The Return of Street Politics?

Titus Hjelm, UCL

The Arab Spring, the global Occupy movement, anti-austerity protests. It seems that we are witnessing ‘the return of street politics’, as a worried Al-Jazeera opinion piece put it in 2013. The street has also been the focus in the recent riots in Paris, London and Stockholm—although most media pundits interpreted these as mobs of out of control problem youth, rather than political events.

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”I`ve been everywhere, man”

Ville Väisänen & Mateus Manninen

Can you say you have done good ethnographic fieldwork, when afterwards you feel you can relate to ”I`ve been everywhere, man”, the words made famous by the late Johnny Cash?

Parts of our relatively small everywhere can be found in this video*. It contains footage from Tower Hamlets in London and Malmi in Helsinki. Small glimpses of the people with whom our paths crossed and maybe some idea of the feelings and thoughts that the fieldwork in Helsinki and London evoked in us.

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Places of youth street politics

Minttu Tikka & Titus Hjelm

According to cultural geographer Doreen Massey places are “constructed out of a particular constellation of social relations, meeting and weaving together at a particular locus” (1994, p. 154). In this project we have been ethnographically tracing the places that young people inhabit in their everyday life. Some of the places are more loose allowing spontaneous action and some of them more tight tolerating only use that is premeditated (see e.g. Franck & Stevens 2007). Here are some of the places of youth street politics we’ve encountered.

Commercial places: Shopping mall at Malmi


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Youth and media scholars: Join together!

Johanna Sumiala & Leena Suurpää

It must be clear that media are not just types of technology and chunks of content occupying the world around us… If anything, today the uses and appropriations of media can be seen as fused with everything people do, everywhere people are, everyone people aspire to be. There is no external life to media life – whatever we perceive to escape hatch, passage out, or potential delete key is just an illusion. In fact, we can only imagine a life outside of media.

This citation from Mark Deuze’s book Media Life (2012, x) hits the point. In today’s world, young people live fully mediatized lives. This generation 2.0 travels between physical and virtual worlds – or should we say between offline and online. For these digital citizens’ principles such as belonging, intimacy, time, space, and engagement seem to be anything but the dual dichotomy between physical as something more real than virtual. And yet, we should be careful not to conceive this new reality as a utopia of novel borderless social and cultural order. Many hierarchies of power, unequal division of cultural and social capital and symbolic boundaries are at play when young people live and experience their lives in these highly mediatized spaces. The contemporary wandering between on- and offline worlds is not just an exciting world of global trends and new experiences but also a realm of contradiction, conflicts and struggles for space and recognition.

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