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Speaking Back to Stigma: Participatory Media Practice with Young People in Dublin's North-Inner City

Shireen Shortt

External Examiner: Professor Maggie O?Neill, University of York, UK
Date Awarded: 2018
Shireen Shortt SEPR graduated thesis 2018


Young people from Dublin’s north-inner city have, over generations, experienced significant marginalisation – structurally, socially, economically, and in terms of reputation. The thesis constitutes a critical interrogation of interdisciplinary participatory media practice with young people from this inner-city area – a practice characterised by democratic sensibilities and transformative possibilities. In its adoption of participatory media practice as a principal methodological frame, this thesis specifically sets out to respond to the stigmatisation of young people’s identities, representing a lack of recognition, which alongside their unequal access to spaces for speaking and self-representation, leads to a devaluation of their voices. In what ways can participatory media practice engage marginalised young people, fostering processes of recognition? Between April 2012 and April 2014 I engaged young people attending two youth services in Dublin’s north-inner city in a participatory media practice. Together with my participants, we shaped a mode of creative practice that foregrounded the development of self-representational capacities to facilitate young people in speaking back to stigmatising representations of themselves and their peers, thus laying claim to spaces for speaking, listening and recognition. The project that emerged through our co-creative relationships was titled ‘A Different Light’. It invited participants to self-select themes through which to explore and share aspects of their identities through their choice of creative media, thereby cultivating their own image. The thesis draws from several different disciplinary perspectives on, and approaches to, participatory practice, including participatory media, participatory art, the deployment of participatory methods in social research and youth work, bringing into representation an exploratory, responsive and innovative research practice working alongside young people. Navigating the key challenges and possibilities underlying shared creative processes, the thesis explicates the various ways in which the participatory practice unfolded, was diverted, transformed and enriched by the contingencies encountered in the field.