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Inequality and diversity among youth: risks and stigmatizations

The discussion of diversity and equality is hardly possible without touching upon these issues in the framework of diverse social groups. During IDC 2020 one of the panels is dedicated to youth studies – how these notions are present in the culture and environment of the younger generation. Yana Krupets – one of the moderators of the panel, the deputy director of the Center for Youth Studies at HSE St. Petersburg, and an associate professor at the Department of sociology shared the complexity and sensitivity of this field of research and plans for the Conference.

Photo courtesy of Yana Krupets

Photo courtesy of Yana Krupets
The program of the Second Conference on Inequality and Diversity is available here. The attendee registration is open till November 1, 2020.

–  What is the topic of the panel and what will be discussed?

–  The topic of the panel is «Youth in Risk» and we would like to stress several ideas during the discussion. First of all, there is an opinion that young people or some of them represent in public debate a risk for society. It is a public perception of the risk group characterized by some deviant or asocial behavior. And in this case, we would like to problematize this opinion, question it and discuss how these young people who are represented in media or in public discussions as a risk group –how they see this communication and how they see themselves in society and their roles. It is also interesting to approach their civic participation and to understand their perspective – this is the first idea of the panel.

And secondly, we are to discuss the contemporary or modern situation of young people as a group who experience quite a lot of risks in their everyday life. Specifically, in the situation with COVID-19 which is a great example of the crisis. And we would like to discuss how young people experience different types of risks in their life and specifically what kind of help or support they can get from the government or state, and how they communicate with the state. Two presentations in our panel will discuss this communication between young people and the state in the context of the development of youth policy and in the context of the development of the relations of young entrepreneurs with the state.

– What challenges can be identified in studying the youth?

– Surely there are difficulties and challenges in studying youth, specifically when it comes to sensitive groups. For instance, my colleagues studied the radicalization of young people and different types of radicalization. And in this context, it is a great challenge because this radicalization is represented as a threat to society. So, you really need to get access to these young people and to gain their trust in order to get their permission to participate in the research. In this situation, it is important for the researcher not to marginalize these young people but rather to represent their points of view and to construct the dialogue between the researcher and society and young people. It would be quite difficult specifically in a modern situation where some groups can be quite marginalized and stigmatized and could be represented as a threat to society

The other challenge I think is the fact that the state considers young people from paternalistic positions and attitudes. And for us, it is a challenge to not consider young people as some object of control or education development but rather to see them as active subjects who possess their own agency and who would like to realize this agency in real life.  One of our main challenges is to eliminate this power relationship from adults towards young people and to create space for equal communication.

– Who are the speakers on the panel and what topics will be covered?

We have 5 presentations for the panel and 2 of them are from our colleagues from Europe. They are Hilary Pilkington- she is a professor at Manchester University in Great Britain. And she will present the results of her research on social activism and (mis)recognition of young Muslims in modern European society. Another presenter is Anna Markina she is from the University of Tartu (Estonia) and she will speak about ‘young offenders’ as they are called in the public discourse. They are young people perceived to have deviant behavior and how this process of stigmatization is experienced by them and how it is constructed and reconstructed in different types of resocialization that they experience.

Three other presentations will be given by my colleagues from the Center for Youth Studies. We will speak about the results of the three projects. One project is about fields of positive interethnic interactions and youth cultural scenes in the Russian cities. The results will be presented by Elena Omelchenko - the head of the Center. She will speak about different youth cultures and what are the roles of these youth cultures for the development of society and of the positive and creative communication between different young people. The next presentation will be about youth policy in different EU countries and Russia. And it is the project that we run now funded by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research about «Rights, independence, involvement, and protection: the motives of youth policy in the development of the programs towards young people». This topic will be covered by Iskender Yasaveev – professor at HSE SPb, Alina Mayboroda - a fellow researcher, and Anastasia Sablina –an associate researcher and Ph.D. student at the University of Helsinki.

And the third presentation is prepared by me and my colleagues Alina Mayborod aand Eugenia Kuziner. We will discuss young entrepreneurs and their relations with the state. 

– What are your expectations from the conference and panel?

–I think the idea of the Conference about this multiplicity and diversity that we experience in our modern life is very important. And this is what we would like to stress in our panel because in my view this idea of diversity and engagement of different participants and social groups is required to represent different voices. My expectations are really connected with this idea of getting this very complex and diverse picture of modern social life. I think the diversity of panels and presentations also will give us the opportunity to get a fuller picture and understanding of how rich our social reality is. I think and I am waiting for an intensive discussion with colleagues and possibilities to understand the interdisciplinary perspectives and to communicate between sociologists, political scientists, anthropologists, and other experts.

Interviewed by Angelina Silaeva