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Research projects

Engaging South African and Finnish youth towards new traditions of non-violence, equality and social well-being

About this project

Project information

Project status

In progress


Jeff Hearn

Research subject

Research environments

Acknowledging that there is much to be gained from a comparative and reflective sharing of current community, institutional and organisational work with young people in Finland and South Africa, the current project aims to provide a forum for researchers and practitioners in these two contexts to dialogue, collaborate on research and author publications. The Finnish context brings an established welfare state underpinned by a strong equality discourse, yet with continued social inequalities on the basis of citizenship, sexuality, gender and others; while the South African post-apartheid national context represents a nation still divided by gross material inequalities and social inequalities and differences, including those of gender, race, citizenship, sexuality and age. The collaborative project involves qualitative study and researchers/doctoral students in both countries engaging in fieldwork. The research includes critical analysis of programmatic work as well as the documentation of innovative and ‘best practices’ within activist, organisational and community work currently conducted with young men and women Finland and South Africa. Key research questions guiding the research include: What are the key areas of concern that are being addressed with young people in these two different contexts? To what extent are they different or similar in the two different contexts? To what extent do they address the key national imperatives of (un)employment, age and generational tensions, violence, and gender norms (including hegemonic masculinities) in these two contexts. What are the dominant discourses on youth, sexuality, gender, race, and other forms of social difference that inform the work that is being conducted with young people? To what extent do these discourses differ or resonate in the two different contexts? What are the key debates and challenges identified in the two different national contexts in working with young people and how are they similar or different? Framed in a discourse analytic methodology informed by feminist and qualitative research methodologies, the study uses interviews, focus groups, participant observation and web-based forums to address the research questions posed. The project is funded by the Academy of Finland and NRF (the South African Research Council), and is based in Hanken School of Economics, University of Western Cape, UNISA (University of South Africa) and the South African Medical Research Council. Both Professor Ratele and Professor Shefer are members of the Örebro-Karlstad-Linköping GEXcel Collegium for Advanced Transdisciplinary Gender Studies International Reference Group.