Engaging Young People in Weak Political Contexts: Neighborhoods, Schoolchildren and Participation in Palermo, Italy

Authors: Marco Picone*, University of Palermo
Topics: Qualitative Methods, Social Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: Public Engagement, Participatory Action Research, Young People, Qualitative Research
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Napoleon C1, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper describes an experience of Participatory Action Research (PAR) with schoolchildren and young people, held in Palermo (Italy). Over the course of four years (2014-2017) several local secondary schools have worked along with the University of Palermo to re-design public spaces within their neighborhoods.
Considering my role as main project manager, I will discuss three topics that appear of particular interest for geographers: the difficult attempt of empowering marginalized social groups and young people in a city that is characterized by a weak sense of public engagement and still widely influenced by criminal powers such as mafia; the importance of establishing a strong methodological structure for such projects, leading geographers to reflect on the various (mostly but not just) qualitative techniques that could be employed on a case-by-case basis; and the relevance of interdisciplinary collaborations with urban planners, sociologists and pedagogues, considering that geography in Italy is still perceived as a discipline that is closer to history and arts than to urban studies.
I argue that including young people in urban planning, although definitely an effective source of awareness-raising, implies ethical considerations and theoretical reflections that we still have to evaluate thoroughly, at least for those countries which are not yet familiar with PAR and public engagement.

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