|dc.description.abstract||The social conditions of postmodernity have influenced the structures and forms of social institutions and the ways in which individuals engage with them. A decline in traditional forms of civic participation by young people has been attributed by some researchers to declining levels of interest and engagement by individuals. However, new theories of citizenship have begun to shift this debate. These ‘everyday’ theories of citizenship contend that young people are participating in civic life in new spaces and through new forms of participation. There is also acknowledgment that the traditional pathways of civic practice have been eroded. Despite these attempts to reconceptualise civic participation theory, young people’s citizenship continues to be measured against traditional forms of civic practice such as political interest, voluntary activity and interest in participating in community life. This research project explores how young people mediate the changing opportunities and challenges to participate in their communities as well as construct their identities as civic participants, citizens, and global citizens. I draw on Bourdieu’s theory of practice to propose an expanded model of youth participation that enables young people’s experience of citizenship to be rethought as an interactive and dynamic process between individuals and social structures.
I examine the different sites where school-aged young people can exercise citizenship and develop participant identities. Fifteen young people involved in a global education program in an Australian school were interviewed using a qualitative social constructivist research strategy. Their discursive and dispositional accounts of subjectivity and practice were analysed to generate deeper understandings of contemporary forms of citizenship. I conclude that schools play an important role in providing opportunities for young people to enact participant identities. Where opportunities exist to contribute towards solutions and occupy meaningful roles, young people absorb them in their discursive constructions of being global citizens. Yet there is a temporal desynchrony between the pace of young people’s experiences of citizenship and the pace of the formal civics and citizenship curriculum. Several models of global citizenship education offer pathways to moderate this disjuncture between civic life and formal institutions, incorporating the social and cultural dimensions of citizenship into models of global citizenship education that are both current and relevant to the lives of young people in contemporary civic life.
The findings suggest that these young people move fluidly between the subject positions available to them, however, their enactment of these positions is influenced by recognition, validation and structured opportunities to participate. These young people described themselves as active global citizens despite limited formal or traditional pathways to practice these roles. However, the study also revealed a marked absence of subject positions or pathways to participation in local place-based communities. Opportunities for structured participation, particularly at school, emerged as the dominant influence on participation, with belonging, validation and recognition also being significantly influential in active forms of civic participation. These findings suggest that civics and citizenship curricula needs to provide opportunities for structured participation and acknowledge the subjective and social dimensions of citizenship in order to foster active civic participation.