Safety, Fear and Belonging: The Everyday Realities of Civic Identity Formation in Fenham, Newcastle upon Tyne
AbstractThis paper is concerned with questions of citizenship and identity as they are experienced by a group of white, working class teenagers, living in a deprived neighbourhood in Newcastle upon Tyne, North East England. Early empirical findings from my doctoral fieldwork are used to outline how tensions and frustrations expressed by these young people may enrich understandings of ‘citizenship’ in this context. Challenging the predominant image of ‘urban youth’ as alienated, apathetic and uninvolved in their local communities, the paper argues for a much broader understanding of ‘youth citizenship’ informed, for example, by young people’s involvement in voluntary and unpaid care activities – initiatives which often go widely unnoticed. The paper outlines why young people in Fenham find it difficult to identify with their local area, but also points to the ways in which they are making efforts to resist and overcome these challenges. The paper calls attention to some of the strategies these young people employ for feeling safe, and outlines the importance of a young person’s sense of belonging in the construction of a personal and highly specific ‘civic identity’. The paper demonstrates that forming a civic identity is a complex and fragile process, and suggests that further grassroots research is required to uncover the diverse ways in which contemporary youth citizenship(s) are constructed.
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