CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement)
conducts research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans.
The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement

UPDATED: Call for Guest Post Proposals on Emotion and Youth Civic and Political Development

April 4th, 2016
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In what ways do strong emotional reactions to events and conditions shape and alter young people’s civic and political developmental trajectory? What kinds of emotions? For whom, and through which mechanisms do emotions affect civic and political development? How does the chance to work with others on an emotionally resonant issue contribute to social and emotional learning? These are the questions at the center of CIRCLE’s next guest post series in collaboration with Harvard’s New Civics Early Career Scholars and Civic and Moral Education initiatives.

Young people receive different messages about the roles that emotions play in civic and political life. Messages about “finding your passion” are interspersed with reporters and analysts looking for “enthusiasm” about political candidates or bemoaning about youth “apathy,” while some responses to youth activism criticize youth political opinions as emotion-driven. Simultaneously, researchers have focused on the two-way relationship between civic engagement and affective state, finding both positive and negative affects among youth in different ways.

Scholars also challenge that the commonly accepted distinction between “political (or civic)” and “personal (or moral)” not only assumes a particular worldview, but also acts as an impediment to a better understanding of the motives for civic participation (Haste & Hogan, 2006). Qualitative and anecdotal evidence suggests that emotions, such as outrage and disgust, triggered by witnessing morally unjust conditions, can transform a person’s civic values, and shape life-long commitment to civic action (Haste, 2011).


Possible questions to discuss include (but are not limited to):

● Are calls for civility and muted or controlled emotional expressions at odds with what motivates many youth toward civic and political engagement?
● How do moral and civic developmental trajectories influence each other? Put differently, how do emotionally-charged experiences impact a young person’s decision to become civically and politically engaged?
● What can we learn from new strategies to promote “healing” as a necessary accompaniment to political activism among people from oppressed groups?
● In what sense are emotions “political” and how does their political nature relate to engagement?
● Under which circumstances, if any, are strong expressions of negative affect important and useful in effecting change?
● What does practice or research indicate about how emotional expressions (which may be perceived as either positive or negative) can be leveraged to promote civic and political development?
● What is the relationship between the affect (feelings) experienced during various types of civic activities and engagement with issues and long-term well-being? For example, what are the developmental consequences to engaging youth in challenging issues with no clear solution? Do civic developmental trajectories differ for those who use negative affect as a catalyst for action compared to those who use positive affect as a motivation for engagement?
● What might deliberative spaces look like which allow for youth to express themselves in a variety of ways?

We are looking for proposals from a variety of perspectives, including youth, people who run youth programs, researchers, funders, teachers, etc. We will consider proposals that share or reflect on qualitative and/or quantitative data, as well as program evaluations and reflections on programs and theoretical arguments. We will give preference to posts that discuss any connection to K-12 schools and curricula, issue advocacy and movement building, or differing approaches in the use of emotions in intergenerational work.

Guest Post Initiative
This call for posts is part of an initiative that began last year by asking our supporters (who include researchers, program staff, youth workers, and others) about their interest in guest posts to the CIRCLE website, and the response was positive. The first series about impact measures has wrapped up, and the second series on broader goals for youth electoral engagement just began.

We see this initiative as a way to amplify the voices of our peers in the youth civic engagement world (with an eye to equity and diversity), to increase knowledge and build capacity, and to promote conversation among individuals and groups involved with research, policy and practice. CIRCLE staff will assess proposals based on the following criteria:

● Importance of the implications for practice, research, policy, and funding,
● Representation from multiple stakeholder groups (i.e. youth, youth workers, evaluators, academics, teachers),
● Collaborative thinking (especially with youth),
● Unique and timely contributions, and
● Applicability to increasing equity in civic and political opportunities among youth.

To Submit to this Call
Please submit proposals by midnight on May 16th 9th, 2016 using this web form. Guest posts will be published during the summer of 2016, included in a series “proceedings,” and will be the basis of an online discussion in the summer.

Proposals should be no longer than a half page of text (~200-250 words), and will be assessed by CIRCLE staff. Please see above for the selection criteria. Selected submissions will be asked for a full post of 500-800 words (we will also post other formats or media), which our staff will review and provide feedback, if applicable.

Questions can be sent to

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