Student participation in rural areas

Senior lecturer Monica Johansson, University of Gothenburg (

Keywords: Student participation, youth, rurality, Sweden

In this talk results from an ethnographic research project named “Rural youth – education, place and participation” are presented. The project focuses on education and participation for youths in Swedish rural areas and investigates how secondary schools in different places address student’s social inclusion.

Six different rural municipalities were selected for the research project and this was done in order to obtain a variation in e.g. demography and production relations. Observations of classroom interaction and teaching content formed the data production together with field conversation and observations in the neighbourhood. Totally 136 students were formally interviewed in the project and some interviews were also made with teachers and other school staff.

Theoretically the analysis is based on Doreen Massey’s (1994) conceptualization of space as stretched-out social relations. Particularly Massey’s (1995) thinking on power related to place brought a wider context into the analysis of the student’s agency.

The particular interest in this presentation is the student’s own participation in society on a local, regional and national level. The specific analysis focuses on identifying themes, in both observations and in students’ statements, about their own participation connected to the local school and the community but also to a wider regional and national context.

To summarize, the analysis points to a variation of participation related to different places and levels of place. This is in line with to Massey’s (1994) understanding of space as stretched-out social relations connected to power and agency. The student’s expressions point to how such relations are important for their own agency and participation.