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Esmorie Miller

(BA, History - Waterloo; MA, Politics - Waterloo)


Topic: Recognition and Culture: Youth gangs and the demands of liberal, democratic citizenship; the case of Toronto, Canada, and London, England

My PhD uses recognition theory, primarily Axel Honneth’s interpretation of recognition and identity, to set up an empirical project. The topics of youth, identity, and deviance have become the central themes in my research. Specifically, the research is a comparative study of London, England and Toronto, Canada, looking at how public policies about youth and gangs have objectified youth as a site of culpability. I am interested in how institutional level policies influence community level practices, and social attitudes, in Britain and Canada, particularly how the attribution of culpability has distorted and preserved the identity of youth on a spectrum of deviance. This is reflected in how ideas about gang crime, that portray youth as a site culpability for society’s despair, injures the reputation of not just those who are involved in gangs. Recognition theory reveals that when states apply controls based on “[...] the identification, classification, and management of groups categorised by their perceived dangerousness,” this leads to mis-recognition and to the social denigration of entire groups. This distortion of identity - this mis-recognition - has set the stage for social conflict as youth struggle to remove the stain of culpability from their identities.

Supervisors: Dr. Cathal McCall and Dr Cillian McBride