Conference Agenda

RS10_03: Young people practising the future
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Giuliana Mandich, University of Cagliari
Location: UP.2.217
University of Manchester Building: University Place, Second Floor Oxford Road


Practicing The Future In A Time Of Crisis. Young People Facing Social Acceleration

Carmen Leccardi

University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy

At the centre of the analysis proposed lie contemporary processes of social and cultural change, starting from the crisis of the future and the dynamics connected to the redefinition of historicity and memory. Not only the future is shortened, but the present itself contracts – a process whereby “the space of time for which we can calculate our living conditions with a degree of constancy is shortened” (Lübbe 2009, 159). In this latter context, the present itself cedes the way to a simultaneous and, de facto, de-temporalized dimension, provoking questions about how contemporary young people construct their experiences and shape their everyday lives. The paper proposes to consider young people’s ‘situational identities’ as the joint result of social acceleration on the one hand and the processes of contemporary individualization on the other (Rosa 2002). Through these identities – based on the present, and constructed around it – young people construct new biographical and everyday practices to face the growing uncertainties which characterize the future. These practices can be considered as an expression of social resilience which is exercised in order to avoid the risks connected to the loss of manageable life projects. Moving to this particular forms of agency young people succeed in taking decisions even though the medium- to long term future seems closed in a fog bank. In a nutshell, young people are able “to use time against time”: to reconquer agency even though the accelerated contemporary temporal scenario tends to hinder them from implementing their choices.

Young People and the Anthropocene: Futures Past and Present?

Peter Kelly

RMIT University, Australia

Our present is marked by profound and highly consequential crises in multiple earth systems - oceanic, atmospheric, terran and capitalist. In Staying with the Trouble, Donna Haraway (2016) highlights the crises of earth systems that situate us, all, ‘in the midst of the earth’s sixth great extinction event and in the midst of engulfing wars, extractions, and immiserations of billions of people and other critters for something called “profit” or “power” - or, for that matter, called “God”.’

Neo-Liberal capitalism has gorged itself on the 'four cheaps' - food, labour-power, energy and raw materials (Moore 2015) - and is now devouring its young and their futures. Our present is marked by a growing awareness - in various symbolic, discursive and material spaces and practices - that our futures, young people’s futures, have already been used up, consumed, exploited. That the crises that we encounter in our presents both portend more profound crises to come, and foreclose any sense that we can do anything about our probable futures.

In this presentation I will develop recent work on a political economy of youth, and the rethinking of young people’s marginalisation, to consider how orthodox sociologies of youth can move beyond human exceptionalism and methodological individualism. The aim here is to make a modest contribution to re-imagining the thinking technologies and knowledge practices that sociologies of youth can bring to the task of ‘staying with the trouble’ that we and young people find ourselves in. In our future presents.

Reading Young People’s Imagined Futures with Affective Tools

Dawn Lyon

University of Kent, United Kingdom

This paper reflects on a series of interconnected projects about young people’s imagined futures that I undertook (with colleagues, Graham Crow, Giulia Carabelli and Peter Hatton) over the last 10 years. We worked with essays written by young (15 to 18-year old), working-class people imagining their futures as if they were already at the end of their lives. The first set of essays had been collected by sociologist Ray Pahl in 1978, on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, UK. The Living and Working on Sheppey project then gathered a second set in 2010 as well as reanalysing the first. A further project, Imagine Sheppey, departed from the essay format and created audio-visual documents of young people’s future orientations in 2014. At the time of writing, I hope to come full circle as I collaborate with a film-maker to trace the original essay-writers and document how their lives have unfolded.

We have previously analysed the content and themes of the essays and images, exploring how these young people’s hopes and expectations were inflected by the class, gender and other social relations of the day. However, I have long felt that our content and (limited) narrative analysis did not fully capture their sense. As ideas of ‘the half-life of deindustrialisation’ (Linkon 2018), ‘haunting’ (Gordon, 2008), and ‘affective history’ (Walkerdine, 2015, 2016) have gained prominence in recent years, we now reread these essays with new affective tools which enhance our grasp of these young people’s future accounts.

Securing a Future: Youth, Future-making and Temporal Pressure under Neoliberalism

Marisol Olaya Verdugo Paiva

The University of Manchester, United Kingdom

Beyond assumptions of a self-evident relationship between youth and future, in which the process of growing up appears as at all times future-oriented, the lives and aspirations of working-class young people in two state schools in a deindustrialised city in Chile calls into question the different temporalities at stake in future-making. These young people cope with the uncertainties of structural economic transformations by asegurar (securing) short-term educational and labour-related goals, bringing certainty into the present. Their elaborations and practices regarding future possibilities then draw ethnographic and analytical attention to the interactions between short- and long-term projects of a good life towards which they work in the present. This “temporal pressure” shaping their trajectories illustrates how a focus on futurity navigates the space between creative agency and socially structured possibilities.