Youth navigating the superdiverse city of Antwerp : constructing and negotiating ethnic and religious symbolic boundaries
Young people in Antwerp are brought up in a superdiverse majority-minority city. While some research suggests that individuals live together in these social environments without many difficulties, long-dominant privileged groups nevertheless continue to define social, political and cultural norms, and (up)hold powerful positions. Young people are therefore faced with longstanding social inequalities and stigmatization along ethnic and religious lines, which impact their everyday lives. Antwerp is characterized by strong anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments and policies, and by emerging ‘nativist’ discourses in which (sub)national identities, such as a Flemish identity, are constructed in mono-cultural, mono-ethnic and mono-religious ways. This study, therefore, aims to discuss how symbolic boundaries are constructed along ethnic and religious lines, and, in addition, how specifically ‘Muslim’ as a social category is constructed to define ‘oneself’ and ‘Others’. This study draws upon symbolic boundary theory to understand how ethno-religious minority and majority youth experience and navigate their superdiverse social environments, and how they construct, negotiate and rework the ethnic and religious symbolic boundaries they are faced with. In my dissertation, I conducted a survey with 1.039 students in the 5th and 6th year of secondary education, from seventeen schools in Antwerp. In addition, I selected two schools where I conducted in-depth interviews with forty students. Overall, my study shows that ethnic and religious symbolic boundaries emerge as bright for these young people and they can actively, creatively and strategically rework and negotiate boundaries they are faced with. In addition, however, my analysis shows that white majority youth lack tools to negotiate their emerging contested white identities in super-diverse settings, and are therefore prone to nativist repertoires. Lastly, my study challenges classical views of religious individualization trends in Western Europe, and my analysis shows a continuing importance of religion as marker for social identities among young people. This urges questions on the changing role and position of religion in superdiverse cities.
Antwerp : University of Antwerp, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology , 2023
219 p.
Supervisor: Verschraegen, Gert [Supervisor]
Supervisor: Clycq, Noel [Supervisor]
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Creation 14.12.2023
Last edited 04.03.2024
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