Forms of engagement and the heterogenous citizen: Towards a reflexive model for youth workshops

Main Article Content

James Arvanitakis
Bob Hodge


This article focuses on the challenges confronted by contemporary universities when they undertake ‘community engagement’ activities through the lens of an active citizenship workshop we have designed and implemented. We begin by concentrating on the very concept of ‘engagement’, unpicking its ambiguities and returning its complexities to where they belong – in social experience. As both practitioners and researchers involved in many years of ‘engagement’, we reflect on the aim, purpose and outcomes of such activities. Drawing on the theoretical traditions of educator Paulo Freire and philosopher Martin Heidegger, we apply our engagement activities and citizenship workshops to the aspiration of transformational change: both for those who participate in the activities and for us, as educators. We thus use ‘engagement’ as a guide to making better and more strategic interventions in the three sets of relationships inextricably involved in ‘active citizenship’ projects: ‘engaged research’ with academic and other partners; our own ‘engagement’ with the young people we work with; and finally, their ‘engagement’ as citizens with the rest of society.

Keywords: Citizenship, engagement, active citizens, threshold, transformative change

Article Details

Research articles (Refereed)
Author Biography

James Arvanitakis, University of Western Sydney

Dr James Arvanitakis is a senior lecturer in the Humanities at the University of Western Sydney and is a member of the University’s Institute for Cultural and Society. His research areas include hope, trust, political theatre, piracy and citizenship. James has worked as a human rights activist throughout the Pacific, Indonesia and Europe. He is currently working with the Whitlam Institute looking at issues confronting Australia’s democracy. James’ latest book, Contemporary Society: A sociological analysis of everyday life, was launched with Oxford University Press in February 2009 which gave rise to ‘socio-logic’ – a weekly radio show on FBI Radio (94.5fm). A regular media commentator he also a regular column in The Punch. James was a former banker and advocate for free trade, but having witnessed child and indentured labour, has worked to develop sustainable, socially just and equitable economic policies with organisations such as the Centre for Policy Development, where he is a research fellow. James has worked extensively with a number of non-government organizations, including Oxfam International Youth Partnerships and Youth Engagement Program as well as Aid/Watch. He is also on the board of Vibewire and works extensively with a number of other justice-based organisations.