Citizenship in Action: Young People in the Aftermath of the 2010-2011 New Zealand Earthquakes


  • Carol Mutch University of Auckland, New Zealand



Youth engagement, Participatory citizenship, Disaster responses


Young people’s declining civic and political participation is the subject of much public and media angst. This article argues for a fresh look at the concern. Evidence to support a new way of viewing participation is drawn from a study of the way in which young people (early-teens to mid-twenties) spontaneously demonstrated their abilities to engage in civic and political actions in the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes that hit the New Zealand city of Christchurch and the surrounding district of Canterbury during 2010 and 2011. The actions of these young people is set first in the context of relevant research, focusing on literature that critiques or offers alternative explanations of young people’s seeming lack of engagement in civic and political activities. This is followed by a study of the collective actions motivated and managed by young people after the New Zealand earthquakes, such as the Student Volunteer Army and the Ministry of Awesome. These actions are theorised against several explanatory frameworks in order to promote an understanding of a more youth-centric view of young people’s participation.


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Author Biography

Carol Mutch, University of Auckland, New Zealand

Carol Mutch is an associate professor in critical studies in education at the Faculty of Education at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. She comes to the university after earlier careers in school teaching, teacher education and policy advice. Her teaching, research and writing focus on education policy, research and evaluation, and social and citizenship education. She has authored books, book chapters and articles on research methods, evaluation theory, curriculum development, educational policy and history, citizenship education and, most recently, disaster research. She is currently gathering the human stories of the Canterbury (New Zealand) earthquakes.