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Youth Political Agency in the Syrian Conflict

Cover of the journal Conflict, Security & Development

CMES affiliated researcher Sarah Anne Rennick has authored the article "‘2011 unshackled the space’: spatial analysis of diverging youth political agency in the Syrian conflict", published in the journal Conflict, Security and Development.

Despite the passing in 2015 of UNSCR 2250 on Youth, Peace, and Security, the study of young people’s political agency in conflict, and the possibilities for empowerment and transformative change, remains sparse. This article investigates generative processes of youth political agency in the Syrian war since 2011 and under what conditions conflict has politically empowered/disempowered youth. Drawing on 72 interviews carried out with youth inside the country in the period 2019–2021, the article conducts spatial analysis to assess how the different spaces the conflict has produced inform youth agency. The article finds that the different degrees of agency are mediated by space-specific logics of security, autonomy and control. While some youth have experienced political empowerment, this has been limited to zones of autonomous governance; meanwhile, in regime-held zones, the spatial logic of authoritarian consolidation mediates political disappropriation. The article argues that this divergence has important implications for Syrian youth’s political subjectivities and the emergence of new inequalities that are further compounded by everyday tactics of movement restriction. Given the conflict’s likely denouement, transformative potential appears dim.

Keywords: Youth agency; spatial analysis; placemaking; Syrian conflict; political empowerment; everyday tactics

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Sarah Anne Rennick's research profile