Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Caroline Nagel


This dissertation investigated the ways that young people in Tallinn, Estonia conceptualize citizenships, identities, and belongings in national and post-national communities. Focus groups were conducted with 29 students from ethnic Estonian and Russophone backgrounds in their final year of secondary school; in-depth interviews were conducted with 16 civic education teachers from the students' schools. Theories of citizenship and nationalism, as well as civic education research, were used to explore the ways in which young people conceptualize the terms of belonging and negotiate cultural difference as they move within and through their everyday spaces, particularly in the school. The study demonstrated that young people encounter, negotiate, and contest multiple and often competing discourses of national, multicultural, and post-national citizenships in their everyday lives, and that these coexist and interact complexly rather than existing as discrete entities at separate scalar hierarchies. The complex interaction of these discourses is thrown in to sharp relief in the Estonian context because of the country's persistent socio-spatial division between ethnolinguistic groups at the national level and its membership in the European Union. In Tallinn, young people attempt to navigate cultural diversity through the liberal democratic framework of multiculturalism but concomitantly engage in Othering practices to structure the terms of belonging and exclusion in society. The results of this study suggest that future research should consider the simultaneity of multiple discourses of citizenships and how they produce and are produced by myriad political identities and relationships. The findings further imply that while theoretical conceptualizations of divided societies should recognize persistent socio-spatial divisions, they should also consider the complicated narratives that work to blur the lines of those divisions and to create a reality of societal divisions that are not as black-and-white as they may first appear.


© 2013, Catherine Michelle Cottrell

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Geography Commons