The Spatial Dimension of Risk: Young People's Perceptions of the Risks and Uncertainties of Growing Up in Rural East Germany

Nadine Schäfer


Young people have been identified as one of the groups most severely affected by post-socialist transformation processes (McAULEY, 1995; BRAKE & BÜCHNER, 1996; KOLLMORGEN, 2003). They are growing up at a time that is characterized by the need for reorientation due to the collapse of state socialism and its far-reaching economic, political and cultural consequences (YOUNG & LIGHT, 2001). Young people in post-socialist countries are thus often described as facing additional risks and uncertainties to create their own biographies (BRAKE & BÜCHNER, 1996; WERZ, 2001).
This paper discusses the spatial dimension of young people's perception and experiences of risks. It argues that young people's perception of space has a major impact on how they perceive their opportunities to cope with, challenge and/or negotiate experiences of risks and uncertainties. It will be shown that such perceptions have major implications on, for example, their migration and career plans.
The paper will draw on new research findings from an in-depth participatory research study of young people growing up in rural East Germany (SCHÄFER, 2008). The project has focused on young people's perception of everyday disadvantages and risks, and how they translate such experiences and understandings into their (imagined) future lives. I argue here that young people's understanding of risk is interlinked with their perception of space. This spatial dimension of risk, however, has largely been neglected in previous research.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs100159


young people; rural; post-socialist; space; risk; Germany; second modernity

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Copyright (c) 2010 Nadine Schäfer

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