Bowman, B. et Pickard, S. (2021). Peace, protest and precarity: Making conceptual sense of young people’s non-violent dissent in a period of intersecting crises. Journal of Applied Youth Studies, 4(5), 493-510.
The current young generation are living through socio-historically situated intersecting crises, including precarity and climate change. In these times of crisis, young people are also bearing witness to a distinctive global wave of youth-led activism involving protest actions. Much of this activism can be deemed dissent because many young activists are calling for systemic change, including the radical disruption, reimagining and rebuilding of the social, economic and political status quo. In this interdisciplinary article, between politics and peace studies, we investigate how the concept of peace plays an important role in some young dissent, and specifically the dissent of young people taking action on climate change. We observed that these young environmental activists often describe their actions in careful terms of positive peace, non-violence, kindness and care, in order to express their dissent as what we interpret as positive civic behaviour. They also use concepts grounded in peace and justice to navigate their economic, political and social precarity. Based on a youth-centred study, drawing on insightful face to face semi-structured interviews in Britain and France with school climate strikers, Friday For Future (FFF) and Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists, we explore how young environmental activists themselves related their dissent, and especially how they attached importance to it being non-violent and/or peaceful. Stemming from our findings, we discuss how young environmental activists’ vision of violence and non-violence adapted to the structural and personal violence they face at the complex intersections of young marginalization, global inequalities and injustices in the lived impact of climate change and the policing of protest.