Current project

My new study (2014-16)

Young people’s constructions of identity in western Europe:  my new study (2014-18) (now 2020 +)

This page partially updated in March 2020. A full update is imminenet.

My current major study started in September 2014. This is a qualitative study of how young people (12 to 18) in western Europe countries construct their identities as Europeans and as members of their countries and regions.  This is a personal project, funded by myself, and with the approval of my University.


Fourteen countries are included in this study: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.  I am using focus groups in a number of locations in each country.


The study complements and builds on my earlier study of the identities of young people in the post 2004 and applicant EU states (see the page on my 2010-13 study).


I’ll use my data to analyse civic and cultural components of such affinities (Bruter 2007); the extent to which feelings are ‘passionate’ or ‘absent-minded’ (Grundy and Jamieson 2008); whether young people perceive any generational shift (Fulbrook 2011); and their understanding of citizenship as acquired by birthplace (the traditional French conception) or by descent (the till recent German model) (Brubaker 1995).

The project has been extended into the future, with a proposed srudy of the countries of the ERwastern European Partneship - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and the Ukraine, now scheduled to startin 2021 (Coronavirus permiting); and then the states of the Balkan peninsular, including Greece.  A study on the United Kingdom and Ireland may follow. 

The overall plan

Christian Joppke, Professor of Political Science at the American University of Paris, observed that there were very few empirical studies of beliefs about civic identities (Joppke 2010:30): the work that I have done so far provides some cross-national data and analysis that addresses this gap in respect of young people.

This study extends this analysis to the remaining European Union countries – that is, most of those western countries in the Union before 2004 (‘the EU 15’), Switzerland and Norway. I do not intend to look at young people in the United Kingdom and Ireland at this stage, because of the 2014 Scottish referendum and the possibility of a 2017 referendum on EU membership in the UK: these may mean that focus groups will produce non-comparable data: these countries would merit their own studies, perhaps post 2017.   Greece will also be studied later.


I am gathering data in a similar manner to my earlier study. I am working with a large network of colleagues and friends in sociology and educational faculties across all these states, who are willing to help me identify schools and colleges across these countries. I share data, co-author articles, and lecture to postgraduates/faculty members on my work. In return, these colleagues help me liaise with the schools, parents and young people, gather consent forms, and support with translation and interpretation.


The focus groups are loosely structured to discuss young people’s various senses of identification with aspects of the country, the region and the locality, and how these might differ from what they imagine to be the views of others in the country, including older generations. What is entailed in being, or becoming, a member of the country will produce interesting observations on citizenship by birthplace (the traditional French conception) or by descent (the till recent German model) (Brubaker 1995).


Detailed plans for each country

I have visited a number of different towns and cities in each country: four or five in the larger states, three in the smaller states. As far as possible, the locations in each country were varied in terms of region, economic/social base, etc. In each location I tried to visit two schools, if possible one with students drawn from a middle-class background, the other with pupils from a more working class background. I conducted one or two focus groups in each school (occassionally more).


Thus on each day I typically visited two schools and conducted three or four focus groups, talking with approximately 18 to 24 young people:


•in the four larger states, I visited 10 schools and carry out 15 to 20 focus groups (c 100 young people);


•in the eight smaller states, I hope to visited 6 schools and carry out 9 to 12 focus groups (c 60 young people);

•I will also spend two days in Switzerland, and a day in Luxembourg, with correspondingly smaller samples.


In late September/early October 2014 I conducted fieldwork in Finland, Sweden, Denmark and part of Norway.  I visited Jyväskylä, Helsinki, Turku in Finland; Gävle, Stockholm and Malmö in Sweden; Lillehammer in Norway; and Kobenhagen, Odense and Slagelse and Haslev in Denmark. Thanks to all the great colleagues who facilitiated the following:

(I  intend to revisit Norway to gather more data - if you work in Norway and want to help, please e-mail me!)

The focus groups generated a great deal of data that looks as if it will be rich and revealing when analysed.  The groups of young people responded  well.  There are links to some of the school's responses at  (Sweden)

and (Denmark)

In January/February 2015 I conducted fieldwork in Italy  (Padova, Bologna, RomaMatera, Bernalda), Austria (Wien, Linz, Salzburg) and Switzerland (Hombrechtikon and Vevey).

In April and May 2015 I visited northern France (Nantes, Lille), the Netherlands (Enschede, Gronigen, Amsterdam), and Belgium (Ath, Brussels, Tielt and Torhout).

In September and October 2015 I completed my fieldwork in  France (Paris, Lyon, Montpellier), Spain (Barcelona, Segovia, Madrid, Cordoba and Seville) and Portugall (Faro and Lisbon).

In December 2015, a brief visit completed my Netherlands data.

In early 2016, I completed the data-gathering part of this project, carrying out more fieldwork k in parts of Norway Begen), Denmark (Kolding). the Netherlands, and to visiting  Germany (Berlin, Hannover, Beifeleld, Dortmund and Forst) and Luxembourg.


The outcomes will contribute to the theoretical understanding of locational identity as context-contingent, and provide rich empirical data on young people’s discourses of identity in the mid 2010s.

  • A book, Finding Political Identities: Young people in a changing Europe. Palgrave Macmillan, published in 2018

  • Lectures in each university I visit (probably c 20) on aspects of young people’s constructions of identity

  • A number or articles on aspects of the research project, some written in collaboration with colleagues in collaborating universities.

Lecture Series

A series of lectures at London Metropolitan University set out some of the findings of the study. 

Lecture 1: June 2 2015

The Scandinavian States: Finland, Sweden and Denmark


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