Up the Creek Without a Paddle? Exploring the Terrain for European Youth Research in the Policy Context

Published on


Comparative research is nothing new, albeit an uncommon subspecies in youth studies. This is partly because, with some notable and historically specific exceptions, youth studies has not been a 'big time' specialism within individual national and linguistic academic communities. Classically, comparative research in education and social science is typically engaged in a translation exercise: trying to make sense of aspects of societies or cultures and to convey the essentials to outsider audiences in a conceptual and normative language with which they are familiar. Apart from simple curiosity, the reasons for doing comparative research have generally been to gain deeper understanding of one's own society and culture by accessing external points of reference; to improve the workings of one's own society and culture by learning or borrowing from others; and to position one's own society and culture against others in relation to dimensions of development and performance. These reasons have their legitimate integrities, but their motivations are nevertheless primarily self-interested. Where research activities remain relatively divorced from policy and practice, such self-interested motivations might be criticised as either morally unsound (on the grounds of hegemonic ethnocentrism) or as prone to deliver interpretational inadequacy (on the grounds of misleading decontextualisation). Where research activities are more closely linked with (or arise directly from the concerns of) policy and practice, the difficulties to which these potential criticisms point take on a more urgent significance - all the more so, where the terrain of concern is transnational and intercultural, as in the case of European youth research and policy.


Lynne Chisholm

Available languages