Two researchers from the Education and Social Research Institute (ESRI) at MMU, Dr Kim Allen and Dr Geoff Bright, recently helped launch the Manchester Centre for Youth Studies. The launch event Contesting Youth brought together an audience of researchers, partners from the youth sector, and young people to strengthen links with a view to future collaborative explorations of the issues that young people face in contemporary society. There was also a panel discussion chaired by the author and one-time Hacienda DJ, Dave Haslam. Both Kim’s and Geoff’s contributions were very well received, with enthusiastic questioning of both presenters after their session. Possible future research partners were also penciled in.
Dr Kim Allen, Research Fellow in the ESRI, shared key findings from her current ESRC-funded research project on celebrity culture and young people’s classed and gendered aspiration. The project – conducted with colleagues at Brunel University – is the first of it’s kind to engage directly with young people’s relationship with celebrity culture and explores how it informs their own aspirations and imagined futures. Kim argued that contrary to claims by politicians and the media that young people only aspire to fame, the research shows that young people have rich and varied aspirations for their futures. You can read more about the project here.
Dr Geoff’s Bright Research Associate in ESRI’s presentation updated his ethnographic work on young people in the UK’s former coal mining communities in the light of this year’s 30th anniversary of the UK 1984-85 miners’ strike. In a number of journal publications and a forthcoming book Geoff has argued that much of what is seen as school disaffection has, in the coalfields, to be seen in the context of the heavily policed year-long strike and the rapid de-industrialisation that occurred in the period that followed (read more about this here). Deploying an idea developed by the American sociologist Avery Gordon, Geoff believes that the situation in the coalfields a generation after the events of the 1980s has to be thought of as a ‘social haunting’. As such, it still requires careful and thoughtful attention through redesigned forms of youth practice if the continuing impact of that period is to be understood and not persistently misrecognized as ‘anti-social behaviour’.