Critical Understanding of U.S. Youths’ Citizenship: Community Belonging and Engagement of “Successful Citizens”

Thumbnail Image

Persistent link to this item

View Statistics

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Critical Understanding of U.S. Youths’ Citizenship: Community Belonging and Engagement of “Successful Citizens”

Published Date




Thesis or Dissertation


As today's youth is growing up and developing new civic attitudes in societies made more complicated by globalization, the argument grows for expanding the discussion about citizenship education. Unpacking the outcomes of democratic schooling and citizenship education in the United States through youths' experiences, this study examines this generation's ideas of citizenship in three ways: inquires about the meaning of citizenship for young people, within the institutionalized relations and social processes of schooling; develops a critical understanding of youths' citizenship through their constructions of citizenship; and problematizes implications of youths' citizenship constructions and experiences for future citizenship education programs. Viewing citizenship as a membership in a society, this study applies a conceptual framework consisting of three interrelated dynamics that shape the position of one's citizenship: the politics of institutionalized social relations, social processes and practices, and an individual's struggle for self-definition and identity formation as a citizen. The research is rooted in qualitative interpretive design with elements of critical ethnography and informed by poststructural feminist theory. The study explores the perspectives of youth in two public schools located in New York City and in northern New Jersey. Using two purposive samples of 28 high-school juniors and seniors exposed to advanced social-studies curriculum, the data were collected during a 12-week period through class and school-activities observations, researcher journaling, small group interviews of students, and follow-up interviews with individuals. The use of countertopographies to metaphorically represent analytical findings brings the processes that shape youths' experiences as citizens to the forefront. The study reveals the spaces of belonging for these youth as citizens, and the processes of learning versus experiencing citizenship occurring in the space of schooling. This research recounts the construction of their citizenship as occurring within individual struggles to balance social expectations of success and one's motivation to learn and engage opportunities in their communities. In translating the findings into a discussion about the needs of citizenship education programs and possibilities of developing critical citizens, this study assists in positioning young people as individuals capable of developing agency and their voices as citizens in their own right.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2011. Major: Educational Policy and Administration. Advisors: Joan G. DeJaeghere, David W. Chapman. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 151 pages, appendices A-C.

Related to




Series/Report Number

Funding information

Isbn identifier

Doi identifier

Previously Published Citation

Suggested citation

Josic, Jasmina. (2011). Critical Understanding of U.S. Youths’ Citizenship: Community Belonging and Engagement of “Successful Citizens”. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

Content distributed via the University Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor. By using these files, users agree to the Terms of Use. Materials in the UDC may contain content that is disturbing and/or harmful. For more information, please see our statement on harmful content in digital repositories.