Mis(Understanding) Youth Engagement: Role of Commercial Youth Radio in Promoting Political Engagement in South Africa

Sarah Chiumbu, Allen Munoriyarwa

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


Youth participation has increased visibility within academic debates and public policies in the last decades. With the crisis of representative democracy worldwide, there is growing concern youth are disengaging from political life. Young people’s participation as voters in elections is the most tangible measure of this supposed declining participation. The apprehension for youth civic deficiency and apathy is reflected in public policies that create formal participatory opportunities to revitalise civic interest. From these arguments, it is easy to see that youth participation is assumed to occur in traditional ways. This chapter argues that discourses and practices on youth participation are shifting. The focus is increasingly moving to participation in non-traditional spaces such as digital technology and popular culture. Although youth are turning away from formal, mainstream politics, this does not mean they are necessarily politically apathetic. Instead, they are reasonably interested in politics and political issues but show this differently. What appears to be a withdrawal of the youth from politics is a withdrawal from traditional politics. Using the popular commercial radio station Y (formerly YFM) based in Johannesburg, South Africa, as a case study, the chapter shows how youth use popular culture platforms to engage with politics and social issues. Drawing on the conceptual approach to mediated citizenship, the chapter analyses select radio programmes to assess the nature of youth engagement in politics and socio-economic issues. Thematic and conversational analysis is employed to analyse the data.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConverged Radio, Youth and Urbanity in Africa
Subtitle of host publicationEmerging trends and perspectives
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9783031194177
ISBN (Print)9783031194160
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023


  • Democracy
  • Mediated citizenship
  • South Africa
  • Youth engagement
  • Youth radio

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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