Personal, political and emotional: Subjective experiences of "the political" in the lives of young people
Youth Work, School of Global Studies, Social Science and Planning Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
The perceived declining participation of (particularly) young citizens from many nations in multiple realms of political life has received much attention from the media, policy-makers and researchers. Academic literature addressing this issue has on the one hand focused on young people's alleged political apathy, cynicism and lack of civic knowledge, effectively considering declining participation as a "deficit". On the other hand it has explored the possibility that young people are engaging in multiple different ways from those that are traditionally measured, it has identified possible barriers to their participation and it has challenged that they are losing interest in politics and political life. However, despite politics being both a very personal and "emotive" topic, explorations of declining participation generally, and particularly in the case of young people, usually overlook the place of politics in citizens' subjective, personal and emotional lives. This paper explores the place of politics in young people's personal lives, particularly the links between their personal experiences of politics, their emotional responses to politics and their political engagement and behaviour. It asks what research in these domains could potentially contribute to an understanding of young people's political participation. In particular it discusses power, powerlessness, inclusion, exclusion and connectedness; feelings and emotional reactions frequently reported by young people when asked about politics and participation. In doing so it engages not only with original feminist precepts regarding the linking of the political with the personal, but also with emerging and growing bodies of literature on politics and emotions, and the sociology of emotions, as well as with a range of empirical studies (both quantitative and qualitatively based) of young people?s political participation in Europe and Australia.