Little Public Spheres

Anna Hickey-Moody


This article develops the concept of little public spheres in order to understand young people’s performing arts as a mode of civic participation and public pedagogy?. Little publics are, by definition, multiple and of diverse political orientation. Depending on the investments that constitute the little public sphere in question, little publics can be spaces very much aligned to social or political norms andhegemonic agendas. orhey can bespaces of resistance; or indeed conflicted political sites brought together around shared aesthetic or intellectual concerns that unite politically divergent communities. They are as heterogeneous as young people. In this article I develop the idea of little publics through the example of a youth arts event called the Rock Eisteddfod Challenge (REC). As I go on to explain, the REC is not a ‘counterpublic’ –not an oppositional space. In this respect it is emblematic of many youth cultural sites like sporting clubs or gaming cultures that can often recreate a given status quo. That is, little publics can be spaces of resistance but they do not have to be. As I will show, in order to constitute a little public, a group of young people need to author a text that calls an audience to attention: for example run a race that is witnessed, write a website that is published, sing a song that is heard. Little publics articulate the expression of youth voice in the many political tones it can have. I use the term ‘little’ to refer to young people’s diminutiveness as well as to signify the small size of the public formed. The REC constitutes one possible example of what I call a little public sphere: I show how young people’s involvement in the REC can be viewed as an expression of their civic voice, a complex voice which is contingent on context and has different political dimensions depending on who speaks.

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