The Role of Social Identifiers as a Political Socialization Element

The contextualization of the social and political conditions of the environment in social studies has been a tradition that necessitates the understanding of the issue at hand. Demographic factors such as ethnicity, religion, race, education level, geographic location, participant age, gender, sexuality, and cognitive ability are social identifiers significant to describing the research subjects. Providing information about individual identifiers is considered a standard exercise that serves in framing the research. Data on social identifiers is no longer part of any specific academic field; rather, they are also incorporated in hard science. The information on social identifiers is included because an individual and his or her agency has multiple social identifiers that shape the interaction and relationship with events and social issues. Linkedin and O’Loughin (2015) emphasized that “Political behaviors such as voting decisions, conflict about territorial control, political boundary delineation and demarcation, and public good provision and allocation are a function of constellation of influences and mix aggregate and individual factors at scale ranging from the locality to the national and international” (pp. 189-190). Therefore, the contextualization of the mutable environment characteristics perceived in poverty, war, school safety, access to nutrition, health, education, geopolitics, and others is to recognize how participants experience the local and global environmental conditions according to their social identifiers (Caughy et al., 2013; Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, 2013; Habashi & Worley, 2014; Marshall, 2014; Netland, 2012). The different layers in an individual’s environment coupled with the unique, varied social identifiers particular to that individual create a diversity of experiences that can lead to multiple reactions and ways in which that individual uses his or her agency. Social identifiers embedded in the intersectionality of the nature of age make us who we are while interacting with the environment, events, and intergenerationality (Hopkins & Pain, 2007). Political agency is predicated on the interaction between different social identifiers with the diverse environments/events settings and with different age groups in each context. The ecological theory suggests that youth political agency is shaped by the environment, by which youth are subjugated; (HOrschelmann, 2008); however, the relationship is contingent on individual social identifiers (Habashi, 2013). The interaction between the environment and who we are is dynamic and dialectic in nature, as one shapes the other. Social identifiers interact with events and create meaning dependent on responses of environment and the connotation associated with each social identifier. For example, political agency of minority youth differs in accessing the power structure compared to youth belonging to mainstream culture (Allen & Bang, 2015; Gordon & Taft, 2011; Lay, 2005). However, the outcome might also be different if the youth is a minority that belongs to upper middle class. Each youth constitutes multiple social identifiers that provide nuances of meaning to the subject and subjugated political agency. Alternatively, the dynamic relationship between social identifiers, intergenerationality, and events in the ecological theory creates a complex meaning of youth political socialization; thus, social identifiers and the interactions in the ecological theory challenges homogeneity of youth political agency. Therefore, this chapter focuses on several social identifiers (gender, social class, location, and culture/ethnicity) as they help to define the evolution of youth agency and its interaction with the environment. It is critical to show the multiple layers of social identifiers to understand how youth interact with their socio/political/cultural environments and how this impacts their agency. This would decode political socialization and provide an alternative view of youth political agency.

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