Social Positionality, Political Identity, and Definitions of Politics: Factors Shaping Young People's Participation in Politics
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
EmbargoRelease after 12/08/2025
AbstractIn this dissertation I investigate fifty-eight young people’s conceptions of “the political” and how they adopt political identities by developing a novel typology that considers both to explain how they engage in politics. This typology of definitions of politics and political identities is then used throughout the dissertation to explain patterns of political participation as well as motivations for political participation in the form of identity. Using in-depth interviewing, I explore the meanings behind politics for young people in Tucson, Arizona to better understand their participation in politics. The major findings are that young people define politics either broadly and interconnected with everyday life or as something separate that is restricted and institutional. Overall, the young people in this sample are highly engaged in political activities across a broad spectrum of institutional and extra-institutional forms of participation. This dissertation also finds that social positionality is a key motivator for participation in politics, particularly for liberal and leftist participants. Young people are motivated both by minoritized identities as well as their privilege to do politics. In the wake of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, race was a particularly salient identity category that motivated young people in this sample to participate in politics.
Degree ProgramGraduate College