CFP: “This used to be my playground”: Youth citizenship, arts activism and socio-politically inclusive futures

Geographical Imagination: Interpretations of Nature, Art and Politics

6th Nordic Geographers’ Meeting

Tallinn & Tartu, Estonia

15–19 June 2015

Conference website:



“This Used to Be My Playground”: Youth Citizenship, Arts Activism and Socio-Politically Inclusive Futures



Dr Martin Zebracki & Dr Elen-Maarja Trell

University of Leeds, United Kingdom & University of Groningen, the Netherlands


Delta Arts Youth Festival medium

Students at Simon Fraser University (Canada) formed the Delta Arts Youth Festival (2012) aimed at engaging and strengthening the community through fine and performing arts.
Photograph: Simon Fraser University Public Affairs and Media Relations


Session abstract:

This session invites scholars from diverse disciplines to engage with arts activism (cf. Frostig 2011) involved in informal social participation of young people (aged approximately 15-25) to voice their opinions and concerns about contemporary society and politics and shape future spaces that are intergenerationally and socio-politically inclusive (cf. Barry 2004).


Acknowledging that youth political participation is high on the political agenda across both the Global North and Global South (cf. Ginwright & James 2002; Forbrig 2005; Rheingans & Hollands 2013), the session aims to move beyond the settings of formal-institutional assemblages, voting, petition signing and youth representation in political bodies—as indicators of youth political interest and participation—towards considerations of informal and inclusive cultural youth citizenship and everyday contexts and relations through which alternative forms of participation can arise (cf. Hart 2009; Garrett 2013). We hence conceive of this session as a momentum to look at informal youth arts activism in terms of youth’s everyday artistic (self-)expressions and the ensuing senses of space, citizenship, belonging and meaningful and agonistic encounters in interface with past, present and projected future civic norms and values (cf. Harris et al. 2010; Wood 2014).


We seek any theoretical, methodological and/or empirical contributions drawn from either preliminary or fully-fledged research that critically address young people’s (dis)interests in and (dis)engagements with society and politics through arts practice. These are played out along bodily, home-based, neighbourhood and local community involvement and engagement at co-emerging regional, national and global social levels which can include real, imagined and post-materialist i.e. cyber experiences (cf. Forbig 2005; Rossi 2009; Macnamara 2012). We are overall interested in shaping an understanding of youth citizenship as artistically informed and practiced on a glocal ‘playground’ in a past-contemporary-future spectrum. As such, we encourage contributions pursuing social relational, multiscalar and multitemporal approaches to youth arts activism.


Overall, this multidisciplinary session aims at providing conceptual, methodological and empirical opportunities to learn about youth arts activism, and a pedagogical window on rendering and possibly advancing research, policy and education on youth citizenship through the intermediating lens of the arts.


Potential topics could include, but are not limited to, the following:


  • Ontologies of youth arts activism (cf. Frostig 2011).
  • Youth grassroots arts activism and social and political change and justice (cf. Milbourne 2010; Christens & Dolan 2011).
  • Youth arts activism across intersectionalities of sex, gender, sexuality, class, race, age, religion and ability/disability (cf. Vanderbeck 2007; Brown 2012).
  • Informal and voluntary spaces of artistic expressions vis-à-vis youth citizenship and participation (cf. Neufeind et al. 2013; Wood 2014).
  • Youth participatory social media and virtual arts activism (cf. Macnamara 2012).
  • Actualising young citizens through artistic engagement (cf. Bennet et al. 2009).
  • Youth arts activism and citizenship education and pedagogies (cf. Banks 2008).
  • Potentialities of informal public-art actions in socially inclusive policies (cf. Zebracki 2012).
  • Youth arts activism and well-being (Skinner & Masuda 2013).
  • Arts-informed youth ownership of space (cf. Facer 2012).
  • Artistic protests and boycotting through youth organisations (cf. Ginwright & James 2003).
  • Urban exploration, ‘place-hacking’ and other forms of critical spatial engagement as artistic activism (cf. Garrett 2013).
  • Participatory visual methodologies, video ethnographies and other innovative and artistic methods to capture/facilitate youth participation and activism (cf. Trell & Van Hoven 2010).
  • Ethical and methodological considerations in youth arts activism research (cf. Valentine et al. 2001).


If interested, please send a max. 100-word bio and max. 200-word abstract as separate Word documents to both Dr Martin Zebracki at M.M.Zebracki AT and Dr Elen-Maarja Trell at E.M.Trell AT by 10 October, 2014. Selected contributors will then be invited to submit the abstract via the online submission form (for max. 200-word abstracts) at

We potentially explore opportunities for basing a special journal issue on this session. Therefore, in your submission, please also indicate if you would like to contribute to this. Please feel free to contact us should you require any more information about the CFP.



“This used to be my playground (used to be)

This used to be our pride and joy

This used to be the place we ran to

That no one in the world could dare destroy”


Madonna [Louise Ciccone] (1992), This Used to Be My Playground [video, producer: Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.]. 3’26”-3’50”.



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– Barry, M. (Ed.). (2004). Youth policy and social inclusion: Critical debates with young people. New York: Routledge.

– Bennet, W., Wells, C. & Rank, A. (2009). Young citizens and learning: Two paradigms of citizenship in the digital age. Citizenship Studies, 13(2), 105-120.

– Brown, M. (2012). Gender and sexuality I: Intersectional anxieties. Progress in Human Geography, 36(4), 541–550.

– Christens, B. & Dolan, T. (2011). Interweaving youth development, community development, and social change through youth organizing. Youth & Society, 43(2), 528–548.

– Facer, K. (2012). Taking the 21st century seriously: Young people, education and socio-technical futures. Oxford Review of Education, 38(1), 97–113.

– Forbrig, J. (Ed.). (2005). Revisiting youth political participation: Challenges for research and democratic practice in Europe. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.

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– Garrett, B. (2013). Explore everything: Place-hacking the city from tunnels to skyscrapers. London: Verso.

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– Milbourne, L. (2010). Youth and social justice in UK policy: Spaces for youth voice and participation or new hegemonic constructions? Forum21: European Journal on Child and Youth Research (6), 30–39.

– Neufeind, M., Jiranek, P. & Wehner, T. (2013). Beyond skills and structure: Justice dispositions as antecedents of young Citizens’ volunteering and political participation. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, forthcoming. DOI: 10.1002/casp.2166.

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– Skinner, E. & Masuda, J. (2013). Right to a healthy city? Examining the relationship between urban space and health inequity by Aboriginal youth artist-activists in Winnipeg. Social Science & Medicine, 91, 210–218.

– Trell, E.-M. & van Hoven, B. (2010). Making sense of place: Exploring creative and (inter)active research methods with young people. Fennia: International Journal of Geography, 188(2), 91–104.

– Valentine, G., Butler, R. & Skelton, T. (2001). The ethical and methodological complexities of doing research with ‘vulnerable’ young people. Ethics, Place & Environment, 4(2), 119–125.

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– Wood, B. (2014). Researching the everyday: Young people’s experiences and expressions of citizenship. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 27(2), 214–232.

– Zebracki, M. (2012). Public artopia: Art in public space in question. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.