(Re)Imagining Youth: A Comparative Sociology of Youth Leisure in Scotland and Hong Kong

(Re)Imagining Youth will analyse youth leisure in Scotland and Hong Kong in historical and cross-cultural perspective, drawing on a qualitative, comparative case-study design. Building on landmark sociological research from the 1960s (Jephcott 1967, 1971), the study will explore socio-cultural meanings and changing experiences of youth leisure in two case-study locations, with a particular focus on themes of youth transition, leisure space and 'risky' behaviours. Approximately 150 young people aged 16-24 years will participate in the project and methods utilised will include ethnographic observations, stakeholder interviews, focus group discussions and oral history interviews with young people, visual methods (drawing and photography) and on-line interviews (utilising digital and social media).



1 September 2013 to 31 August 2015



In recent years, the 'global' question has become central to debate in the social sciences. For some, processes of globalisation have created increased homogeneity of culture in geographically diverse communities; for others, the effects of globalisation are both heterogeneous and unpredictable, as global and local cultures conflict and merge (Appadurai 1996). Such debates are all the more prescient in non-Western settings, as postcolonial perspectives challenge Western analyses of culture and identity (Said 1978; Spivak 1999). Layered into these seemingly new debates, however, are longstanding sociological issues relating to class, place and identity; access to 'global' culture remains sharply stratified by access to resources (Bauman 1998, 2000a). These debates have a particular resonance with young people, who experience both the precariousness of the global economy (Furlong and Cartmel 2007), and the leading-edge of global consumer culture (Young 1999). Comparative study of youth between East and West, therefore, has the potential to interrogate theoretical debates relating to globalisation, postcolonialism and culture in a way that is both timely and targeted (Giddens 2002; Robertson 1995; Bauman 2000b).

(Re)Imagining Youth aims to engage with these debates through analysis of continuity and change in youth leisure in two geographically and culturally diverse research sites: Scotland and Hong Kong. The study adopts a historical and crosscultural comparative design, building on landmark research carried out in both study locations by the pioneering sociologist Pearl Jephcott (1967, 1971). Scotland and Hong Kong have experienced economic convergence since these studies were published, yet remain culturally distinct; thus creating a unique test-bed for analysis of global and local forces on youth leisure in a comparative context. Areas of thematic convergence and divergence include, for example, street-based vs. Online leisure; structured vs. unstructured leisure; youth transitions; work and education; 'risky' leisure (drinking, smoking, gambling, fighting, offending); consumerism and consumption.

Responding to recent calls for new forms of global qualitative methodologies (Burawoy 2000; Kenway and Faley 2009; Wacquant 2008), the study will involve concurrent data-collection in case-study locations in Scotland and Hong Kong - including ethnographic observations, stakeholder interviews, focus group discussions, oral history interviews, and on-line data-collection - using common procedures to ensure comparability. Approximately 150 young people aged 16-24, with a cross-section of age, gender, socio-economic background, and work/study status, will be recruited through local youth organisations in both case-study locations (preliminary agreements in place). In addition, in recognition of the increasing importance of on-line leisure spaces for young people, these methods will be complemented by a range of ethnographic and interview data from young people's online environments. Together, these data will allow for a unique contribution to a range of academic and public debates at local, national and international levels.