A main objective of this Project is to examine the relationship between the negotiation of migrant youth identities and their involvement in social networks. It takes into account the fundamental premise of the social capital literature (Bourdieu 1986; Coleman 1988; Putnam 1993) that strong engagement in societal networks generally correlates positively with a range of social and attitudinal outcomes (Woolcock 1998; Portes 2000; Putnam 2007). However, not all networks have a positive effect and some may have a distinctly negative impact. For example, while culture-specific networks may provide an important and positive resource, particularly in the settlement stage (Hagan 1998; Colic-Peisker 2005) they can also be negative if they become too closed and lead to ghettoization (Hardwick 2003) or promoting radical agendas (Tilly 2007). Young migrant groups in particular have been linked to marginalised activities, as Anita Harris (2013:3) points out: “Youth- driven civil unrest, terrorist attacks and the visibility of large and youthful immigrant population in global cities have become constructed as interrelated problems that call into question the sustainability of diversity and the future of the nation as we know it”. Despite the abundance of literature on social capital and social networks, there is a dearth of knowledge on sociologically informed understanding of the significance of social networks for a formation of identities among migrant youth. Harris (2013:5) further writes that young migrant people “are rarely seen as civic actors, creative agents or multicultural citizens in their own right, and the complex realities of their everyday experiences of living in multicultural environments have been over-looked”.
To address this gap in current research, the Project was aimed at:
· exploring the extent to which embeddedness in formal and informal social networks corresponds with the intensity of a sense of cultural identity, community engagement, social belonging and active citizenship among the three groups of youth; and
· examining the extent to which experience of ‘inter-cultural tensions’ and racism are affecting young people’s experience of belonging;
It is anticipated that our findings will contribute to a better understanding of the socio-cultural challenges faced by migrant youth and provide better appreciation of the significance of social networks as critical generators of social capital and young people’s sense of belonging.