Envisioning Democracy: Participatory Filmmaking with Homeless Youth
This paper explores the democratic potential for participatory filmmaking with homeless youth, as well as the constraints and dilemmas associated with this visual method. Theorizing democracy through the work of Hannah Arendt and Pierre Bourdieu, the paper approaches democracy not as an end, but rather as a process that seeks to lessen social injustice. Bourdieu's work helps us appreciate, however, that this process is constrained by structures of inequality that shape access to the political dispositions that enable such engagement. Consistent with other research on low-income and marginalized young people, this study found that homeless youth engage with democracy through forms of community participation and mutual support, and are disinclined to orient toward liberal democratic structures such as voting and political parties, which they see as harmful or problematic. With a focus on one particular dilemma faced by the research team-namely, the question of how to make sense of and represent the issue of legalizing marijuana, which had been signaled by the youth participants as of primary political importance to them-the paper uses Arendt and Bourdieu to discuss how participatory filmmaking can help to expand the space of appearances available to homeless youth in Canadian society, and create a space at a shared table of understanding with middle class power brokers.