The role of the geographical imagination in young people’s political engagement

This paper provides new insights into the ways in which urban youth draw upon and reference spatial concepts over the course of their participation in activism and organizing. The concept of the geographical imagination is the starting point from which to explore how young people’s understanding of places near and far affects their political engagement. Civic participation is often conceived as voting and volunteering; however, this research suggests that young people who are collectively engaged in helping their community while extending their capacity to connect social forces to material outcomes are also civic and political actors. Furthermore, this paper shows how young people’s experiences, perception, and attachment to different places inform the strategies and stances of their social and political activities. Drawing from a year-long investigation at a Harlem-based youth organization, the findings document how young people trace patterns of marginalization, neglect, and belonging in places near and far, which is an underexplored aspect of critical geography and youth participation. By showing how spatial concepts are embedded in young people’s experiences with and narratives about their community’s most pressing issues, an extended geographical imagination can help youth illuminate social and spatial injustice, and imagine progressive alternatives for change.

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Title:  The role of the geographical imagination in young people’s political engagement

Authors:  Yvonne Hung

Publication Date: 2011

Publisher: Environment and Planning A