Global responsibility demands radical researcher reflexivity

Concluding remarks of the Annual Youth Research Conference “Global responsibility in youth research”, 8th November 2016.


The topic of the Annual Youth Research conference – Global responsibility in youth research – has been one of the priorities in the action of the Finnish Youth Research Society during this year. If we take the theme seriously, we have not only great demands in front of us, but also possibilities to renew the youth research tradition, even in a radical way. As I see it, this particular demand implies a lot of readiness to rethink our own research paradigms: the conceptual pair “global responsibility” inevitably implies a critical reflexivity of our scientific activities, at multiple levels.

The conference inspired me to summarize the dimensions of reflexivity at six points:  

  1. We need to recall ourselves and people around us – the practitioners, politicians, the media – that nearly 90 per cent of the world’s youth live in the countries in the Global South. Global South’s youth-dense contexts risk to remaining a marginal academic and political topic, even today’s globally interconnected world. What’s more, poverty, violence and other spectacular youth-related problems with their supposed or real threats override the complex and diverse nature of millions of young people’s everyday lives.
  2. We need to look critically at the processes that may produce not only methodological nationalisms but also empirically and theoretically biased views of the youth in the world – Eurocentrism and Anglo-American overemphasis being one of the most evident biases inside our academic comfort zone.
  3. We need to take special care of the ethical and humanitarian sustainability of our research designs, processes and researcher positionings.
  4. We need to build meaningful and powerful allies with the scientific communities of the youth researchers in the Global South.
  5. We need to take seriously our societal responsibility in reinforcing the dialogue not only inside academic community but with wider societal circles – without losing our critical and radical perspective. Global youth political agendas could not only be much stronger but also much more interconnected with youth research communities and knowledge.
  6. We need to critically assess our current international academic publishing traditions and environments with their exclusive character, being found also in the multidisciplinary field of youth research.

All in all, there is a strong need to look at the future of the youth research in a responsible manner. What comes to the future of the annual Finnish Youth Research Conferences, I am happy to announce that the Youth Research Conference is planned to be held next year in the northern part of Finland, namely in Oulu, in collaboration with the local partners in Oulu. The topic of the conference will continue our debates here in Helsinki: namely the next conference will concentrate on the marginal, silenced or forgotten issues – both in young people’s lives, in the public discussion around the youth and in the youth research. In the celebration year of a 100-year-old-Finland it is an important moment to look critically not only at the policies and societal debates around the youth but also at the youth research traditions: what kinds of themes, methods, theoretical angles have been neglected in the current youth research and how our research agendas could – and should – be more polyphonic.

I wish you warmly welcome to the Youth Research Conference in 2017!


Leena Suurpää,

Research director, Finnish Youth Research Network