Aleida Cristina Mendes Borges (KCL) - 2018-19 Students

Entering the State: Everyday practices of youth political participation in Lusophone Africa

Political participation has been traditionally understood as a mechanism to ensure the control of dissent (Forbrig 2005). This approach is in line with orthodox ‘democratic theory’ (Schumpeter 1952) which conceptualises the “electoral mass” as incapable of political action other than voting.

More recently however, in response to criticisms, a more heterodox approach moving away from the ‘myopic obsession’ (Farthing 2010) over voting and party systems has emerged and theorists have started to link the concept of participation with that of citizenship (Forbrig 2005; Arnstein, Sherry R. 1969;Thorson 2012;Thorson 2014) emphasising it as a question of social exclusion vs. inclusion.

Following several years of intense political transformation in many parts of the world, this research project aims to address a gap in the literature on youth political participation in Africa and is situated within the new wave of enthusiasm for the so-called youth awakening (the ‘new 1960s generation’), which contributed to ‘Youthquake’ being selected as word of the year 2017 by Oxford Dictionaries.

Considering that all African countries have a youth majority (Mo Ibrahim 2012), it becomes fundamentally important to understand how this stratum of the population experiences ‘the political’ in their localised contexts, particularly in urban slum areas where there is little or no state presence. This research project focuses on youth political participation in Cabo Verde and São Tomé e Principe and seeks to understand how and to what extent youth are challenging the status quo by enacting new forms of political participation through ‘youth-led associativism’.

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