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KNOXVILLE—Brian Barber, founding director of the Center for the Study of Youth and Political Conflict at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has received $450,000 from the Swiss-based Jacobs Foundation to fund a two-year study of Egyptian youth involved in the recent overthrow of the country’s government.

Young protestor flashes peace signCo-investigators on the project are the Center’s Clea McNeely and James Youniss of Catholic University in Washington, DC. The team also includes faculty at the American University in Cairo and youth leaders throughout Egypt.

The money will allow the team to regularly interview a diverse set of young people—those Barber interviewed on his recent trip to Egypt, plus others—to monitor their personal and civic development as they assist in creating a new government and a renewed society. The grant also will fund an Egyptian national survey to see how widely the revolution and its aftermath have affected Egyptian youth. In addition, the funding will help pay for the making of a feature film–length documentary that will parallel the research project in chronicling youth development during and after the historic revolution.

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.

Protesters standing near a tankBarber went to Egypt in February, just days after the uprising had its initial success, and stayed for four weeks. (See for a record of his experiences there.) During that time, he interviewed a dozen diverse young Egyptians to learn about the revolution. The protest which sparked the uprising was largely orchestrated by young people, facilitated by Internet communications and social media outlets, such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

The project will allow Barber to return to Egypt every three months for two years to do follow-up interviews with the youth “to track, in real time, their adjustment as they build a new country.”

Since returning from Egypt, Barber has maintained contact with the youth via Facebook.

“We have been in touch regularly since we’ve met, and I’ve monitored their situation,” he said. Their revolution stories differ, he said. Some were in Tahrir Square every day; one camped out there throughout the eighteen-day revolution; others never went.

While most were pro-revolution, some were against ongoing protests because they saw how the unrest had scared away tourists and further hurt Egypt’s already ailing economy.

“One was pro-Mubarak,” Barber said, adding that the young man changed his opinion after learning how the deposed leader had stolen significant amounts of money from the country.

In addition, Barber said, all of the Egyptian work will yield “a rich base of data that teaches us about this momentous time in history. We will certainly contribute academically through articles and books, and we will share what we learn with policy makers worldwide.”

The Egyptian experience prompted Barber to press forward with renaming the former Center for the Study of Youth and Political Violence, as the new Center for the Study of Youth and Political Conflict.

“People have misunderstood the use of the word ‘violence’ in our title, mistakenly thinking that our focus was on violence that youths commit. We are not focused on violent youth, but rather on how political conflict—which often includes violence—impacts youth,” Barber said.

The Jacobs Foundation is an international charitable foundation that uses science-based knowledge, understanding, and education to foster the welfare, social competence and human potential of future generations of young people.


Amy Blakely, (865-974-5034,