Youth civic engagement in Bhutan: Obedient citizens or social activists?

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Youth civic engagement in Bhutan: Obedient citizens or social activists?

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Publication 1-year master student thesis
Title Youth civic engagement in Bhutan: Obedient citizens or social activists?
Author(s) Suhonen, Riikka
Date 2014
English abstract
People’s participation in their own development is at the core of Communication for Development. This study explores the potential and barriers for youth civic engagement especially among the urban youth in Bhutan, a newly democratised country in the Eastern Himalayas. Youth Initiative (YI), a project begun in the fall of 2013 by a group of local youth and mentored by a local civil society organisation, the Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy, was chosen as the case study. The study analyses how and in which arenas youth enact their citizenship in Bhutan; how young people themselves see their opportunities to participate in democratic processes, analysing social, cultural and political factors influencing their participation; whether their civic participation is critical or conforming to the existing social structures; how could Facebook foster democratic culture and youth civic engagement; and what is the link between youth civic engagement and social capital. Data were collected through three (3) focus group discussions with youth and nine (9) qualitative interviews with founders or steering committee members of the YI. The 19 young participants of the focus group discussions were between 17 to 28 years old, two of the groups consisting of YI representatives and one of unemployed youth. The interview data together with relevant textual sources were analysed through the conceptual framework of participatory democracy and social capital. Three distinct themes could be identified through the qualitative thematic analysis: 1. Youth agency in the public sphere; 2. Inequality and corruption; and 3. Cultural change. Particularly informal cultural barriers, such as respecting authorities and the lack of democratic culture to have an equal, critical dialogue in the public sphere were seen as main obstacles for youth civic engagement in Bhutan. The findings indicate that youth civic engagement is a crucial component in strengthening social capital, particularly mutual trust across different groups and generations of people. The study argues that it is possible to create a space for intergenerational dialogue that encompasses and respects the diverse, but overlapping spheres of youth agency, democratic communication and social harmony.
Publisher Malmö högskola/Kultur och samhälle
Pages 66
Language eng (iso)
Subject(s) youth participation
civic engagement
active citizenship
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