Transnational Youth Activism

For the past few years, new attention has been drawn to a range of social and political mobilizations that either engage with global issues and/or link activists across the world. Transnational social movements and advocacy networks differ widely in terms of the range of issues they raise and the changes they want to make. Two things that most of them share are 1) that across the diverse issue areas, global injustices are principal motivations and 2) that across a wide range of participants, young people are often front and center. The three essays in our inaugural issue look at young people’s involvement in global justice movements and transnational networks from distinct but complementary perspectives. Jeff Juris spent time at the “youth camp” of the 2005 World Social Forum in Brazil, perhaps the world’s most visible global justice “event.” He discusses who participates in it and the ways in which the youth camp has influenced transformations within the Social Forum. Mica Pollock focuses on a particular group of US youth involved in non-violent protest of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank who are constantly reflecting on their sense of global responsibility and their own relative privilege. And Michele Micheletti and Dietlind Stolle provide strong evidence for how consumption behavior and politics go together for young people through choices of what to buy and not to buy as well as through organized challenges to companies seen as exploiting workers and local environments in their overseas production and investment. Looking at young people’s involvement in transnational activism brings into sharp relief that, at least in some ways, both what counts as politics for young people, and the ways in which they organize and strategize to influence and change the policies and practices of powerful institutions—both governments and transnational corporations—may differ from previous generations.

Essays