Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Education

Conference: 'Vitality, Youth and Community'

02 April 2014 - 02 April 2014
University of Leeds

This one day conference will bring together academics and researchers from the natural, social and human sciences to an engagement with the largely unexplored notion of ‘vitality’ in the understanding of the relationship between childhood, youth and community. The purpose of the conference is to explore the potential (or not) of vitality to develop our thinking about this topic.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Dr. John Horton, University of Northampton
  • Principal Consultant, Abbeydale
  • Professor Adam Crawford, University of Leeds
  • Professor Pia Christensen, University of Leeds
  • Professor David Sugden, University of Leeds
  • Professor Tracy Shildrick, University of Leeds
  • Professor Alan Prout , University of Leeds
  • Dr. Sophie Hadfield- Hill, University of Birmingham
  • Jo Sayers, Merseyside Forest team
  • Professor Peter Kraftl, University of Leicester
  • Dr. Kate Pahl, University of Sheffield.

The conference arises out of findings from the ‘New Urbanism, New Citizens’ ESRC Project (2009-2013) and the desire to take these insights forward into wider interdisciplinary conversations about children and young people’s growing up, the natural and build environment and community engagement.

An emergent ‘second wave’ of childhood studies (Prout, 2005; Ryan, 2012; Kraftl 2013) places emphasis on ‘life itself’, calling for greater attention to understanding the full repertoire of life-forces in children and young people’s lives: emotions, affects, bodily expressions and performance; the forming of inter- and intra-generational relationships and alliances; and the role of the material (natural and built) and socio-technical environments in constraining, extending and affording children’s vitality.

As argued by Christensen (2003), childhood is constituted through processual relationships in which personal biography, generation and growing up are interwoven with the experience, use and meaning of communities as social, cultural, economic, natural and built environments.  The conference will explore how, through their individual and collective action, young people are (or are not) co-opted into and co-constitutive of ‘vibrant’ communities. In this way the aim is to move beyond (but not exclude) traditional theorisations of children and young people’s ‘participation’ and ‘citizenship’.

The notion of community vitality (or synonyms such as vibrancy) has increasingly been deployed in policy statements, especially those concerned with the design and planning of sustainable urban environments and living, and neighbourhood regeneration schemes.  In various geographical contexts, vitality – sometimes measured through liveability indices – is promoted as a desirable quality of life at the community and neighbourhood level. Nevertheless, the notion of community vitality remains vague.

Although it is used to describe, inter alia, the quality of connections and relationships (strong, active and inclusive), the degree of social cohesion, shared identity and wellbeing among residents including the capacity to sustain and grow these over time and through change. Community vitality is integral to how natural and built environments are developed, planned and distributed. Raising questions about how, for example, social sciences and natural sciences might collaborate in more holistic understandings of the processes of community development and resilience.

The aim of the conference is to explore insights from different disciplines (for example, sociology, anthropology, geography, psychology, criminology, education, environmental sciences, biology and medicine) in order to develop a more holistic approach to understanding young people’s engagement with community, liveability and sustainability. The conference will also discuss how more intangible and invisible aspects (such as links between environmental, including geological risks and genetics) may be communicated. The conference programme will seek to problematise and discuss the complexity of ‘vitality’ asking questions about its potential for both positive and negative growth and effects.

Please apply early as numbers are limited. Send an email with your name, affiliation, contact details and dietary preferences to Matt Wood.

The event is funded by the HEIF – Innovation and Impact funds.

Conference organisers:

Professor Pia Christensen, School of Education with Matt Wood, School of Earth and Environment.

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