A talk with Marlene Spoerri (Visiting Scholar, Harriman Institute)
Youth movements are widely credited as a contributing factor for many of the 21st century's most audacious democratic transitions. From Belgrade to Cairo and Kiev to Tunis, their utility in mobilizing protestors and popularizing anti-regime sentiment has been named critical for regime change. But youth movements often fail to survive the transition from authoritarian to democratic rule. What are the consequences of this loss for young people? Does youth activism in the final stages of authoritarianism leave young people better equipped to articulate their grievances in a democratic context? The author sets out in search of an answer to such questions by exploring youth engagement in Serbia, Ukraine, and Egypt. In each of these cases, youth movements like Otpor, Pora and the April 6 Movement were rumored to have played an instrumental role in bringing down dictators. Yet how these countries' youths’ struggled to win self-empowerment post-regime change has differed drastically. Drawing on original empirical data, the author contrasts these cases and offers new insights for how young people can continue to influence political processes once revolutionary euphoria has abated.