Sociopolitical Development as Emotional Work: How Young Organizers Engage Emotions to Support Community Organizing for Transformative Racial Justice

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A theoretical and empirical reflection on the possibilities of broadening sociopolitical development (SPD) to consider how emotional work contributes to the development of a sociopolitical emotional awareness among young organizers resisting racial injustices is discussed. Sociopolitical emotional awareness brings together the intellectual and the emotional through sociopolitical engagement practices of discerning emotions through critical reflection, de/re-centering emotions and anchoring affirming emotions. We observed these practices among young organizers in youth community organizing (YCO) settings where SPD was a priority yet emotional work surfaced as an important component. We offer a conceptual framework for emotional work that extends SPD and is informed by analyses of our interview and fieldnote data of three YCO sites that supported youth in their organizing. Through this work we aim to expand current SPD theorizing, while challenging existing youth development frameworks that overlook the role of emotions in relation to collection action aimed at actualizing transformative racial justice. We conclude with implications and future directions on the significance of emotional work within YCO settings in particular. Moreover, we see emotions as essential to a young organizer’s SPD, inclusive of their efforts toward actualizing equitable, healthy and thriving anti-racist school and community environments.