A brief look inside the research group

A new research group has formed at CESAU, dealing with youth sociology. We have sat doweldingn  with Jens Christian Nielsen in order to learn a bit more about the research group.

By Nanna Mia Jørgensen

The coordinator of the new research group in youth sociology is associate professor Jens Christian Nielsen. He works at DPU and is research program leader at the Danish Centre for Youth Research. Most recently, he has worked on the project "Når det er svært at være ung i DK" (When it's hard to be young in Denmark).

»In my latest project, I have participated in investigating young people's failure to thrive. We have investigated this qualitatively as well as quantitavely. It has been interesting to see how, in questionnaires about, for instance, self-inflicted injury, one may get a picture of young people's problems. The qualitative interviews, however, show that young people who cut themselves cannot be unambiguously  placed in the category "cutter". They view themselves in quite a different way,« Jens Christian Nielsen explains.

It is such areas that interest Jens Christian within the youth field. Furthermore, in the past he has done work concerned with young people and democracy.

Seminars and study groups

Jens Christian Nielsen intends for activity in the youth sociology group to take some annual seminars as its starting point.eldingerne

»Furthermore, I hope that some type of study groups or reading groups may form, in which it will be possible to find partners for cooperation, dealing with a common,« he explains, and adds that reseachers should be able to meet in the group and discuss some interesting topics and questions for which they may be in need of qualified discussion and feedback.

Who can join?

»We are already quite interdisciplinary at DPU, where historians of ideas as well as sociologists, anthropologists etc. are employed - and this is something which generally characterises the youth area. We hope to draw in people from different fields, and as of now we are networking and flirting with people who might have an interest in joining the reseach group,« says Jens Christian Nielsen.

In principle, anybody interested in and/or doing research withing the youth area may become part of the group. There will also be ample opportunity for new members to shape the group's field of work.

»So far, we have spoken with a few different people, and it seems that opportunities are quite broad for discussing youth sociology in relation to actual empirical examples, theories, or for working with a sociological methodical focus. There are lots of exciting topics to dig in to - for instance the commercialisation of youth life - but I think there are many exciting areas out there,« Jens Christian Nielsen explains.

Other topics that may also be relevant, and which are already the core at DPU, are issues in the sociology of education. For instance the demand that 95 per cent of all young people must complete a youth education programme and that 60 per cent must go throught higher education - what kind of educational issues is Denmark faced with if these ambitions are to be met? Another aspect is the individualisation of youth life - everybody has their individual plan of action - but this often leads to standardisation. And last but not least, there is also the area concerned with young people and risk behaviour.

Pedagogy and sociology

According to Jens Christian Nielsen sociology and pedagogy go hand in hand.

»It is a field which is not exatly "old school" classically sociological, but pedagogy moves closely around sociology, and overlaps arise. In the same way that also social psychology comes into play.«

He continues to explain that factors of social background; gender, ethnicity etc. are part of any analysis in the youth area. And that, at DPU, many different sociologists and perspectives come into play. For instance, the sociological classics concerning individualisation - Beck and Baumann. But others as well, from social constructivists such as Judith Butler to field analysts such as Bourdieu.

»By cooperating across the research group, we can make the youth field more visible. Looking around, one sees many people working with sociologically inspired theory, and it may be good to put this even more into play,« says Jens Christian Nielsen.

The concept of identity scrutinised at Sociology Congress

At the Danish Sociologists' Congress 2012, revolving around "Troubled Identities", space has also been found for a work group concerned with youth sociology.

»At the congress, we hope to generate focus upon the concept of identity, which is a core concept in youth sociology. It is one of the pivotal points for understanding the entire youth area, and so we invite investigation of the concept through various different lenses. There will be room for wearing the spectacles of individualisation as well as those of social constructivism,« Jens Christian Nielsen concludes.

The opportunities for discussing youth sociology in relation to actual empirical examples, theories, or for working with a sociological methodical focusare quite broad. There are lots of exciting topics to dig in to - for instance the commercialisation of youth life - but I think there are many exciting areas out there,« Jens Christian Nielsen explains.