ASA2016: Footprints and futures: the time of anthropology

(P09)
Living histories, making futures: temporality and young lives
Location Hogan Lovells Lecture Theatre
Date and Start Time 06 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 4

Convenors

  • Sarah Winkler-Reid (Newcastle University) email
  • Ditte Strunge Sass (Mahidol University International College) email
  • Camilla Morelli (University of Bristol) email

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This panel examines the temporal dimensions of young lives, both in terms of how young people construct their life-trajectories and future selves; and how they experience, discuss, reflect and mobilise personal local, national or global histories and memories.

Long Abstract

Children and young people often symbolise both hope and anxiety in public discourses about the future. Since the 1990s, an increasing number of anthropologists have sought to study children and young people in their own right, rather than as adults-in-the-making or societal symbols. However, as scholars have noted, this leads to a tendency to disconnect young people from the generational relations in which they are embedded (Cole 2004), while on the other hand, the focus on the 'now-ness' of youth action can overlook the temporal dimensions of experience (Ansell et al 2014).

This panel considers how different temporalities intersect at the level of childhood and youth. It examines how children and young people prepare the ground for their future selves and life-trajectories by mediating between desires, hopes and aspirations for the future on one side; and the social and political-economic constraints informed by previous generations on the other. What are the aspects of continuity and transformation in this process? How can we understand young people's learning as both an act of creativity, and as the result of past actions and collective histories?

We invite papers that examine the temporal and political dimensions of young lives. Both in terms of the future, as children and young people's actions, efforts and choices shape the trajectories of their own lives and of society at large; and to the past, by examining how they experience, discuss, reflect and mobilise personal, local, national or global histories and memories.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Imagining futures like parents: narratives of constraint and opportunity by American children in New Mexico

Author: Elizabeth Hurst  email

Short Abstract

In exploring how Hispanic children in rural New Mexico make sense of narratives of discipline and opportunity, this paper shows how children mobilize history as collective experience to imagine possible futures that both create continuity with and critique the world their parents grew up in.

Long Abstract

New Mexico has a high level of poverty and school dropout rates within the United States. In rural areas, small towns originally settled as land grants, are home to historically "Spanish", Hispano (or Nuevo Mexicano) families that have experienced immense social and economic change over the past century. This paper examines how children of Hispanic descent in rural New Mexico make sense of the narratives of discipline, constraint and proper behavior they encounter among parents and teachers as they imagine a future that both creates continuities with and transcends experiences of adults. In focusing on the importance of finishing school, gaining qualifications, attending college and making a good living, children's ideas about possible futures appear to reproduce parental notions of discipline, protection and shared responsibility at the same time as they engage with the increasing emphasis on academic achievement within New Mexico public schools. In putting these ideas into practice however, children also draw on popular narratives of limitless success, sports stardom, technological progress and freedom of choice. In this way they make their own meaning from various inherited tropes to re-imagine the future that adults see for them. I argue that within this context, children mobilize history not so much as an abstract category or chronotope, but as a set of practices that transforms the potential meaning of 'opportunity' in terms of their own future, whilst emphasizing continuity through an imminent critique of the world their parents grew up in.

Drinking with Others: technologies of continuity and transformation in Amazonia

Author: Casey High (University of Edinburgh)  email

Short Abstract

In examining how Waorani people constitute themselves as Ecuadorians, politicians and students while they assert themselves as part of a Waorani collective history, I focus on youth alcohol consumption and the use of video as technologies that mediate youth relations with older kin and outsiders.

Long Abstract

It is difficult to underestimate the seemingly radical transformations many young people in Amazonia have experienced in recent years - whether as a result of formal education, new forms of economic development, or migration to urban areas. Alongside the apparent "generation gap" that has appeared between younger and older generations, the intensification of intercultural relations in Amazonia also reveals a strong sense of resilience and cultural continuity in the face of ongoing transformations. In this paper examine new and old technologies and practices by which young Waorani people constitute themselves as Ecuadorians, politicians and students at the same time as they assert themselves as part of a specifically Waorani collective history. I focus particularly on the differences between the consumption of manioc beer and strong alcoholic beverages, as well as the increasing use of video cameras by Waorani youth, as technologies that mediate between the expectations of older kin, outsiders, and ultimately the hopes and desires of young people. While these processes indicate some of the difficult challenges young people in Amazonia face today, I argue that they also reveal a creative potential to transcend the age-old stereotypes and notions of "culture" and "heritage" by which non-indigenous people tend to understand Amazonia.

Forest hunters to slum dwellers: the uncertain futures of Amerindian children

Author: Camilla Morelli (University of Bristol)  email

Short Abstract

Using visual media, I examine how Amerindian children are developing new forms of desire and worldviews compared to their elders, and in so doing are preparing the ground for a different future. This will highlight the relevance of child-centred works for policy and development.

Long Abstract

Children and youth typically constitute the largest demographics of indigenous populations in Amazonia and across the world, and yet child-centred works on young Amerindians remain limited. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with Matses people of Amazonian Peru, this paper examines how Amerindian children and young people actively contribute to ongoing processes of socioeconomic transformation in the region, and how their ways of acting and being are opening up, or closing off, certain possibilities for the future of society. By using child-centred visual methods, including drawing and participatory photography, I explore how young Amerindians are developing a desire—or literally 'bunquioe', a hunger for—the non-indigenous world of cities, concrete, electric light, television, manufactured goods, and so forth. This will demonstrate that far from simply reproducing the works of their elders, children are actively shaping the environments wherein they dwell and setting up the ground for new forms of life. As such, an attention to indigenous childhood within contemporary societies is not only essential to anthropological analysis but has clear implications for policy and development.

The new women of China: ambitions, dilemmas and intergenerational conflicts among young girls in Beijing

Author: Federico Fattori (Manchester University)  email

Short Abstract

The paper explores projects of life building in urban China and consider concerns, ambitions and dilemmas of young girls pursuing professional realisation, love and motherhood and trying to balance family responsibilities and career development, come to term with inter-generational differences.

Long Abstract

Chinese young women and older generations seem to live in two different worlds. The social identity of their parents was mostly defined in political terms and their priorities and moral obligation delineated according to the relationship with the family and the Socialist party-State. My young informants on the contrary give priority to their own self-fulfilment and see the achievement of personal happiness as the most legitimate and meaningful goal of their lives. They describe their existences in terms of personal challenges, acquisition of new experiences, constant change, and consider themselves fully responsible of their futures. Older generations forcedly participated to a national project of Socialist development led by a paternalistic Party and put the emphasis on obedience to authority, economic security, dependency and continuity of the family, whereas my self-centred female subjects are not willing to fully sacrifice their personal advancement in name of the family, the Party, the Nation or whatever entity but themselves and prioritise the pursuing of happiness and the exploration of the "self" as the ultimate objective. This paper considers how these young women inhabiting a fast changing society imagine their future selves and life paths by articulating in unexpected ways personal desires, hopes and aspirations and the constraints informed by previous generations, by "traditional" gender regimes and forms of femininities.

Youthful visions: genealogies of self and state in Iraqi Kurdistan

Author: Diana Patterson Hatchett (University of Kentucky)  email

Short Abstract

How do private school students envision and prepare for possible futures of self and state in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq?

Long Abstract

This paper focuses on how young people at a Christian private school in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq mediate between their family histories, their anxieties about the political and economic crisis Kurdistan, and their aspirations for the future. I examine how genealogies of the "self" inform the identity-transformation projects of Kurdistani youth embedded in patrilineages, confessional groups, education programs, and the Kurdistani quasi-state. The school is a productive site for studying family histories and youth futures in flux: physical, ideological, or moral displacements variously constrain and enable Kurdistani youth to envision a good life. Many of the school's staff, teachers, and students are "in transit," whether as internally displaced people, as returnees from the Kurdish diaspora, or as potential emigrants. Additionally, the school uses a model of "liberal" education encouraging critical thinking and self-reflection, such that teachers and students frequently discuss how to shape trajectories for self and for nation. In Iraq, and in the Kurdistan Region also, the state, confessional groups, and families tightly regulate identity based on patrilineal kinship, in which a person at birth inherits the religious and ethnic identity of his or her father and is then expected by state and society alike to remain in that inherited ethnosectarian category for life. The private school, however, offers a space in which youth whose lives are otherwise characterized by stasis or displacement can experiment with mobilities and become emplaced in new regimes of power and moral visions.

Imagining a future after schooling: quantum personhood in the lives of young people in London and New York City

Author: Patrick Alexander (Oxford Brookes University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores a two-year comparative ethnography of schooling in inner-city London and New York City. Using the concept of quantum personhood, I focus on how secondary school students give meaning to their lives, providing a critique of ‘aspiration’ as a framework for imagining the future..

Long Abstract

This paper explores the findings of a two-year comparative ethnography of schooling in inner city London and New York City, focusing on how final-year secondary school students give meaning to their imaginings of the future. I present a series of ethnographic vignettes that elucidate the multiple and contingent nature of futurity imagined by the young people in the ethnography, with examples of the ideas, opportunities and constraints that shape the futures that they hope to inhabit. This involves a comparative analysis of the similar and divergent ideological framings of the future that emerge in schooling in the post-financial crisis cityscapes of London and New York. I present this alongside an account of how young people make sense of and shape these ideologies to fit the realities of their own precarious and uncertain lives, and often in conditions of considerable disadvantage. Using the novel concept of quantum personhood, I draw on metaphorical language and imagery from quantum physics to provide a critique of the ways in which 'aspiration' is presented as a coherent framework for young people to imagine the future. The future-gazing nature of everyday life in these schools provides a rich array of ethnographic examples that show the complex tensions inherent to quantum reckonings of personhood. I show how for these young people the future is conjured, electron-like, in relational, contingent and multiple ways, within but also beyond the boundaries of a more coherent, unilinear imagining of how persons make sense of their existence in space and time.

Education, migration and mobility: rural Indian youths' aspirations for elsewhere

Author: Peggy Froerer (Brunel University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines the relationship between education, migration and social mobility, with a focus on rural Indian youths' aspirations for elsewhere.

Long Abstract

Over the past couple of decades, young people in rural India have witnessed the emergence of a powerful institution, namely education, that is opening up opportunities and avenues for migration outside of rural areas. Regarded as a form of 'mobility capital', education serves as a 'link to elsewhere', loosening ties to kin and community and creating possibilities for a different kind of future. As previous scholars have acknowledged, this 'mobility imperative' is connected to wider discourses of modernity and development, and has come to pervade young people's aspirations for formal participation in non-agricultural employment, located in a (usually) urban-based labour market.

This paper is concerned with the relationship between education and young people's mobility orientations, and the uncertainties and ambiguities that underpin this relationship. Based on longterm ethnographic research in a mixed Hindu/Christian adivasi (tribal) village in rural India, the paper explores the different conditions and constraints that impact upon young people's willingness to invest in education. It argues that the divergent ways that young people engage with this discourse, which sees aspirations for mobility outside of the village pitted against a desire to avoid the economic uncertainties and loneliness of urban anonymity, are underscored by deep-rooted ambivalence about the value and potential returns of education. This, in turn, is inextricably linked to the historical relationship that young people, and their families, have with land, labour and livelihood practices. In the course of this analysis, attention is paid to the way in which different structural constraints (economic status, gender, ethno-religious identity) underpin and mediate this discourse.

Keeping it all together: queer sexuality, young people and family relations in India

Author: Maria Tonini (Lund University)  email

Short Abstract

The paper analyzes how middle class queer young people in Delhi negotiate the stigmatized status of their sexuality against a host of pressures, hopes, and desires about their future.

Long Abstract

For young middle class queer people living in Delhi, family relations are rife with ambiguities and ambivalent dispositions which reflect the shifting tensions between desires and obligations that inform urban middle class life in India; by focusing on ambiguity and precariousness as analytical entry points, I show how ideas about sexual recognition are being continuously negotiated against desires for acceptance in a context of contrasting moral values that give meaning to the daily life of the young people in my study.

Drawing from fieldwork material collected in Delhi in 2012, in this paper I focus on two interconnected axes that regulate the ways in which acceptance and recognition can be obtained within the space of the family: career achievements and marriage. I show how young people's queer sexuality potentially disrupts the life trajectory and the future imagined and actively supported by parents for their children, and focus on the hesitant and ambiguous ways in which young queers try to maintain a balance between familial bonds and sexual subjectivity. While the family is constructed as the most intimately powerful agent of identity recognition, young queers try in various ways to balance the recognition they receive as children with the recognition they desire as queer subjects, so that rather than breaking all the rules (and breaking the family unit), queer sexuality could find a space within the normative order regulating the family, an order that is not only structured by heteronormativity, but also by reciprocal dynamics.

"You need to know how to take care of your baby in the future": the everyday life of Mozambican children between past and future

Author: Elena Colonna (Universidade Eduardo Mondlane)  email

Short Abstract

Based on the results of an ethnographic research, this paper presents the everyday life of children in the suburbs of Maputo. The present of children is discussed, emphasizing its roots in personal, family and community past, as well as its relevance for the construction of the future.

Long Abstract

Based on the results of a 18-months research, this paper presents the everyday life of children of the suburbs of Maputo. The present of children is discussed, emphasizing its roots in personal, family and community past, as well as its relevance for the construction of the future. Special attention is given to the practice of children of taking care of other children, a very common activity in the studied context. The research method was ethnography, complemented by a set of tools inspired in the participatory and visual approaches. The research involved 120 children from 6th class between 10 and 17 years, more a relevant number of siblings and friend of children of the first group, through the snowball sampling. Results suggest that children are competent in representing the complex connections between different spaces and different times existing in their lives. Still, on the one hand,the practice of taking care of other children results from the development and updating of traditional cultural habits of Mozambican rural areas; on the other hand, an important value of children, especially girls, preparation to their future role of parents, is recognized to this activity.

Drawing the future: continuity and rupture in schoolchildren's visions of their adult life in a rural school of Chiloé, southern Chile

Author: Giovanna Bacchiddu (Pontificia Universidad Catolica, Chile)  email

Short Abstract

This paper, based on ethnographic research among schoolchildren in indigenous rural southern Chile examines the projections of their future selves as adults via drawings and narratives. The material reflects continuity and innovation in a context where tradition and modernity increasingly interplay.

Long Abstract

This paper, based on ethnographic research among schoolchildren in indigenous rural Chiloé, southern Chile, examines the projections of their future selves as adults through drawings and group narratives.

When asked to take part in a project on their idea of their future, the children (aged 4 to 13) of the island of Apiao expressed their vision both via narratives and drawings. The material produced reveals both continuity and innovation and reflects on the one hand the importance of family values, embedded in the agricultural activities, and on the other the wish to overcome tradition and embrace a new, modern ideal. The ideal of 'modernity' transforms the schoolchildren's expectations and desires, while tradition shapes their daily lives. This paper seek for the children's point-of view and analyses the interplay of traditional life, safely experienced through strong kinship ties and local values, and aspirations and visions of an unknown future that would imply a clean break with the experienced patterns. The ethnography will be analysed with reference to the strong changes that are currently occurring on the island, such as the recent arrival of centralised electricity and the consequent interest in modern, electronic equipment and industrially-produced items. This phenomenon is particularly relevant in a small, isolated community of indigenous people that feel cut out from middle-class, Chilean lifestyle and its opportunities.

Forgiveness on the last day at school: growing up and history in a London school

Author: Sarah Winkler-Reid (Newcastle University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper focuses on the importance of the shared history of the year group in a London school and its culmination on ‘the last day of school’. Through a focus on Dominic, and his emotional speech to the group, I highlight the irreversibility of action and the importance of forgiveness as part of this.

Long Abstract

The 'last day at school', during which pupils celebrated their last time together as a year group, culminated in an emotional speech from Dominic. The celebrations on the day represented the culmination of an important shared history, joining the school together at 11, these 15 and 16 year olds understood themselves as having grown up, and grown together over these last five years. Stories from the past were often retold as part of the cumulative actions that created a sense of sharedness and closeness. For all the funny stories, there were also stories of the pain they had inflicted on each other and of the brutally and force by which they sought to shape each other into particular kinds of persons. In these ways, Dominic had suffered amongst the most in the year. As I will argue in this paper, this shared history highlights the irreversibility of action (Arendt), but as Dominic's final speech exemplifies, the importance of forgiveness as part of this.

Apprenticeships, inheritances, vocations, careers: changing life story grammars, precarity and the contemporary youth question

Author: Phil Cohen (Burkbeck College)  email

Short Abstract

This paper looks at four grammars of life story telling which frame ‘youth’ in very different ways and compares the classical bildungsroman with contemporary coming- of-age stories to illustrate how these codings have become destabilised

Long Abstract

The framings of 'youth' have always been embedded in normative principles of periodisation and predicament encoded in culturally specific grammars of life history telling. In previous research I examined the historical development and articulation of four such codes : apprenticeship, inheritance, vocation and career.

This paper draws on more recent research to examine the destabilising of these codings by a pervasive shift to a post Fordist just-in-time production of the self. I will suggest that for 'generation rent' the vocation paradigm has become increasingly instrumentalised, while career is disconnected from real opportunity structures, and reverts to its original meaning of 'careering about'. Meanwhile on the other side of the class tracks, the signposts to growing up are no clearer . Apprenticeship is no longer to a patrimony of proto-domestic labour skills, but to an imaginary inheritance embodied in more or less ethnicised memoryscapes. This argument will be illustrated by comparing the classical adolescent bildingsroman with some contemporary coming of age stories . The paper concludes by arguing that the contemporary youth question has come to represent a more general condition of precarity, a crisis in life history making in which positions of precocious maturity and chronic immaturity are both culturally celebrated and disavowed.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.