Theorizing Young People's Perceptions of Their Citizenship Identity

Theorizing Young People's Perceptions of Their Citizenship Identity

Ralph Leighton (Canterbury Christ Church University, UK) and Laila Nielsen (Jönköping University, Sweden)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7110-0.ch024
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The paradigm of social justice gives voice to those without the resources to deal with responsibilities imposed by a neoliberal agenda. The authors focus on pupils in Sweden and England, countries which have moved from a sense of communality to the growth of neoliberal societal individualism. To clarify real citizenship (rather than formal), they apply the concepts of intersectionality and of human capabilities in place of rights, which means that people adhere to numerous simultaneous collectivities and having the capability to do something requires more than an entitlement to it. While everyone might have the right to an education and to a dignified life, many live in powerlessness and in political, social, and economic exclusion. Sufficient human capabilities are required in order to receive the education necessary for citizenship in its real meaning, and the intersectional approach enables interrogation of factors that coalesce, rather than viewing in them in isolation.
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Earlier Study

We conducted one-to-one interviews with teachers and focus-group interviews with pupils in both Sweden and England, adhering to the same interview schedules and with identical sample sizes. They were asked about their experiences and opinions regarding Citizenship Education and the nature of citizenship, with a particular focus on ethnicity, gender, and social class. We found that the relationship between students' education and the real conditions for citizenship is complex, exacerbated by the meanings of frequently used terminology and images in the field of Citizenship Education not always aligning with teachers’ and students’ own opinions and perceived meanings. Considerable and ongoing public debate and published research have shown that, in order to understand the real meanings of citizenship, it is necessary to understand and interpret formal citizenship rights and responsibilities from individuals’ social and cultural conditions as characterized by gender, ethnicity and social class.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Intersectionality: Everyone has simultaneous membership of several collectivities which interact with those of others.

Social Justice: A research perspective which emphasizes equality, fairness, and the democratic process with critical sensitivity to issues of advantage and disadvantage, choice and control, inclusion and exclusion, opportunities and barriers.

Human Capabilities: The prerequisites conditional to being able to have full access to the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

Civil Society: Those social practices and institutions which operate outside the government and its agencies, apparently manifesting the interests and attitudes of the citizenry.

Formal Citizenship: The official version of the rights and responsibilities of citizens, found in government documents, legislation, and official pronouncements.

Real Citizenship: The lived experiences of citizens in relation to their rights and responsibilities, mediated by their collectivities.

Social Citizenship: The right to education, health care, and all other aspects of social welfare, as described by T.H. Marshall.

Collectivities: Socially constructed categories such as family, gender, social class, ethnicity to which a person belongs or with which they identify.

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