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Youth, Change, and Social Agency Conference

Call for Papers

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Deadline for receiving proposals: February 25th 2017

Young people shape the futures of their society. They envision, plan, challenge practices and present new perspectives. Youth as actors face however many challenges. This international conference will explore how do youth and other actors enhance youth capabilities to pursue the change they envision within a context of social and political repression, sociopolitical instabilities. Further, it will look into ways in which youth emerge as actors and become more influential in policies, and shaping the current and future alternative of their societies; How do youth and other actors sustain their collective action and sense of agency with increase repression in societies; how would they move from the focus on the individual to a focus on a greater commitment despite all the challenges they face. Youth resiliency the experiences of youth and other actors with regards to enhancing youth engagement.

This Bethlehem University, ISA RC34, and RC47 conference will be an opportunity to enhance a mutual learning between scholars in Palestine, Arab countries, and the international community.

We particularly welcome papers on the four axes of the conference:

The main themes to be discussed in the conference are:

-          Youth as actors of change, transformation from the individual to the collective commitment

-          repression: How to create and sustain a commitment with a context of repression

o   A sub topic will be with regards to the development of tools and techniques by youth and other actors to face repressions and online repression.

-          Youth resiliency and engagement: how to move forward in time of conflict and instability. Engagement as a tool for community rebuilding

-          Youth in Palestine: collective action  and change intersection of development and liberation

1.       Youth as actors of change, transformation from the individual to the collective commitment

Since 2011, young people, participating in movements in the Arab world and USA and across Europe, have proven to be major actors of social and political change, as much the ones that strike mainstream media headlines as those that discreetly transform politics or daily life. They have developed specific forms of commitment and activism that connect individualization with strong social commitments, protests and alternative, online and offline activism. This conference will gather analyses of young people’s contributions to socio-political change in the Arab countries and around the world. We particularly welcome analyses of youth cultures of activism, and youth visions of social change.

Transformation from a focus on the individualized self to the common and public good is one of the aspects in which youth, organizations, political parties, and others have tried to develop. Various forms of social and political commitment were developed and promoted by different actors. This ranged from voluntary work to participating in online and offline activism.  Currently, in many parts of the world there are two competing spheres in which collective identity and commitment to the public good is emerging and evolving:  the formal and informal. In the informal sphere, initiatives are generally youth-led, with young people working on developing their own structures, groups, and cultures for social and political engagement. Within the formal sphere it is organizations, policy makers, and political parties that are constructing interventions concerned with creating opportunities for young people to demonstrate their social and political contribution as active citizens. Both spheres are increasingly affecting the current and future frameworks of young people’s lives as they shape youth identities, and cultures, styles and forms of engagement.

2. Repression

Repression is another factor that impact youth ability to form a collective action. Repression affects the willingness to participate in collective action, the forms of engagement. Repression affects the possible available actions to be taken by various actors, and the tools that these actors own and access. Youth and other actors try to manipulate a system of repression- political or social- to push for changes they envision. Yet the risk needed for engagement under repression is high and accordingly decreases the possibilities of engagement and sustaining it. For example, Restriction applied on online engagement is only one example of how surveillance limits the space of young activists; framing the actions to support the local community as civic while under colonization is another approach to avoid risks of being subjects to surveillance.  How to enhance Youth participation in collective action during such restrictions varies from one context to another, what are the factors that are encouraging youth to get engaged despite of the risk that they will face is one of the questions that will be tackled by this conference. Another will how do youth and other actors navigate the space available to achieve the change they envision. It will look into the techniques and strategies used by various actors to build a sense of agency and create a sustainable change in a society.  

3. Resiliency

 Resiliency is another aspect that is vital for engagement, agency, and change especially in societies that lives in conflicts and wars. Social and political engagement is an indicator of resilient youth and their societies. Engaged youth prove to be more able to face pressures in their lives, and arguably possess or develop the social capital that helps them to navigate the personal and positional change they want. In a context like Palestine, engaged youth showed better signs of agency, and more capability to face the challenges resulting from a life under colonization, and within a society with high level of unemployment among youth, and political division that lasted around ten years. Youth resiliency is interlinked with the collective resiliency of their society. . Resilient young people are seen to be able to step forward to build the change they envision: they have access to resources provided by their social network, and they have a strong sense of agency. How do social networks and structures enhance youth resilience and prospectively shape and sustain youth engagement. How do programmes and policies directed towards youth affect youth inclusion within their communities and society, and push the boundaries and spaces available for youth as social actors.

4. Understanding youth in Palestine. Contributions for and from research in Palestine in a global context

In Palestine, where one third of the population is between the ages of 18 and 30 years old, young people’s ability to affect the change on policy levels, political parties, and organizations is limited. This is despite a nation’s history in which a strong youth movement shaped the resistance movement against the occupation, and formed the current political parties. The youth movement, similar to other collective actions efforts in Palestine, has dissipated as a result of socio-political changes that have shaped the Palestinian society since signing the Oslo Accord twenty years ago. Currently in Palestine young people are now shaping new spaces for their engagement, usually focused on their local community. Still young people participated in a smaller scale in national movements such as BDS,  stop the wall, and the teachers’ movement.. This situation, although in some respects distinct for Palestine, shares many similarities with other countries in the world.

The conference will take place in Bethlehem University, Bethlehem, Palestine from April 26th to 28th 2017. The conference will be followed with encounters with local actors on April 29th in the cities of Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Hebron. Interested participants will notably meet with organizations that support young people and foster their agency in the three cities. Program to visit organizations working with youth and collective action will be arranged during the conference.  

Proposals should be submitted in English or Arabic; abstracts should not exceed 300 words and may be submitted by February 25th 2017 to the following addresses: youthandchange@bethlehem.edu if you have any problems or questions, please contact Abeer Musleh Abeerm@bethlehem.edu,  Geoffrey Players Geoffrey.Pleyers@uclouvain.be ; Ani Wierenga wierenga@unimelb.edu.au

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