O'Leary, Patrick and Robb, Simon
Hope and young people on the margins: hope and Utopias as prerequisites for sustainability.
International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, 5, (4), .
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A critical aspect of social sustainability is how society encourages and supports marginalised young people to fulfil their potential. Knowledge about young people’s hopes for the future may help society to better engage with them in order to maximise their participation in creating sustainable futures. There is however little engagement with the full range of marginalised young people’s hopes and ideas about the future because much of the effort to assist them has been invested in both etiological and corrective strategies. This paper is based on research with Australian marginalised young people who attended specialised educational institutions because of exclusion from mainstream schooling. The research asked young people how they experienced or imagined hope and the future. A range of methods were used to gather this information including bio photography (or photo-elicitation), individual and group interviews, and art work. The young people were treated as research assistants rather than problems to be solved by research. They were encouraged to think about hope and the future in utopian ways, that is without the constraints of practical reality. The work produced by them formed the basis of a museum exhibition, entitled ‘Hope’ at the 2008 Adelaide Festival of Arts. Analysis of the young people’s accounts of hopefulness and the future shows the importance of personal connections to places and significant others. Underlying some constructions of the future are stands of resistance to ways in which young people have been stereotypically constructed by mainstream society. Young men and women both display ways in which they comply and resist dominant gender scripts. The paper will conclude with some implications for policy and practice when working with marginalised young people that may encourage hope and engagement
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