Youth, Politics and Place: Political Engagement among Young People in Manchester

  • Aimee Harragan

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis presents a consideration of the ways in which the experiences and meanings of young people’s activities contribute to their positioning towards the political, and as such give the political meaning (McNay 2014; Hay 2007; Arendt 1958). This thesis takes a qualitative, locally embedded approach to understand the ways in which young people engage politically, in Manchester. The project was set against the backdrop of the 2015 General Election, the EU referendum and the impacts of austerity in the form of service closures in the community. Observing and speaking to young people directly exposed some of the many ways in which they take part, in everyday settings. Their participation in various spheres of their community was supported by a number of different rationales. Hence, the everyday approach of this project highlights the ways in which participation matters, politically, to young people when they are contributing to their communities. This was found to be quite distinct from their largely negative narratives and relationships with formal politics. The understanding of the political for young people centres on establishing a stake in, and impact on, their communities through purposeful activities. It is argued that contribution to community is understood as political agency for young people, despite encountering a number of barriers in fostering agency. Barriers include the stigmatisation of youth identities and the relational identities generated on account of certain activities participated in. The result of barriers was found in the marginalisation of young people from either, or both, their local and relational communities, such that a position in their political community was difficult to achieve. Some young people were found to navigate these barriers through “mini-polities” and “mediating institutions” (Flanagan 2013, p.229) to enact their citizenship by contributing to their political communities. Not all, however, of these young people and their expressions of citizenship were externally recognised. Participation matters politically, to adults, however, when it can be labelled as a formal activity with the association of a transition status. Through transition in status, from young person to members with recognised positions in organisations, some were considered to be contributing to their communities by adults. However, less traditional and obvious avenues were found to be overlooked and hence not socially legitimated. Young people’s status and recognition as citizens, then, was found to be significantly mediated by experiences of class and identity.
Date of Award31 Dec 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorNick Crossley (Supervisor) & Gemma Edwards (Supervisor)


  • citizens
  • participation
  • engagement
  • Youth
  • politics

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