Politics of Recognition When Students Protest

Judith Bessant, Ben Lohmeyer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Historically, student movements have played a major role in national and global politics. While a substantial body of scholarly research on student protest now exists, insufficient attention is given to the politics and harms of misrecognising and dismissing young people’s voices (Taylor 1994, Honneth 1995). Recognising differences is problematic in any society characterised by pervasive inequalities based on age, gender, class or ethnicity given that it is recognition that makes justice an achievable objective. In this chapter we ask: how have students and student actions been misrecognised by political elites, and how have students responded to those accounts? We address these questions using two recent cases of student-led protest movements, the USA-based March for Our Lives movement and the global School Strike 4 Climate movement.
We document how student politics are typically misrecognised by many political elites including many mainstream media workers as they use well-established tropes like students as puppets, indoctrinated students and the disobedient student-young person to denigrate and delegitimise student actions. These strategies restrict young people’s participation in the public sphere and deny the legitimacy of their claims. As we show, many students respond by refuting those negative representations. In this chapter, we highlight the relational dynamics inherent to these representations and counter-representations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWhen Students Protest
Subtitle of host publicationSecondary and High Schools
EditorsJudith Bessant, Analicia Mejia Mesinas, Sarah Pickard
Place of PublicationUnited States of America
PublisherRowman and Littlefield
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781786611789
ISBN (Print)9781786611765
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Politics
  • Recognition
  • Student Protest


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