"They don't know what's going on": Exploring young people's political subjectivities during transitions to adulthood in the UK

  • Benjamin Bowman

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The transitions of young people to adulthood in the UK are a political threshold that has received much public attention. The trend for young people to abstain from elections relative to older generations is one example of the many reasons young people’s politics have come under the microscope of researchers who claim that the manner of young people’s transitions to citizenship represents an incipient crisis for the UK as a democratic system (Farthing, 2010; O’Toole, 2015, p. 175). This thesis responds to calls for more research into young people’s lives as sites for political subjectivity as well as, in the UK, for explorations of the main question in the field of young people’s politics: the extent and nature of young people’s relative disengagement from politics, and their marginalization from institutional politics in generalThe theoretical basis for this research project is a constructionist framework based on Bourdieu’s methods for uncovering social worlds (Bourdieu, 1996, p. 1) that also attempts to approach young people as equals in a political sense (Rancière, 1991, p. 229). Focus groups with young people at one vocational college, one secondary school and one youth group in the UK, utilizing participant photography as a data generation technique, provide the data for this study in an everyday politics approach. Young people’s perceptions of their everyday worlds are developed into broader discussions of political subjectivity, perceptions and actions.
Date of Award22 Jun 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SponsorsEconomic and Social Research Council
SupervisorSusan Milner (Supervisor) & Rita Chawla-Duggan (Supervisor)


  • Young people
  • Politics
  • UK
  • Citizenship
  • Bourdieu
  • Rancière
  • Liminality
  • Visual methods
  • Photography
  • Insecurity
  • Autonomy
  • Local government

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