Political Symbols of the Youth – Usage and Meaning
This empirical sociological study deals with the usage of symbols by organized groups of young people and the meaning of these symbols for the groups and the individuals within the groups. Thereby the research team refers to youths, which define themselves as clearly political, but are not necessarily members of merely political groups. This means that the majority of society often does not know these symbols, on the contrary to flags or emblems of regular political entities for example. The symbols in the study derive from the specific Lebenswelten (“life worlds”) of the youths. Therefore, we choose a qualitative approach with the method of the Participatory Photo Interview and analyse the interviews with a slightly adapted version of Qualitative Content Analysis.
The experiences and problems of the research team in accessing the political youth-groups show further results on the research field. On the one hand we had, in different intensities, contact to Burschenschaften (nationalist student corporations) and a loose community of radical right youths, and on the other to a left/anarchistic cultural network as well as a leftist youth organisation funded by a parliament-party. The main outcome of this part is the difference in openness to the environment and the research, the right groups being much more distrustful and hard to access than the former.
This is also reflected in the analysed material: In regard to the right-wing youths the research concentrates on one photo interview, a homepage-analysis, an expert-interview about Burschenschaften, and the analysis of protocols of meetings with the loosely connected right group. With the left groups, we were able to interview three persons of each group.
One main and surprising finding is that the manifest content on the photos of the left youths are at first sight very common and ordinary, e.g. instead of photos of Che-Guevara-flags, we got photos of graffiti or ice-cream. These unveil their latent political meaning for the interviewed person only through the interview.
This corresponds to the theory inductively developed through the project: that the symbols shown and used by the left youths can be defined as dynamic, actualising, pragmatic and individualistic, while the symbols of the right youths have a more traditionalistic, uniforming and hierarchical character. But besides these clear differences, there are symbols and rituals in both political self-understandings, which are only different in their manifest appearance, but have the same latent functions and meanings for the groups, e.g. symbols that are reserved for actualising the cohesion of the groups.
Dr. Heidi Dumreicher (project lead)
Mag. Franziska Haydn
DSA, Bakk.phil. Anja Muhr
Bakk.phil. Iris Schrimpf
Bakk.phil. Stefanie Slamanig