Policy Report nº. 4
These words from Syrine, a 19-year-old woman from the island of Djerba in Tunisia bring together the key elements of the relationship between cultural policies, cultural practices and youth culture in the countries where we have developed research activities. According to the data obtained through SAHWA Project fieldwork, young people like Syrine involved in cultural activities acquire greater opportunities to develop personal skills, abilities and become socially recognised, which allows them to plan their lives in current societies with a significant individualising character.2 Nevertheless, in a broader sense, the youth in the Arab Mediterranean countries (AMCs) are living in societies where the interest of the group prevails over the interest of the individuals. The individual self is integrated into the family, and the triumphs of familial interest prevail over individual interest. However, a certain kind of more codified social relationships correspond to certain social classes: in the privileged classes the level of individual autonomy is greater than in less favoured classes.
Our starting point is how “youth culture” is experienced in the Arab Mediterranean countries by young people, governmental structures and society, and the effect of this on the current situation of cultural policies, especially related to leisure activities. This means that a broader sense of the concept should be considered, including issues related to family, religion and social values, which are recognised as adult-centred institutions. As pointed out in the SAHWA Background Paper (2016): “youth and specifically the issue of the cultural practices and identities that shape youth conditions are central for understanding the current processes of social and political transition in contemporary Arab Mediterranean societies” (Camozzi et al., 2014: 6). We are looking toward what Paul Willis (1990) conceptualised as the “common culture” of young people, but in a different time (the information age and the post-crisis conjuncture) and in a different space (the Arab Mediterranean region and the five countries participating in the project). Our analyses consider the construction of “youth cultures” as a two-way street process; as the ways every society moulds the ways of being SAHWA Policy Report, 01, 2017. Carles Feixa Pàmpols & José Sánchez García young and the impact of adult institutions upon the world of youth. This allows the trans-cultural study of youth and criticism of the adult-centric, non-historical visions prevailing in most of the academic literature on the subject.3 Then there are the ways young people participate in the processes of cultural creation and circulation. This direction, far less explored, focuses on the influence of the youth world upon society as a whole and leads to the study of youth cultures, understood as an expression of the creative, not just imitative capacity of young people (Laaksonen et al., 2009; Feixa, 2012).
Beyond this, the objective of this Policy Report is to draw applied recommendations for leisure education coming from the analyses of the ethnographic and survey data sets focused on youth cultural activities and practices intending to take a transnational level perspective. Our recommendations are oriented toward cooperation schemes designed in line with evidence-based research on the actual needs of the young people, the necessity to increase youth participation in policymaking in non-formal education policies, and the orientation toward concrete topics of youth policies in line with the problems and needs of young people, as Göksel and Şenyuva (2016) propose as a general perspective.
The report, after a descriptive perspective of our methodology, is divided into four main parts. The first section discusses the production of “youth cultures” in the AMCs: this is the politics of youth cultures. We are trying to analyse what affects the current situation in the construction of youth cultures in the region. After that, the discussion moves toward a perspective centred on the activities of youth, that is, on the daily lives of young people as expressed through the fieldwork and through the survey data collection. The idea is to describe the most significant youth culture and leisure practices to consider them as the basis for implementing leisure educational policies. The next section is a description and analysis of youth policies in the region focused on leisure education. This section permits us to establish a contrast between policies’ orientations and the experiences of leisure education, with the evaluation of some experiences the general objective of the fifth part. Finally, the description and analysis of some experiences of “peer socialisation” in the region permits us to establish the significance of this kind of pedagogical perspective, especially in marginalised environments, in accordance with our hypothesis. In this sense, the key variable in the analysis is the kind of standpoint given to the management of cultural practices and leisure education as analysed in the fifth section.