Dissenting Citizenship? Young People and Political Participation in the Media-security Nexus

Ben O'Loughlin, Marie Gillespie

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During the last decade, a media-security nexus has emerged that has exacerbated pervasive feelings of the precariousness of citizenship among British Muslims. Legally, citizenship became reversible while political and media discourses and religious discrimination compounded by racism created deep unease about belonging, identity and the very possibility of multicultural citizenship. With diminishing prospects for effective participation in formal political processes, except through the domineering framework of counter-terrorism, young British Muslims sought alternative arenas and modes of political debate and engagement. They expressed their dissent from the suffocating politics of security in informal ways that were deemed efficacious in their own terms. While a sense of loss of status and respect, and deep disappointment at how fellow Muslims were being vilified, was present among older generations, young British Muslims responded in politically creative ways that can be described as ‘dissenting citizenship’. This article reflects on findings from an ESRC-funded collaborative ethnography, Shifting Securities, conducted across 12 cities in Britain between 2004 and 2007 that investigated how a very diverse, multi-ethnic group of some 239 British people experienced citizenship and security in a time of relentless news of terrorism, conflict and natural disaster catastrophes and ‘creeping securitisation’ in day-to-day life in Britain. Our research suggests that dissenting rather than disaffected citizenship is a growing trend particularly among multi-ethnic youth who aspire to work critically within and revitalise mainstream politics to safeguard their citizenship status via local and translocal personalised forms of political action rather than engage in conventional forms of national party politics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115
Number of pages137
JournalParliamentary Affairs
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012

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