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In Event: Panel Cluster on Social Movements, Unions, and Youth Resistance: Youth Political Identities and Activism in Latin America’s Shifting Political Landscape
Youth engagement in feminist activism and movements for gender equality began long before the renown 2013 protests, but the scale and visibility increased and brought with it new forms of organizing, and along with it, renewed forms of knowledge production, exchange and resistance. This paper considers, what has changed and how – for and by whom?
The paper first aims to map contemporary types of activism among adolescents and youth in particular, and youths’ motivations and imagined futures. Young feminists organize – often moving among multiple collectives – around multiple objectives including denouncing violence and promoting violence prevention (i.e., from police violence to intimate partner violence and harassment), the right to the city and safe public spaces, and sexual and reproductive rights including abortion. They do so in ways that are mediated by adult/NGO support of youth – and increasingly, in ways that are youth-driven and youth-centered at local-peripheral, municipal, and national scales. Digital practices and social media are profoundly expand the potential of young feminist concerns and education, but they are not met without critiques of “armchair activism”: questions of ‘elite’ versus ‘popular’ spaces abound amidst promises of digital democracy.
Gendered social norms, race, class, and education trajectories shape the ways in which youth receive, produce, and exchange knowledge. Organizing has brought forth necessary and at times, uneasy negotiations among youth living and organizing in urban peripheral communities in which they live and with those of the middle class, and across lines of transnational feminism and local knowledge and experience. It has generated critical reflections of power, privilege, and marginalization – along with debates of empowerment, agency and victimization. For example, young activists discuss how colonial, hegemonic, hierarchical, or “banking” models of knowledge and education (Freire, 1970; Lander, 2002) are at times replicated in ways that reinforce oppression. Part of negotiating in young feminist movements has also entailed debates of the roles of men and boys.
At the same time as youth in peripheries are “students”, they engage in critical, and more horizontal approaches to organize in communities in which they live and work, and to exchange knowledge such as through peer education, feminist pedagogy, organizing, “literacy events,” and other educational strategies. They also question how youth organize and exchange knowledge in ways that at times reinforce, but also resist traditional gender roles. Cultural production (i.e., break dancing, hip hop, circus arts, graffiti, postering and punk rock) has also been central to approaches. While activists share concerns with education strategies emanating from social collectives, they differ in their practices. Some cite influences of rural land and worker movement strategies with the goal of activism to generate social and political change, while others attribute retained roots or revitalized forms of popular education, discuss influences of popular feminism (Silva, 2015), pedagogies of resistance (Bajaj, 2015), and other forms of knowledge production within movements (Choudry, 2013). Rich composing and literacy practices also offer possibilities of crafting meaning around one’s identity and connection to others, on and offline (Holland & Skinner, 2008; Hull & Sahini, 2010, Bartlett, 2007).
An increasingly prominent youth movement across Brazil has been that of young black feminists. Their emergence has been attributed to affirmative action policies in higher education, youth in some cases joining the movements through their mothers and processes of aesthetic, cultural, political and social empowerment. Language, knowledge, and action are (re)articulated to bring race, class, and decolonial struggles together with gender discrimination. I discuss the role of young black feminists from the peripheries of Recife in organizing a public hearing on violence against black women. The hearing represents resistance strategies in “teaching” public officials, pushing popular and political forms of knowledge.
Drawing from recent preliminary research in Brazil, online activism and media, and observations since before the 2013 protests, this paper centers on urban youth activism in the northeast (Recife), north (Belém), and southeast (Rio de Janeiro). Taking a critical perspective on the implications of research with youth and on activism in Brazil as an “outsider” (Tarlau 2014; Tuck & Yang, 2014), the paper does not aim to be representative of all youth activism experiences and contributions, but seeks to raise questions and engage with the panel on initial emerging themes. Challenges and potential for youth activism as well as considerations on approaches including youth participatory action research (Ozer, 2016) and educational implications will be discussed.
Bartlett, L. (2007). Human Capital or Human Connections? The Cultural Meanings of Education in Brazil. Teachers College Record. Volume 109, Number 7, 1613–1636.
Bajaj, M. (2015). ‘Pedagogies of resistance’ and critical peace education praxis. Journal of Peace Education. 12(2), 154-166.
Choudry, A. (2013). Activist Research Practice: Exploring research and knowledge production for social action. Socialist Studies, 9(1), 128-151.
Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Herder and Herder.
Holland & Skinner. (2008). Literacies of Distinction: (Dis)Empowerment in Social Movements. Journal of Development Studies, Vol. 44, No. 6, 849–862.
Hull, G., Stornaiuolo, A., & Sahni, U. (2010). Cultural citizenship and cosmopolitan practice: Global youth communicate online. English Education, 42(4), 331–367.
Lander, E. (2002). Eurocentrism, Modern Knowledges, and the ‘Natural’ Order of Global Capital. Nepantla: Views from South 3 (2), 245-268.
Ozer EJ. (2016). Youth-Led Participatory Action Research: Developmental and Equity Perspectives. In Eds, Horn, Ruch, Liben (Eds.), Advances in Child Development and Behavior, Vol. 50, Burlington: Academic Press, 2016, pp. 189-207.
Silva, C.S.M. (2016). Feminismo popular e lutas antissistêmicas. Recife: Edições SOS Corpo.
Tarlau, R. (2014). “We do not need outsiders to study us: Reflections on activism and social movement research.”in Postcolonial Directions in Education, 3(1), pp. 63-87
Tuck, E. & Yang, K.W. (2014). R-Words: Refusing Research. In D. Paris and M. T. Winn (Eds.) Humanizing Research: Decolonizing Qualitative Inquiry with youth and Communities. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Tuck, E., & Yang, K.W. (2011). Youth resistance revisited: new theories of youth negotiations of educational injustices. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 24(5), 521–530.