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Using auto-photography to explore young people's belonging and exclusion in urban spaces in Accra, Ghana

van Riel, Kristijn and Salama, Ashraf M. (2019) Using auto-photography to explore young people's belonging and exclusion in urban spaces in Accra, Ghana. Open House International, 44 (1). ISSN 0168-2601 (In Press)

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This paper examines young people’s ‘lived’ experience of urban spaces in Accra, the capital of Ghana, by focusing on the use of auto-photography as an appropriate method for this investigation. Accra has a very young population and low rates of employment among the young people, demographics that are often associated with societal instability and increased risk of civil conflict. Research into African youth and the urban spaces they occupy is scarce and involves real challenges, but it is necessary and urgent due to various issues of exclusion and identity. This paper reports part of a larger phenomenological study on the spatial exclusion of youth in Accra’s urban spaces. The theoretical framework builds on Lefebvrian dialectics of space and focuses on how notions of belonging and exclusion are reflected in the mode of ‘lived space’. The fieldwork was completed on a small sample of young people in two distinct neighborhoods of Accra. In essence, the focus of the paper is on the urban spaces occupied by young people and on the utility of the participatory research tool adopted, auto-photography. In this context, the tool is less intrusive than direct observation and therefore well equipped to allow an ‘insider’ view into personal experiences and perceptions of place that are otherwise difficult to access and study. The paper concludes with a call for urban professionals and decision makers to produce inclusive urban environments that cater for all while for differences and belonging to co-exist.