23. april 2018

Introduction: youth, subjectivity, and Utopia – ethnographic perspectives from the Global South

Professor Oscar Salemink from the Department of Anthropology has recently contributed to the theme issue of Identities. His publication is the result of the Department’s 2014 research retreat at Magleås with contributions from Professor Henrik Vigh and former staff Susanne Bregnbæk, Dan Vesalainen Hirslund, Helene Risør, Sara Lei Sparre, as well as former fellow Monique Nuijten. The publication explores topics on youth, subjectivity, and utopia.

As a fluid age cohort and a social category between childhood and adulthood – and hence with tenuous links to the status quo – youth are variously described as ‘at risk’, as victims of precarious and unpredictable circumstances, or as agents of social change who embody the future. From this future-oriented generational perspective, youth are often mobilized to individually and collectively imagine, enact and embody Utopian futures as alternatives to reigning orders that shaped their subjectivities but simultaneously fail them. The articles in this issue investigate how divergent Utopias inspire strategies, whereby young people come together in transient communities to ‘catch’ a fleeting future, cultivate alternative subjectivities, and thus assume a sense of minimum control over their life trajectories, if only momentarily. This special issue of Identities explores the individual and collective strategies at play when political and religiously inspired Utopias motivate youth in the Global South to imagine, enact, and embody what was missing in the past and present. The contributions to this issue show that youth are important social and political actors in movements of all stripes in the Global South, and that their motivation often stems from Utopian visions of a better future for themselves.

Oscar Salemink, Susanne Bregnbæk & Dan Vesalainen Hirslund, Introduction: youth, subjectivity, and Utopia – ethnographic perspectives from the Global South, Taylor & Francis, April 2018.