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Journal ArticleDOI

Youth organizations and the reproduction of nationalism in Britain: the role of Urdd Gobaith Cymru

23 Feb 2016-Social & Cultural Geography (Taylor & Francis)-Vol. 17, Iss: 5, pp 714-734
TL;DR: The authors examines how Urdd Gobaith Cymru, the Welsh League of Youth, has played a significant role over the past 90 years in promoting a Welsh and Welsh-speaking citizenship amongst Welsh youth.
Abstract: Youth organizations have long played significant roles in promoting particular forms of nationalism among young people in the UK. To date, however, academic studies of UK youth organizations have been Anglocentric, focusing on youth organizations associated with a hegemonic British state and imperial project. This paper seeks to show how youth organizations have also been used to promote alternative forms of nationalism in the UK, which have sought to challenge a British state and imperial project. Focusing explicitly on Wales, it examines how Urdd Gobaith Cymru – the Welsh League of Youth – has played a significant role over the past 90 years in promoting a Welsh and Welsh-speaking citizenship amongst Welsh youth. Drawing on documentary and archival research, the paper discusses how the organization has fostered particular practices and identities among its members and the way in which these have been challenged in recent years; most notably as a result of a decline in the numbers of Welsh speake...

Summary (1 min read)

Introduction

  • In this paper the authors examine the role played by youth organisations in shaping the national identities of young people in the UK.
  • Second, the paper demonstrates the importance of recognizing culturallinguistic identity as a crucial tenet of 'group-making' projects, emphasizing how language can bind the members of youth organisations (and by extension members of the nation) together.
  • More broadly, it demonstrates the diverse 'cultural politics' of youth organisations and their complex relationship to wider geographies of nationhood, identity and belonging.

Nations, 'groupness' and the geographies of (devolved) youth organisations

  • In broad terms, their paper is concerned with explicating the way in which young people are socialised into the nationalist 'group-making project' (Brubaker, 2004) .
  • One key arena within this complex reproduction of nationalism that has been addressed is in relation to the youth of the nation.
  • It is important to note two observations here.
  • With its members pushing for a proliferation of definitions of good citizenship over the course of the twentieth century, so the Scouting movement has had to reflect upon and reshape its own identity as an organisation.

Urdd Gobaith Cymru and the contestation of Britishness

  • Urdd Gobaith Cymru was formed in 1922 by Sir Ifan ab Owen Edwards as a way of steering 'Welsh children and adolescents…in the direction of a Welsh citizenship' (Löffler, 2006, p. 82) .
  • The Urdd has been successful in reproducing different aspects of a Welsh 'national culture' amongst the nation's youth.
  • Even though the material was deposited in the National Library of Wales between 1989 and 1997 -and therefore benefited from being archived in a thorough and professional manner -it is evident that the archive itself is limited in extent.
  • Painting a comprehensive picture of the Urdd's activities through archival research is, therefore, a painstaking and sometimes frustrating enterprise.
  • This material was subject to textual analysis, in which an effort was made to illustrate the common themes arising within them, as well as any inconsistencies.

Conclusions

  • The authors aim in this paper has been to discuss the significance of youth organisations for the 'group-making project' associated with nationalism.
  • And yet, what the authors have presented here represents more that an attempt to plug an empirical gap.
  • The Urdd, for instance, has possessed a series of distinctive aspects that have marked it out from other youth organisations, especially its emphasis on promoting the Welsh language and its associated culture as part of its various activities.

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1
Youth organisations and the reproduction of nationalism in Britain: the role of
Urdd Gobaith Cymru
Rhys Jones, Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University
Peter Merriman, Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University
Sarah Mills, Department of Geography, Loughborough University
Accepted for publication in Social & Cultural Geography on 28
th
September 2015
Introduction
In this paper we examine the role played by youth organisations in shaping the
national identities of young people in the UK. We argue that, in general, the role of
youth organisations in shaping the individual and group identities of young people has
been neglected. In particular, there has been a dearth of research on the key role
played by youth organisations in shaping the cultural and political identities of youth
in the various territories or what are sometimes called the devolved nations – of the
UK. This second area of neglect is particularly surprising, given the potential for
youth organisations in these territories to reflect and help to promote national
identities within them. Our aim in this paper is to begin to fill this gap by examining
the role played by a key youth organisation in Wales – Urdd Gobaith Cymru (literally
Wales’ Guild of Hope) – in reflecting and shaping Welsh national identities.
In doing so, this paper makes two contributions to existing debates in social,
cultural and political geography. First, in relation to scholarship on the cultural and
political geographies of the nation, the paper highlights how youth organisations
imagine, represent and reproduce the nation. The paper importantly moves discussion
away from hegemonic constructions of Britishness, a theme that has dominated the
existing literature on youth organisations in the UK. Instead, we emphasize the
connection between youth organisations and devolved identities and ‘alternative’
forms of nationalism (cf. Hopkins, 2007). Crucially, the paper demonstrates how the

2
Urdd occupied the practical, but not necessarily neutral, ‘middle’ ground of an
everyday nationalism, sitting between both ‘hotter’ and ‘banal’ expressions of
nationalist politics in Wales. This discussion, as such, also contributes to burgeoning
work on the cultural-political geographies of children and young people (Skelton,
2013).
Second, the paper demonstrates the importance of recognizing cultural-
linguistic identity as a crucial tenet of ‘group-making’ projects, emphasizing how
language can bind the members of youth organisations (and by extension members of
the nation) together. Most accounts of youth organisations focus on the ‘groupness’ of
age classifications or religious denominations, whereas this unique case study of Urdd
Gobaith Cymru highlights how language can become a key marker of group identity.
This second contribution connects to ongoing debates in social and cultural geography
on identity and belonging, specifically on the role of language in shaping cultural and
political affiliations and practices (Valentine et al, 2008). The paper demonstrates
how the Urdd’s policies and membership reflected the changing linguistic
geographies of Wales. More broadly, it demonstrates the diverse ‘cultural politics’ of
youth organisations and their complex relationship to wider geographies of
nationhood, identity and belonging.
Nations, ‘groupness’ and the geographies of (devolved) youth organisations
In broad terms, our paper is concerned with explicating the way in which
young people are socialised into the nationalist ‘group-making project’ (Brubaker,
2004). For many years, social scientists have promoted a social constructivist view of
the nation, arguing that nations and nationalism should be viewed as ‘a “discursive

3
formation”, a way of speaking that shapes our consciousness’ (Calhoun, 1997, p. 3).
Brubaker (2004, p. 1) develops this argument by maintaining that
Ethnicity, race, and nation should be conceptualized not as
substances or things or entities or organisms or collective
individuals – as the imagery of discrete, concrete, tangible,
bounded, and enduring “groups” encourages us to do – but rather
in relational, processual, dynamic, eventful, and disaggregated
terms. This means thinking of ethnicity, race, and nation not in
terms of substantial groups or entities but in terms of practical
categories, situated actions, cultural idioms, cognitive schemas,
discursive frames, organizational routines, institutional forms,
political projects and contingent events.
The ‘groupness’ of nations is something, therefore, that needs to be forged
through continual and iterative practice and explained by academics rather than being
taken as ontological ‘givens’. Group-making is a project that is based on a series of
performances and events that are variously extraordinary (Ignatieff, 1993), banal
(Billig, 1995) and everyday (Jones and Merriman, 2009) in character.
Nations, in this respect, are communities of people that are imagined through a
series of nationalist discourses (Anderson, 1983), rather than being actual
communities of people, which possess agency. Such an approach to the nation begs a
series of questions about the authors of these discourses, the way in which they are
communicated to, and subsequently consumed by, members of the nation. Doing so
does not necessarily mean that we should fall into the trap of seeing a political and
cultural elite as the only ones that have the power to shape nationalist discourse (e.g.,
Hobsbawm, 1983; Hroch, 1985). Attempts have been made to democratise the
process whereby the ‘groupness’ of the nation is promoted (Jones, 2008). As many
sociological studies have shown, everyday events, as well as being cast as examples
that reflect the pre-existence of nationalist discourses and practices, are at one and the

4
same time, producers of those selfsame discourses and practices. The act of sitting in
the Welsh-speaking bar rather than the English-speaking lounge in a public house,
choosing to sit as a group of Welsh speakers within an English-medium lecture, or
defacing an English road sign because of its status as an affront to the Welsh national
territory, are all examples of how ordinary individuals can contribute to the
reproduction of nationalist discourse and practice; not merely as passive consumers
but as active producers (Jones and Desforges, 2003; Jones and Merriman, 2009).
One key arena within this complex reproduction of nationalism that has been
addressed is in relation to the youth of the nation. Much work has been carried out
examining the significance of state education systems for translating the ‘low cultures’
of modern populations into the ‘high culture’ of the nation (Gellner, 1983; Zhao,
1998). As Scourfield and Davies (2005, p. 85) aptly put it, “children can be pivotal in
the structuring of modern nation states” (see also Stephens, 1997). Particular
academic subjects, especially History and Geography (Paasi, 1996), have been viewed
as crucial providers of nationalist knowledges. In this work, attention has been
focused on how school environments expose children and young people to a whole
new range of experiences and knowledges, facilitating a shift in their culture, identity
and world views (Jeffs and Smith, 2010). The danger with this work – and perhaps
this is partly a reflection of the fact that it is the socialisation of the youth of the
nation that is being studied here – is that it can almost reinforce a notion that the
members of the nation are merely the passive consumers of nationalist discourses. It
is important to note two observations here. First, as Benwell’s (2014, p. 53) recent
study on nationalism in secondary schools in Argentina and the Falkland Islands
demonstrates, teachers are not passive but can “negotiate geopolitical aspects of the
curriculum that are central to national identity”. And second, children – as social and

5
political actors (see Philo and Smith, 2003; Skelton, 2013) – have the potential to
resist or, alternatively, be active contributors to the nationalist messages that they
encounter within formal education (e.g. Scourfield and Davies, 2005; Scourfield et al,
2006). Nationalist discourse is inherently polyvocal in character.
At the same time, we need to remember that young people spend only a
certain amount of their waking hours engaged in formal education and, as such, are
exposed to and contribute to the ‘group-making project’ of the nation in numerous
other ways. One key context for a great number of young people is their engagement
with youth organisations of different types. Formal youth organisations emerged
towards the end of the nineteenth century and, in Britain, were created and framed
specifically along lines of religion, usually with separate gendered organisations for
girls and boys – simultaneously constructing community cohesiveness within
particular groups, and constructing and emphasizing ‘differences’ along lines of
gender and religion (e.g. Springhall, 1977; Tebbutt, 2012). Their emergence also
echoed the formation of popular youth movements in a range of other European
countries during the early twentieth century (Laquer, 1962; Stachura, 1981).
One important measure of the significance of youth movements is their scale
as organisations. The Guides and the Scout Movement are currently the two largest
uniformed youth organisations in the UK, possessing 550,000 and 400,000 members
respectively in 2014. In addition to these familiar youth organisations, there are a
range of other, more ‘niche’ organisations in the UK, such as the Woodcraft Folk, the
Boys’ and Girls’ Brigades, Urdd Gobaith Cymru, as well as other more locally-based
youth organisations (e.g. Prynn, 1983; Loeffler, 2006; Kyle, 2007; Tebbutt, 2012;
Mills, 2014). While individually each of these may not possess the same levels of

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Cites background from "Youth organizations and the reprodu..."

  • ...I want them to grow up proud of our country … ’ In evoking emotive and long-standing connections between children, education and the future, we see here the attempt to create political subjectivities as part of a wider (British) state project (see also Jones et al., 2016)....

    [...]

  • ...…curriculums (Pykett, 2010; Staeheli & Hammett, 2010; Wainaina, Arnot, & Chege, 2011), the nation-building projects of voluntary youth movements (Jones et al., 2016; Mills, 2013) or (inter)national NGO programmes and activities in post-conflict settings (Jeffrey & Staeheli, 2016; Nagel &…...

    [...]

References
More filters
Book
01 Jan 1983
TL;DR: In this paper, Anderson examines the creation and global spread of the 'imagined communities' of nationality and explores the processes that created these communities: the territorialisation of religious faiths, the decline of antique kingship, the interaction between capitalism and print, the development of vernacular languages-of-state, and changing conceptions of time.
Abstract: What makes people love and die for nations, as well as hate and kill in their name? While many studies have been written on nationalist political movements, the sense of nationality - the personal and cultural feeling of belonging to the nation - has not received proportionate attention. In this widely acclaimed work, Benedict Anderson examines the creation and global spread of the 'imagined communities' of nationality. Anderson explores the processes that created these communities: the territorialisation of religious faiths, the decline of antique kingship, the interaction between capitalism and print, the development of vernacular languages-of-state, and changing conceptions of time. He shows how an originary nationalism born in the Americas was modularly adopted by popular movements in Europe, by the imperialist powers, and by the anti-imperialist resistances in Asia and Africa. This revised edition includes two new chapters, one of which discusses the complex role of the colonialist state's mindset in the development of Third World nationalism, while the other analyses the processes by which all over the world, nations came to imagine themselves as old.

25,018 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this paper, Imagined communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism are discussed. And the history of European ideas: Vol. 21, No. 5, pp. 721-722.

13,842 citations


"Youth organizations and the reprodu..." refers background in this paper

  • ...…camps for fluent Welsh speakers and camps for Welsh learners, the above quote testifies to the difficulties in ascribing a linguistic identity (Anderson, 1983); both in terms of how individuals self-designated their own identity but also in the context of the Urdd’s external designation of…...

    [...]

  • ...The quote illustrates the strong connection that has existed between a more ‘ethnic’ version of Welsh nationalism and the ability to speak the Welsh language, one which has been contested by non-Welsh speaking activists and authors (e.g. Smith, 1984; more broadly, see Anderson, 1983)....

    [...]

  • ...…(ignatieff, 1995), banal (Billig, 1995) and everyday (Jones & Merriman, 2009) in character. nations, in this respect, are communities of people that are imagined through a series of nationalist discourses (Anderson, 1983), rather than being actual communities of people, which possess agency....

    [...]

BookDOI
01 Dec 1971
TL;DR: The Prose of the World: I The Four Similitudes, II Signatures, III The Limits of the world, IV the Writing of Things, V The Being of Language 3.Representing: I Don Quixote, II Order, III Representation of the Sign, IV Duplicated Representation, V Imagination of Resemblance, VI Mathesis and 'Taxinoma' 4. Speaking: I Criticism and Commentary, II General Grammar,III The Theory of the Verb, IV Articulation, V Designation, VI Derivation,
Abstract: Publishers Note, Forward to the English Edition, Preface Part I: 1.Las Meninas 2.The Prose of the World: I The Four Similitudes, II Signatures, III The Limits of the World, IV the Writing of Things, V The Being of Language 3.Representing: I Don Quixote, II Order, III The Representation of the Sign, IV Duplicated Representation, V The Imagination of Resemblance, VI Mathesis and 'Taxinoma' 4. Speaking: I Criticism and Commentary, II General Grammar, III The Theory of the Verb, IV Articulation, V Designation, VI Derivation, VII The Quadrilateral Language 5. Classifying: I What the Historians say, II Natural History, III Structure, IV Character, V Continuity and Catastrophe, VI Monsters and Fossils, VII The Discourse of Nature 6. Exchanging: I The Analysis of wealth, II Money and Prices, III Mercantilism, IV The Pledge and the Price, V The Creation of Value, VI Utility, VII General Table, VIII Desire and Representation Part 2 7. The Limits of Representation: I The Age of History, II The Measure of Labour, III The Organic Structure of Beings, IV Word Inflection, V Ideology and Criticism, VI Objective Synthesis 8. Labour, life, Language: I The New Empiricities, II Ricardo, III Cuvier, IV Bopp, V Language Became Object 9. Man and His Doubles: I The return of Language, II The Place of the King, III The Analytic of Finitude, IV The Empirical and the Transcendental, V The 'Cogito' and the Unthought, VI The Retreat and the Return of the Origin, VII Discourse and Man's Being, VIII The Anthropological Sleep 10. The Human Sciences: I The Three Faces of Knowledge, II The Form of the Human Sciences, III The Three Models, IV History, V Psychoanalysis and Ethnology, VI In Conclusion

7,353 citations

Book
01 Jan 1983
TL;DR: In this paper, the authors present a typology of nationalisms in industrial and agro-literature societies, and a discussion of the difficulties of true nationalism in industrial societies.
Abstract: Series Editor's Preface. Introduction by John Breuilly. Acknowledgements. 1. Definitions. State and nation. The nation. 2. Culture in Agrarian Society. Power and culture in the agro-literature society. The varieties of agrarian rulers. 3. Industrial Society. The society of perpetual growth. Social genetics. The age of universal high culture. 4. The Transition to an Age of Nationalism. A note on the weakness of nationalism. Wild and garden culture. 5. What is a Nation. The course of true nationalism never did run smooth. 6. Social Entropy and Equality in Industrial Society. Obstacles to entropy. Fissures and barriers. A diversity of focus. 7. A Typology of Nationalisms. The varieties of nationalist experience. Diaspora nationalism. 8. The Future of Nationalism. Industrial culture - one or many?. 9. Nationalism and Ideology. Who is for Nuremberg?. One nation, one state. 10. Conclusion. What is not being said. Summary. Select bibliography. Bilbliography of Ernest Gellner's writing: Ian Jarvie. Index

2,912 citations


"Youth organizations and the reprodu..." refers background in this paper

  • ...Much work has been carried out examining the significance of state education systems for translating the ‘low cultures’ of modern populations into the ‘high culture’ of the nation (Gellner, 1983; Zhao, 1998)....

    [...]

Book
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TL;DR: The politics of Commemoration in Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia in 1848 in 1998: The politics of commemoration in Hungarian, Romania and Slovakia as mentioned in this paper, is a good starting point for this paper.
Abstract: Acknowledgments Introduction 1. Ethnicity without Groups 2. Beyond "Identity" 3. Ethnicity as Cognition 4. Ethnic and Nationalist Violence 5. The Return of Assimilation? 6. "Civic" and "Ethnic" Nationalism 7. Ethnicity, Migration, and Statehood in Post-Cold War Europe 8. 1848 in 1998: The Politics of Commemoration in Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia Notes References Index

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"Youth organizations and the reprodu..." refers background in this paper

  • ...Second, there is an interesting attempt made by Edwards to align himself closely with his target audience of young Welsh people. he asks ‘What shall we do …’, emphasizing the common and united aims of the Urdd, and its prospective members (cf. Billig, 1995)....

    [...]

  • ...Group-making is a project that is based on a series of events that are variously extraordinary (ignatieff, 1995), banal (Billig, 1995) and everyday (Jones & Merriman, 2009) in character. nations, in this respect, are communities of people that are imagined through a series of nationalist discourses…...

    [...]

  • ...Group-making is a project that is based on a series of events that are variously extraordinary (ignatieff, 1995), banal (Billig, 1995) and everyday (Jones & Merriman, 2009) in character....

    [...]

  • ...a banal nationalism (Billig, 1995) being promoted by the Urdd, but also one that was tied...

    [...]

  • ...There is a clear sense of a banal nationalism (Billig, 1995) being promoted by the Urdd, but also one that was tied in implicit ways to the ‘hotter’ varieties of nationalism being practised in Wales at the time....

    [...]

Frequently Asked Questions (9)
Q1. What are the contributions in this paper?

This paper examine the role played by youth organisations in shaping the cultural and political identities of young people in the UK. 

The lack of funding available to employ an archivist, the lack of space available to store written material and, usually, the overwhelming focus among the organisation’s employees on securing its organisation’s short- and medium-term future rather than reflecting on its short- or long-term past, means that the archives of voluntary organisations are often limited in scope. 

3Many aspects of these camps would be familiar to a former Scout or Guide,involving trekking, boating, kayaking, swimming and singing around a campfire. 

Plant was viewed as being particularly important because of its status as the first nondenominational children’s magazine in Wales. 

The major impetus in this whole process has come from the demands of members within (or, indeed, potential members of) the Scouting movement. 

Governments and youth organisations in the different territories of the UK are aware of the potential contribution that youth organisations have in helping to shape the identities of young people. 

In the story that recalls Alec’s experience of competing in the Urdd’s athletics event, it is noted that the other Welsh speakers wish Alec well using a Welsh chant that they themselves had composed:Good luck tomorrow, To Alec the runner, To Alec the jumper, To Alec the learner, Their very own Alec (Cymru’r Plant, 1950a, p. 217)! 

Youth organisations are likely to feature for the foreseeable future as an important terrain over which ideas of group identity are negotiated in a devolved UK and it behoves us as social scientists to give them the attention they deserve. 

Doing so, obviously, raises issues of consistency and the authors sought to minimise the impact of this issue by ensuring that the translations were as faithful to the original as possible.