Dissertation Abstracts

"You Have Got to Represent Your Endz": Youth Territoriality in London

Author: Adekunle, Adefemi K, femi.adekunle@gmail.com
Department: Geography
University: University College London, United Kingdom
Supervisor: Dr. Claire Dwyer
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: Language

Keywords: Youth space , youth identity , youth territoriality
Areas of Research: Youth , Community Research


This doctoral dissertation is based around exploring the issue of youth belonging and territoriality in various areas of London taken from the perspective of my work as a volunteer youth worker, as a policy researcher at the Runnymede Trust and an academic. It looks at developing an understanding of the motivation of young people who – point blank – refused to go into areas that neighboured and mirrored their own. It explores how young people react both positively and negatively to the part of the city that they call home and how they relate and conceptualise other areas that they are unfamiliar with. It seeks to find out why certain young people are happy to remain within their locale and actively resist others from coming into theirs. I call this phenomenon ‘youth territoriality’ and it presents itself as a complex and emotional issue for young people. In developing a framework, I ask how this spatial identity is (re)constructed and (re)constituted in relation to not just itself but other prominent state and social discourses.
My doctorate seeks to answer, variously: how do you young people understand and experience territory and belonging? How does belonging and territory offset encounters with fear and marginalisation? Most importantly, it constructs a proposal of how can it be reconfigured by young people and local authorities?
By dividing the question into two case sites - the first focusing more generally on territoriality’s prevalence and the other focusing more specifically on its workings -it explores the major theoretical and methodological problems in analysing the situation. It thereby discovers how, when and where particular forms of belonging matter and how this links individuals to wider social structures creating an “ease with oneself and one’s surroundings” (May, 2011).
Theoretically, it examines how spatial imaginaries are created and represented; how intergenerational tensions are evoked and details the shifting social construction of ethnicity. Methodologically it uses new technology to map and capture transitional aspects of urban encounters and aspects of route and routine. Indeed, drawing upon a mixed-method approach this paper highlights how the use of mobility as a distanciated and spatial variable around which concepts of belonging can cohere to create an individual and collective identity. Using participatory GIS, focus groups, surveys and interviews, it illustrates the complexity of belonging by emphasizing different linkages between space, place and identity. It also shows how membership of institutions creates a local daily reproduced discourse through countless practices, expressions and institutional structures.
This is meant as a statement of how ‘territorial belonging’ fits into a narrative of a self-defined state of adulthood that underlines the challenge, difficulty and intricacy of identity for young people.

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