28 SES 17, Development Narratives as a Common Good? Knowledge Constraints on ‘Public’ Voice in Historically Subaltern Spaces
This paper explores the political nature of the increased focus of NGOs, multilaterals, and aid organizations on youth development initiatives in the ‘Global South’ through channels of informal and citizenship education. I aim to illustrate how the categorization of youth as separate from the population politicizes their experiences (Sukarieh & Tannock, 2014), and thus requires a new theoretical framework to understand how young people are shaped by transnational structures into citizens, as defined by liberal regimes. This conceptualization will be based on the case of South Africa and will culminate in an argument for what Burawoy (2000) refers to as grounded globalization through ethnographic practice. A central argument of the paper is that the Western model of youth development places the youth as an individual, above the community. This is exemplified by the focus on skill-based development which implies that the future success of an individual is based upon their attributes, as opposed to structural forces, thus removing the focus from the political to the individual. I argue that this promotes a liberal conception of freedom which is, in actuality, a negative freedom, or ‘freedom from’, as opposed to an Arendtian concept of ‘freedom as interconnectedness’ (2006). This creates a model of diminished politics based upon the assertion of individual rights, as opposed to an agonistic plurality (Arendt, 1972). This implies that young people in the ‘Global South’, through their education, are being conditioned to accept predetermined definitions of political freedom, and individual and collective responsibility that are contrary to relational notions of citizenship and action (Dillabough, 2016; Peterson, 2016). I argue that it is our definition of freedom, or our ability to explore this concept without political hegemonic influences, that illustrates our propensity towards a new development imaginary. Furthermore, the perpetuation of youth development initiatives serves to dictate what the ideal citizen is, and who may be a ‘public voice’, which reifies ‘Northern’ boundaries of belonging within the ‘Southern’ context. It is then necessary to redefine the geographies of knowledge to understand how young people in the “Global South” are interacting with the contradictions of this liberal imposition, and how they define freedom and power in relation to local and transnational structures. This argument supports the necessity of critical ethnographies that place youth at the centre of agonistic political processes, as theorists themselves, thereby subverting the exclusionary traditions of knowledge production, and allowing an assertion of the subaltern voice.
Arendt, H. (2006). On revolution. New York: Penguin Books. Arendt, H. (1972). Crises of the Republic: Lying in Politics, Civil Disobedience on Violence, Thoughts on Politics, and Revolution. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Burawoy, M., Blum, J. A., George, S., Gille, Z., & Thayer, M. (2000). Global Ethnography: Forces, Connections, and Imaginations in a Postmodern World. University of California Press. Dillabough, J.-A. (2016). Gender, Social Justice and Citizenship in Education: Engaging Space, the Narrative Imagination, and Relationality. In The Palgrave International Handbook of Education for Citizenship and Social Justice (pp. 49–71). Springer. Peterson, A. (2016). Global justice and educating for globally oriented citizenship. In The Palgrave International Handbook of Education for Citizenship and Social Justice (pp. 247–264). Springer. Sukarieh, M., & Tannock, S. (2014). Youth rising?: The politics of youth in the global economy. Routledge.
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