Relational citizenship as social networks: immigrant youth's maps of their friendships
Hebert, Yvonne M.
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Seeking to understand what it means for immigrant youth to make new connections in a host country, we explore their networks of social relations and situate these with respect to social capital and to citizenship as a relational and spatial concept. Focusing on graphic representations of friendships of nearly sixty immigrant adolescents, the analysis examines the possible influences of gender, ethnicity, time and context; the philosophical meanings of the horizontal or vertical spatial orientation of these drawings; as well as the youth's own understandings of friendship. The findings indicate that holding a vertical, hierarchical and competitive orientation to friendship may be advantageous, in that the youth's understanding of friendship as a mutually alternating resource allows for weak ties of acquaintances to facilitate social mobility, the transportation of information and integration. Thus, the development of close friends to access the knowledge, skills and perspectives available in such friendships, family and school, is necessary but not sufficient to assure integration and participation in society. The notion of relational citizenship is expanded to include the development of both close friends and acquaintances for the former fosters an understanding of reciprocal trust while the latter allow for investment in action for the common good.