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Brands of youth citizenship and the politics of scale: National Citizen Service in the United Kingdom

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posted on 2016-11-28, 12:39 authored by Sarah MillsSarah Mills, Catherine Waite
This paper explores the politics of scale in the context of youth citizenship. We propose the concept of ‘brands of youth citizenship’ to understand recent shifts in the state promotion of citizenship formations for young people, and demonstrate how scale is crucial to that agenda. As such, we push forward debates on the scaling of citizenship more broadly through an examination of the imaginative and institutional geographies of learning to be a citizen. The paper's empirical focus is a state-funded youth programme in the UK e National Citizen Service e launched in 2011 and now reaching tens of thousands of 15e17 year olds.We demonstrate the ‘branding’ of youth citizenship, cast here in terms of social action and designed to create a particular type of citizen-subject. Original research with key architects, delivery providers and young people demonstrates two key points of interest. First, that the scales of youth citizenship embedded in NCS promote engagement at the local scale, as part of a national collective, whilst the global scale is curiously absent. Second, that discourses of youth citizenship are increasingly mobilised alongside ideas of Britishness yet fractured by the geographies of devolution. Overall, the paper explores the scalar politics and performance of youth citizenship, the tensions therein, and the wider implications of this study for both political geographers and society more broadly at a time of heated debate about youthful politics in the United Kingdom and beyond.


This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council ESRC [grant number ES/L009315/1].



  • Social Sciences


  • Geography and Environment

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Political Geography


MILLS, S. and WAITE, C., 2017. Brands of youth citizenship and the politics of scale: National Citizen Service in the United Kingdom. Political Geography, 56, pp.66-76


Elsevier Ltd (© 2016 The Authors)


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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/ by/4.0/

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Published by Elsevier as an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).




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