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


  • Nadine Schäfer University of Exeter



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


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


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Author Biography

Nadine Schäfer, University of Exeter

Nadine SCHÄFER has been working on young people's everyday lives and their identity construction in second modernity. Further research interests include: children's geographies, gender relations, transformation processes in post socialist countries and participatory research approaches. Nadine is a lecturer in the Graduate School of Education/University of Exeter.




How to Cite

Schäfer, N. (2010). The Spatial Dimension of Risk: Young People’s Perceptions of the Risks and Uncertainties of Growing Up in Rural East Germany. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 11(1).