Between January and April 2019 we met youth workers and young people in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Budapest and Paris, to ask them whether they experienced critical incidents connecting to the subject matter of relationship and intimacy. We have analysed 40 incidents, and we classified them according to 6 main subjects, which we call “sensitive zone”: the distinction of what is private or public, relationship to authority, to each other, to groups, gender and professional identity.
Do we expect men and women to dress, speak, work in similar ways? Or do we wish to make some distinction between their appearance, their roles, their status or their communication style? What’s more: do we imagine gender as a binary variable or as a continuity with different positionings possible? Can we imagine more genders than two? To what extent do we expect gender to interfere with relationships? This section offers a window on incidents where different conceptions and ritualisations of gender lead to misunderstandings and tensions.
Conceptions of what is private, and public permeate our everyday existence. These conceptions regulate the way we treat our bodies (what part of the body can be presented in public and what needs to be hidden), how we use spaces (who can enter in what part of a building / house) what we do (what is acceptable to do in front of others and what needs to be done in isolation) and what we reveal of ourselves (what can be told to anyone and what needs to be kept a secret). The incidents we collected illustrate how misunderstandings can emerge when the limits between private and public differ.
There is an inherent challenge in the profession of youth workers: to carry out their mission they need to establish a certain relationship with the youngsters, but this relationship can easily grow and overflow the professional boundaries. Cultural differences can bring further subtleties. Our incidents illustrate how youth workers are occasionally go beyond their professional identity on their own initiative or through the actions of the young people. We also explore cases of identity threat where the youth worker is not recognised as a professional.
All relationships are based on a delicate reciprocity of claiming recognition for oneself and offering it to the other. As this process grows deeper, we create a space of intimacy, which sometimes becomes a romantic relationship. Cultural differences abound in the rules of how this process should happen, so misunderstandings and conflicts are not rare. The incidents we collected illustrate the intercultural challenges of these processes. We also explore how conflict and violence are used in the attempt of changing relationships.
We are all members of a multitude of cultural groups – connected to nationality, age, sexual orientation, profession, gender etc… Some of them are more conscious, have more meaning, and some of them less. Some of these groups have more privileges, some of them less. Challenges can emerge concerning our group membership through a lack of recognition and through conflict between different cultural memberships. The incidents also highlight how group affiliations can bias our perception of the other people and our own behaviour.
“The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.” Project number: 2018-1-FR02-KA205-014096