KNOXVILLE — Brian Barber, founding director of the Center for the Study of Youth and Political Violence at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is in Egypt to learn firsthand how the country’s youth — using modern technology and social media — successfully overthrew their country’s government.
“The people of Egypt have effected a revolution and changed their government,” he said before leaving. “I knew I needed to experience this as it continues to unfold.”
Barber, a professor of child and family studies in the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences (CEHHS), specializes in the study of cross-cultural parent-youth relations and adolescent development in the context of political conflict, with a particular focus on youth from the Gaza Strip, Palestine and Bosnia. Barber’s research findings suggest youth who have been involved in political violence are more resilient than expected, able to grow up and become responsible, well-adjusted adults.
This is Barber’s first visit to Egypt, and notes that while the situation there is a bit different than what he’s studied in the past, it’s still very much in line with the research being done at the Center for the Study of Youth and Political Violence. Of particular interest, he said, are how the Egypt protest was led by young people and how much of it was organized through Internet communications and social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter.
“At the heart of the center’s mission is the activism component,” he said. “Part of our guiding mission is to overturn some of the lingering stereotypes that young people are unreliable, mischievous and self-centered.
“Young populations have the capacity, energy, foresight and maturity to want to make fundamental changes in their society.
“Often protests only achieve limited success, with governments making some concessions. In this case, the protest caused the demise of the entire government. I want to understand the elements that made that successful.
“Add to that the fact that it was a nonviolent protest. While not unprecedented, this reinforces the lesson that civil resistance can work.”
To pave the way for his trip, Barber reached out to some of his contacts in Palestine and asked them to refer him to their colleagues in Egypt. He also e-mailed a videographer he met on his last trip to the Gaza Strip.
His international contacts responded quickly. The videographer told Barber he was in Cairo where he had filmed the whole revolution and had already met many of the key players. Barber asked him if he would be willing to stay and partner on the project. He was.
Barber said he and the videographer plan to interview young people involved in the uprising. Barber will return to UT with audio recordings that can be used in future research. If they’re able to secure funding — and the indications are good they will — they’ll also be producing a documentary based on their conversations with the young revolutionaries.
Barber doesn’t know how long he’ll be gone, but expects it will be at least a few weeks.
Assisted by colleagues on campus, he’ll continue teaching a weekly graduate course, “Parent-Child Relationships” via Skype.
Bob Rider, dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences, said he wholeheartedly supports Barber’s travel to Egypt.
“Brian will take the center’s expertise and UT’s expertise to the scene and bring back information that UT researchers will use to help the world understand this historic event,” Rider said. “Great professors and researchers don’t sit back and watch history being made, they participate in it.”
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NOTE: Barber is willing to do media interviews from Egypt via phone, email and Skype.
C O N T A C T :
Amy Blakely, (865-974-5034, firstname.lastname@example.org)