Participatory Institutional Ethnographic Analyses of Youth-Serving Institutions – a Human Rights Perspective

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 15:30
Oral Presentation
Naomi NICHOLS, Faculty of Education, McGill University, Canada
Historically, access to justice has been sought through public interest litigation, legal aid, legal education and judicial reform. More recently, scholars note the mobilization of the concept of access to justice to enable divergent and strategic efforts to address multiple forms of structural inequality within and beyond the legal system (Bhabha, 2007; Macdonald, 2003, 2005; Roach & Sossin, 2010). Conceptually and pragmatically, the pursuit of access to justice supports efforts to address systemic inequality in any institution where law is “debated, created, found, organized, administered, interpreted and applied” (Macdonald, 2003, p. 2). The idea is to ensure all people experience the “enjoyment and protection of rights” (Bhabha, 2007, p. 154). Building from the results of four-years of participatory institutional ethnographic research on the institutional contexts of youth development, this paper illuminates how young people’s experiences of procedural and relational fairness on the frontlines of the public sector – that is, during everyday interactions with teachers, immigration offices, the police, municipal transit operators, social workers, and so forth – shape their experiences and interpretations of gendered, raced and class-based patterns of inclusion and exclusion more broadly. Research proceeds from young people’s knowledge of their work and lives; the analytic focus is the social organization of legal and bureaucratic processes, which shape inequalities of access to public sector resources and the distribution of punishments. Findings illuminate youth development as a complex of socially organized processes, which are shaped by and shaping the institutional and policy contexts of young people’s lives.