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This issue of the International Journal of Social Quality looks at the socio-political and socio-cultural dimensions of sustainability in social quality analysis. Some articles refer to the notion of sustainability, which stimulates transformative changes in society, and the consequences for the explicit or implicit integration with the sociopolitical dimension and the environmental dimension, as well as for the well-being of people all over the world, thus the socio-cultural dimension. Two interesting questions are, first, how can new forms of public participation and democratic practices and policies to stimulate environmental protection be developed, transforming the socio-political and legal context in order to contribute to the development of overall sustainability? Second, how can community involvement and new communication technologies be stimulated, which can be productive for the adequate transformation of the socio-cultural and welfare dimensions? Both issues were addressed in the Aarhus Convention of 1998, which highlighted information on environmental matters as a key right for citizens and a condition for effective public participation in decision-making processes. The concept of “social empowerment” connects the dimensions and – with reference to the four normative factors of social quality as well – delivers arguments for changing the dominant production, distribution and consumption systems and patterns.

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“Yes I am a mother and I am still a teenager”

Teen Moms Use Digital Photography to Share their Views

Leanne Levy and Sandra Weber

If we took the time to listen attentively and carefully to pregnant teenagers and teen mothers what would we hear? If we invited them to articulate their messages to the adults who interact with them, speak to those who judge them, and give advice to their peers, what would they say? Th is photo-essay addresses these related questions by presenting some of the findings of an arts-based activist research project called TEEN M.O.M. (Mirrors of Motherhood). One of the goals of the project was to examine how a media production program, implemented within the context of an existing community organization, can empower teenage girls in diffi cult circumstances to share their views. In a series of workshops, the participants were invited, off ered guidance, and equipped to produce their own images—digital photographs, drawings, and collage work—so as to make visible their views on the personal and social issues that aff ect them directly. (In this photo-essay we concentrate on their photographs and off er comments taken from their writing and from video-taped interviews.) For two hours each week for thirteen weeks, the project gave these young mothers time away from their daily responsibilities and provided them with a safe space in which to focus single-mindedly on creating their images. Th e project culminated in an exhibition in which their work was shown to members of the community, policy makers, family and friends.

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Katie MacEntee, Lukas Labacher and John Murray

Young people use activism to advocate for their sexual health rights and to counter the social, political, and environmental threats to their health and well-being. By fully integrating themselves into the process of civic engagement—by incorporating pieces of themselves—youth can bring about successful change. Young community members can use civic engagement to speak out about their perceptions of how they are aff ected by health-related issues or how they are stigmatized by the community. In doing so, they are able to counter the ways in which policymakers, often distanced from the ramifi cations of inadequate social policy, portray the issues (Shucksmith and Hendry 1998). An interactive photo project that took place at the 2010 International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria, shows how civic engagement or what we think of as speaking out can move beyond rallies and online video and audio messages directed at policymakers and into the realm of digital photography and body language. Surprisingly, in a digital world in which body language and body parts are continually at risk of being sexualized, this interactive project illustrates how digital photographs of girls’ hands can be used to speak out in a positive, creative, and empowering way about girls’ and young women’s perceptions of sexuality and HIV.

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Molly Scott Cato

Whilst the importance of mainstreaming sustainability in higher education curricula is now widely acknowledged, the challenge for educators at university level is to develop and maintain authority and confidence in an area dominated by limited knowledge and uncertainty. This article suggests that the most empowering and authentic response is to adopt an approach of shared learning, but with the pedagogue demonstrating expertise and inspiration. I suggest that this is an approach to learning and teaching more familiar in areas of craft learning, characterised by apprenticeship and learning-by-doing. The article relies heavily on the work of Richard Sennett in providing a sociological account of craft learning, which is then applied to the field of sustainability. I explore how his three modes of instruction – 'sympathetic illustration', 'narrative' and 'metaphor' – are being used in the field of sustainability education, and draw parallels from the craft of basket weaving in particular, to show how these approaches might be developed. I conclude by suggesting that sustainability education is best undertaken within a community and in place, rather than abstractly and in the classroom.

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Katharina Hanel and Stefan Marschall

Facing linkage problems, parties in Germany have started to respond to a changing media environment by reforming their internal structures of opinion forming and decision making, inter alia reacting to the rise of the social web and the successes of the Pirate Party whose party organization is to a large extent “digitalized”. Whether and how established parties implement and adapt Internet tools, i.e., whether these could contribute to more participation of the “party on the ground” or whether they strengthen the “party in central office” is the focus of this article. The case study on the employment of an online platform for drafting a motion for the party convention of the German Social Democrats in December 2011 reveals that the “party in central office” controlled the online procedure as well as the processing of the results to a remarkable extent—thereby constraining the participatory potential of the tool. At the same time, the case study indicates a quality of online collaboration platforms that might limit the instrumentalization of these tools by the party elites in the long run and possibly re-empower the “party on the ground.”

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Reconciliation, reconstruction, and everyday life in war-torn societies

Marita Eastmond

This special section of Focaal explores processes of social recovery and peace-building in the aftermath of radical violence and political upheaval. The articles draw on detailed ethnographic case studies from Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country that was shattered by war and ethnic cleansing in the 1990s, and raise issues of relevance to other post-conflict situations. Challenging “reconciliation” as a moral discourse with universalist claims, the articles highlight the dynamics of its localization in different contexts of intervention in post-war society. The four contributions explore different facets of this dynamic as it is played out in the key areas of justice, the return of refugees and internally displaced persons, and NGO peace-building activities. They illuminate what happens when the global paradigm of reconciliation encounters and filters through meanings and motivations of actors in local contexts. They also note that everyday interactions between former adversaries take place not as a moral engagement with reconciliation but as part of rebuilding a sense of normality. The findings point to the need to critically investigate the conditions under which such encounters may empower or prohibit the rebuilding of social relations and trust in post-war societies.

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Claudia Mitchell and Jacqueline Reid-Walsh

The publishing of the articles in this issue of Girlhood Studies coincides with the global events related to the First International Day of the Girl—11 October 2012. Th is is a day formally declared by the United Nations as the one set aside to articulate the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights. The actual process of gaining official recognition through the United Nations for a specific day is no small feat. The efforts of organizations such as Plan International and even government bodies such as the Status of Women in Canada were key in making this happen in order to address the need for greater understanding of girl-specific issues. In the global context, for example, girls are three times more likely to be malnourished than boys. Of the world’s 130 million out-of-school youth, 70 percent are girls. In the Canadian context, as the Minister responsible for the Status of Women highlighted in an International Day of the Girl message, young women from the ages of fifteen to nineteen years experience nearly ten times the rate of date violence as do young men. Close to 70 percent of victims of internet intimidation are women or young girls, and girls and young women are nearly twice as likely as young men and boys to suffer certain mental health problems such as depression, and anxiety about body image and self-esteem remains prevalent among girls. Th us, while October 11 is a time for celebration, it is also a time for reflection and a reminder about how much work there is still to do.

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Gunther Dietz and Laura Mateos Cortés

Multicultural discourse has reached Latin American higher education in the form of a set of policies targeting indigenous peoples. These policies are strongly influenced by the transfer of European notions of 'interculturality', which, in the Mexican context, are understood as positive interactions between members of minority and majority cultures. In Mexico, innovative and often polemical 'intercultural universities or colleges' are being created by governments, by NGOs or by pre-existing universities. This trend towards 'diversifying' the ethnocultural profiles of students and curricular contents coincides with a broader tendency to force institutions of higher education to become more 'efficient', 'corporate' and 'outcome-oriented'. Accordingly, these still very recently established 'intercultural universities' are often criticised as being part of a common policy of 'privatisation' and 'neoliberalisation' and of developing curricula particular to specific groups which weakens the universalist and comprehensive nature of Latin American public universities. Indigenous leaders, on the contrary, frequently claim and celebrate the appearance of these new higher education opportunities as part of a strategy of empowering actors of indigenous origin or African descent.

Going beyond this polemic, this paper presents the first findings of an activist anthropological and ethnographically-based case study of the actors participating in the configuration of one of these new institutions of higher education, the Universidad Veracruzana Intercultural (UVI), located on the Mexican gulf coast. This article examines the way UVI has appropriated the discourse of interculturality on the basis of fieldwork conducted in the four indigenous regions where the UVI offers a B.A. in Intercultural Management for Development. The study focuses on the actors' teaching and learning practices, which are strongly shaped by an innovative and hybrid mixture of conventional university teaching, community-oriented research and 'employability'-driven development projects.

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Simoneta Negrete-Yankelevich, Israel Portillo, Guadalupe Amescua-Villela and Alejandra Núñez-de la Mora

*Full forum is in Spanish.

English Abstract:

Interview with the coordinators of the DeMano project, who work with multidisciplinary perspectives of food insecurity in milpa-producing families in Ocotepec, Mexico. We talk about their achievements and the challenges for programs oriented to developing skills for both raising children and women’s empowerment; sustainable production in milpas and orchards; and human ecology and maternal and child health. The great challenge of Ocotepec’s great challenge, like other rural communities in Mexico is to overcome productive, social and economic instability to revalue and care for natural resources and human capital, moving towards a self-sufficient and self-managed vision. De Mano contributes through science, providing feedback on problems in the fields, and fostering collective responsibility for the biotic resources that feed families.

Spanish Abstract:

Entrevista a las coordinadoras del proyecto DeMano, quienes trabajan multidisciplinariamente temas de inseguridad alimentaria en familias milperas de Ocotepec, México. Platicamos sobre logros y retos en sus programas de desarrollo de habilidades para la crianza y empoderamiento de mujeres; producción sostenible en milpas y huertos; y ecología humana y salud materno-infantil. El gran reto de Ocotepec y otras comunidades rurales en México es superar la situación de inestabilidad productiva, social y económica para revalorar y cuidar los recursos naturales y capital humano, transitando hacia una visión autosuficiente y autogestiva. DeMano realiza ciencia en continua retroalimentación con la problemática del campo, promoviendo un sentido más amplio de comunidad y de responsabilidad colectiva de los recursos bióticos que dan de comer a las familias de México.

French Abstract:

Entretien avec les coordinateurs du projet DeMano qui travaillent de façon multidisciplinaire sur les thèmes de l’insécurité alimentaire dans les familles de producteurs de maïs d’Ocotepec au Mexique. Nous parlons de leurs réalisations et des défi s qu’ils rencontrent dans leurs programmes de développement de compétences pour les enfants et l’autonomisation des femmes, de la production durable des champs de maïs et des vergers, de l’écologie humaine et de la santé maternoinfantile. Le grand défi d’Ocotepec et des autres communautés rurales du Mexique est de surmonter la situation d’instabilité productive, sociale et économique pour réévaluer et prendre soin des ressources naturelles et du capital humain, en privilégiant l’évolution vers l’autosuffisance et l’autogestion. DeMano contribue à travers la science à rétroalimenter les problématiques de terrain, en promouvant un sens plus aigu de la communauté et de la responsabilité collective face aux ressources biotiques qui nourrissent la famille.

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Cristina Blanco Sío-López

This Special Issue aims to interconnect policy innovation, regional integration and sustainable democracy building with a view to providing socio-politically empowering insights in the midst of an acute global crisis of self-definition. It also aspires to contribute to a clearer elucidation of how to regionally respond to intertwined multilevel challenges and to search for alternative systemic paradigms in a context marked by an increasing combination of questioning and resilience. Furthermore, it focuses on the case study of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as both challenges and vehicles to achieve a fruitful retroactive cycle between a growingly interdependent set of determinant variables: socially thoughtful policy innovation mechanisms at the global level; the socioeconomic cohesion-enhancing potentialities of regional integration experiences; the evolution and outcomes of transitional politics in post-conflict states; a positive intertwining of new approaches to diplomacy and to development policy and the quality of democratic global governance.

Spanish Este número monográfico tiene como objetivo la interconexión de las dimensiones complementarias de investigación y de implementación de la innovación política, la integración regional y la construcción democrática sostenible con el fin de proporcionar ideas de hondo calado sociopolítico que permitan hacer frente a una aguda crisis de autodefinición. En este sentido, aspira también a contribuir a una elucidación más clara sobre los modos de responder regionalmente a desafíos interdependientes y a múltiples niveles y sobre la búsqueda de paradigmas sistémicos alternativos en un contexto marcado por una creciente combinación de cuestionamiento y resistencia. Por otra parte, se centra también en el caso de los Objetivos de Desarrollo del Milenio (ODM) como desafíos y vehículos para lograr un enriquecedor ciclo retroactivo entre un conjunto crecientemente interdependiente de variables fundamentales: mecanismos de innovación en política social a nivel mundial; la cohesión socioeconómica como herramienta para profundizar y desarrollar experiencias de integración regional; la evolución y resultados de la política de transición a la democracia en estados post-conflicto; una interacción positiva de nuevos enfoques a nivel de diplomacia pública y de políticas de desarrollo y, por último pero no menos importante, la calidad de la gobernanza global democrática. En efecto, tal enfoque combinado espera ser útil para ilustrar el hecho de que los ODM no han de ser vistos como un conjunto de indicadores parciales, sino como objetivos profundamente interconectados y capaces de reforzarse mutuamente.

French Ce numéro spécial vise à interconnecter l'innovation politique, l'intégration régionale et le renforcement de la démocratie durable en vue de fournir des idées pour une autonomisation sociopolitique dans un moment de crise aiguë d'autodéfinition. À cet égard, il aspire à apporter des éclaircissements pour répondre régionalement à des défis multiniveaux et à proposer des paradigmes systémiques alternatifs dans un contexte marqué par une combinaison accrue du questionnement et de la résilience. De plus, il met également l'accent sur l'étude des Objectifs du Millénaire pour le développement (OMD) — à la fois comme des défis et comme des véhicules — pour obtenir un cycle rétroactif fructueux entre un ensemble de variables de plus en plus interdépendantes : les mécanismes d'innovation politique socialement projetés à l'échelle mondiale ; les potentialités améliorées de cohésion socio-économique pour développer les expériences d'intégration régionale ; l'évolution et les résultats de la transition politique dans les pays post-conflit ; un entrelacement positif de nouvelles approches en matière diplomatique et de politique de développement et, finalement, la qualité de la gouvernance mondiale démocratique. En effet, une telle approche combinée aspire à être utile pour illustrer le fait que les OMD ne devraient pas être considérés comme une collection d'indicateurs distincts, mais comme des objectifs profondément interconnectés et susceptibles de se renforcer mutuellement.