Young people's geographies in rural post-socialist Germany: a case study in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
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An increasing interest in young people's rural lives can be registered within social sciences. However, only a very limited amount of research has been conducted in the context of post-socialist countries even though rural young people are described as one of the groups most severely affected by declining standards of welfare and by the rise of socio-economic inequalities in post-socialist communities (see Brake & Buchner 1996; McAuley 1995; Kollmorgen 2003). This thesis aims to address this gap by analysing the way rural young people in the East German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern perceive and negotiate structural disadvantages. It follows a wider call in the area of childhood and youth studies to acknowledge both, structural conditions that characterise young people's lives and young people's agency (see James, Jenks & Prout 1998; Holloway & Valentine 2000) to analyse the complexity of young people's geographies. Conceptually, this thesis critically reflects on Beck's (2000), Beck and Beck-Gernsheim's (2002) and Giddens' (1990, 1991. 1994, 2000) theoretical work on people's lives in second modernity. To more fully understand the meaning of space for young people's everyday lives and to question who suffers and who benefits from new chances and risks I will introduce Massey's (1993, 2005) 'progressive concept of place'. Her concept of space offers a valuable framework to analyse the heterogeneity of young people's everyday lives. To address young people as experts of their own lives and to give them a voice I developed a participatory research project with 67 young people aged between 14 and 16 years. It will be shown that participants referred to the perception of still existing fundamental East-West German differences which had multiple implications on their present day and future lives. They did not, however, identify themselves as the 'losers of reunification' (Brake & Buchner 1996; Kollmorgen 2003) but highlighted the emergence of new opportunities for young people. As such this thesis challenges the universal understanding of the rural' and of the post-socialist transformation process as a one way process to capitalism. It thus contributes to a more plural geographical analysis (Woods 2005) of young people's lives in second modernity.
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