How does community matter? Misrecognition and the participation agenda for children in socially disadvantaged communities

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Participatory research with young people has enjoyed a decade of sustained development including the development of a range of embodied and visual methodologies. Much of this has been in the service of a participatory citizenship agenda, as articulated in the Every Child Matters agenda in England, in the work of the UK's Children's Commissioners and through service provider commitment to consultation with young people more generally. However throughout this period there has also been a sustained critique of the UK Government's citizenship agenda for young people, and consequently of the role of participatory research and consultation processes within this. Much of this critique questions what kind of citizenship young people are being asked to participate in, juxtaposing the construction of ‘inclusive’ participatory spaces with an increasingly stratified and exclusionary context for participation in the social and economic arenas of society. This article reflects on this debate using material from a two-year ethnographic project with a small group of year six and seven primary school girls from a Scottish urban area long designated as having a high concentration of people struggling with socio-economic disadvantage and exclusion. The project blended the more traditional ethnographic approach of observation and reflection with a series of participatory activities with the group. These activities took place within an after school club which they named ‘Community Matters’. This article examines the various activities of the club and the differing meanings of and associations with ‘community’ that the girls depicted and discussed. These situated meanings are then contrasted to the assumptions that underpin children's role within the evaluation systems that govern services to children.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)311-326
Number of pages16
JournalEthnography and Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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