Blog: Potential spaces for solidarity are everywhere!

Why Youth Solidarity among Peers Matters

If you work with young people or if you are a parent of a youngster, you most likely have wondered what kind of communal life young people engage in independently from adults. If you have, then this is the blog for you to follow.  In our project we seek to show light on youth peer dynamics through the concept of solidarity. We believe that young people are inventing new ways to contribute to creating a diverse society defined by hybridity and heterogeneity. At a time when individuals and communities are facing a conflict driven world, understanding a sense of solidarity through difference has never been more important.

Here are the main aspects of solidarity we want to share with you:

  1. Where and how does solidarity emerge?

If you were on the train or bus today and someone sat down next to you and said a friendly hello and wanted to start a conversation, how did that make you feel? Were you happy about the friendly gesture, or did you feel uncomfortable? Did you wonder what motivated that person to talk to you? Maybe you turned away without a reply. Or perhaps you went the other way and decided to engage in a lively conversation. The above description of a potential reciprocity in a mundane place aims to illustrate how solidarity starts with how we react to others with whom we share a common space with. This type of understanding of solidarity is not confined to shared values or a common cause as traditionally understood.  In other words, we perceive solidarities as stemming from a myriad of connections that simply are everywhere!

  1. Think about diversity

Doreen Massey refers to ‘thrown-togetherness’ to describe these kinds of events that withhold endless possibilities to connect with others. For young people, schools, neighborhoods and social media provide spaces where to gather. In these youth communities, solidarities are neither fixed nor self-evident but negotiated at the intersection of individual, communal and structural positions offered to or stamped on people. Communal identities are built on and expressed as togetherness, reciprocity, and support but also on differentiation, othering, and control. Certain types of solidarities, therefore, can also cause polarization of people and ideas and reproduce inequalities. To return to the public transport illustration, individuals exercise control, when they differentiate who to talk to and who to ignore in mundane situations.

  1. Lessons we can learn as adults

The project produces detailed information on sources, places, and politics of solidarity among young people, i.e., what constitutes young people’s solidarity in practice, how it is contextually conditioned, and how it can be promoted institutionally. Also, introducing the concept of solidarity will inform social policy research and the scientific reformulation of social work, as we believe that social work can hold preventive work in (disadvantaged or marginal) communities as one of its central tasks. Importantly, the project will also increase knowledge on how to talk to young people about morally and ethically difficult or sensitive issues.

Reference: Massey D. (2008) Geographies of solidarities. In N. Clark, D. Massey & P. Sarre (eds.) Material Geographies. London: Sage, 311–362.

Kirjoittajat: Tiina Määttä & Riikka Korkiamäki