The Social Geography of Youth

City Centre, Belfast, Northern Ireland

by Benjamin Sacks

Naomi Bushin and Allen White’s excellent article in the June 2010 issue of Area analyses the critical impact of migration in conflicting zones through the spatial geography of youth. In the past decade the Republic of Ireland has become a popular destination for EU and non-EU immigrants alike; the result of extended economic growth. Irish society, however, remains caught between traditional conservatism and progressive globalization – a quagmire that has served to isolate children of immigrants. Bushin and White ‘illuminate the “tangled politics” of immigration procedures that are constructed by adults and imposed upon young people, often with little regard for opportunities for their participation’ [Naomi Bushin and Allen White, “Migration Politics in Ireland: Exploring the Impacts on Young People’s Geographies,” Area 42 no. 2 (June, 2010): p. 170].

Why is this is the case? Academic and professional attention  historically focused on the composition of migrant workers and their reasons for migrating to Ireland. As Bushin and White argue, many recent arrivals are migrant workers; short-term employees seeking higher wages than the equivalent in Eastern Europe or North Africa. But the children and teenagers who are brought along are often ignored, their experiences in Ireland undocumented. Area sheds new light on migrant youths’ travels and decisions.

In a survey of twenty-four students, fourteen returned to their native countries during holidays, in order to reconnect with family and friends. One student, Adam, “Said that his Mum is worried that he will lose his Lithuanian if he doesn’t have any Lithuanian friends” (Bushin and White, 173). Migrant youth struggle to find a socio-cultural balance between their desires to learn, make new friends, and ‘fit-in’, while parents and other adults strive to instill their children with the beliefs and languages of home.

Read ‘Migration Politics in Ireland’ here.

Learn more about Ireland and the immigration question in this BBC article.

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