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Voices from an edge. Unsettling the practices of youth voice and participation: arts-based practice in The Blue Room, Manchester

Batsleer, Janet (2011) Voices from an edge. Unsettling the practices of youth voice and participation: arts-based practice in The Blue Room, Manchester. ISSN 1747-5104

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Abstract

The strengths and limitations of approaches to participatory and democratic practice rooted in voice have been discussed in relation to education and also ‘youth voice’. The paper seeks to make critical connection between the two debates, especially in relation to the persistence of practices of exclusion and marginalisation. Drawing on a two-year participant observation of a creativity-based project in Manchester, UK – The Blue Room – which worked with young men in the city centre who may have been engaged in selling sex, the article asks what it might mean for them to have voice. The widely discussed limitations of neo-liberal accounts of voice and choice are evident in this case, for the extent to which such a way of life can be thought to be freely chosen is a matter of intense debate. The possibility explored in this article is that arts-based strategies of pedagogic engagement might offer (to this group of young people and others) a hopeful (because complex, provisional and in process) form of voice rather than a tokenistic and controlling one.

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