mejias, Sam ORCID: 0000-0003-3462-3815 and de la Pava Vélez, Benjamín (2018) The significance of ethnography in youth participation research: active citizenship in the UK after the Brexit vote. Socialni Studia, 15 (2). 97 - 115. ISSN 1214-813X

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Identification Number: 10.5817/SOC2018-2-97


In comparison to questionnaires, statistical analyses, interviews and experiments, ethnography tends to be a neglected method in youth participation research and in understanding political socialization and citizen action. This, we suggest, is very unfortunate. Where the concerns and experiences of researchers do not match those of young people, it is usually the young people’s perspectives which remain outside the frameworks and conclusions. Drawing on original data and insights from two ethnographies of youth active citizenship initiatives in the UK – My Life My Say and Momentum – collected during a politically tumultuous 8-month period in 2017, this article argues that ethnography has several advantages over other methods when it comes to understanding the depth and significance of youth civic participation and its links to peer groups and emotions. We contend that critical and reflexive ethnographies allow scholars and researchers to ask and probe young people’s perceptions, opinions, actions and behaviours through the use of open-ended questions in settings where civic action is already taking place, thus triangulating findings in natural settings and building a sense of how communities of practice and activism function. In terms of ethics, voice and power, this ethnographic research approach gives young people more control over their own narratives about participation and affiliation in specific political or civic settings than surveys tend to do.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2018 The Authors
Divisions: Media and Communications
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
Date Deposited: 08 Jan 2019 14:49
Last Modified: 15 May 2024 23:23

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