Practices of Making Active Citizens: Disciplining the Body in Finnish Youth Activating Workshops

Sunday, 10 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 50 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Elina PAJU, University of Helsinki, Finland
Lena NARE, University of Helsinki, Finland
This presentation analyses the everyday practices of activating labour market policies targeting young people. We analyse how these practices concentrate on developing the self-governance of the youth, which is put into practice through taking care of one’s body, controlling time and managing sociality. Our analysis is based on ethnographic research in youth activating workshops in 2014-2015 in the metropolitan region of Finland. The workshops form part of the ‘Youth Guarantee’ that Finland introduced in 2013 to struggle against increasing youth unemployment and as a means to implement activating labour market policies. According to ‘Youth Guarantee’, a young person (16-25 years old) should be offered education, training or employment within three months of the registering as an unemployed job seeker. The official goal of the specialised workshops is to develop young people’s professional and transferable skills. However, our research shows that the workshops follow a more or less implicit curriculum, which emphasises the construction of decent citizens through disciplining the body. The well-being (e.g. proper nutrition, proper amount of sleep) of the body as well as its conformity to the schedules of the society are seen in this curriculum as the basis for citizenship.

Feminist critique of the marshallian tradition of citizenship as duties and rights has emphasised that citizenship needs to be perceived as historically constituted set of rights and duties, but also as an embodied and gendered practice (Lister 1997). However, in our data the disciplining of the body and managing of time precedes rights. Thus, our conceptual argument is that citizenship needs to be understood as a priori embodied and practical – at least in the context of activation policies.