Key note abstracts

Maria Pisani

The invasion of dark illegalized youth armed with a smart phone: critical reflections on youth forced migration in the EU and implications for Youth Research

Images of lifeless bodies floating in the Mediterranean, couched in humanitarian discourses of victimhood, are juxtaposed with images of razor wired fences and the protection of borders. The majority of refugees and forced migrants crossing the Mediterranean are young men, including those categorized as ‘unaccompanied minors’, and young adults in their late teens and early twenties. Apparently falling outside of the category of ‘vulnerable victims’, the latter are largely absent in humanitarian discourse and service provision, and yet, all too present in the discursive production of militarized border controls and the ‘fight against terrorism’. Homogenized, sometimes exoticized and frequently erased of voice, the illegalized dark young body is construed as and represents the threatening ‘other’, his/her agency and provenance the source of ‘our’ insecurity in a rapidly changing globalized world. The Global South is revealed as more than a metaphor, imbued with a history of colonialism and neoliberalism through which neocolonial inequalities are reproduced: but not without protest or challenge. 

Youth research remains peripheral to the forced migration debate, whilst refugee and forced migration studies reinforce the legal child/adult dichotomy: youth is perpetually marginalized. Drawing on literature framed by post-structuralist and critical theories and my own observations in the field, this paper seeks to disrupt and decentre the Eurocentric focus of Youth Research, whilst unpacking some of the complex issues surrounding the intersections between youth and forced migration.

Stephanie Hemelryk Donald

Child migrant responses to genre, film-practice and authority space

In 2012-2015 I worked with first generation child migrants in Australia, the UK and China in a series of workshops we called The Dorothy Project. Allied to a parallel programme of film analysis and archival work looking at child migration on film, these workshops invited young people to engage with ideas of colour, scale and transitional objects to create film narrative on the theme of separation and journeys. Their responses and ideas fed into my parallel work and enlisted them as co-researchers. In all cases the films made were within a structured brief and were not intended to require the film makers to engage with their own stories too literally. However, the results were exceptionally rich in subversive and suggestive material. Themes that were shared amongst all groups were - how to manage extreme uncertainty, the problem of violence, and loneliness. The presentation will address these themes through the work produced by the participants/co-researchers and will also discuss my own responses to their feedback on a new canon of film that captures the conditions of arrival and settlement for the young migrant today. 

Fadma Aït Mous

Youth (un)employment in Morocco: discourses, policies and youth strategies

If we were to summarise the main findings of the SAHWA national case study pertaining to Morocco, we would say that the youth are constantly torn between social, collective marginality and the individual, economic quest for autonomy. Not that political participation is absent – it is instrumental and multi-faceted, but not overtly predominant in the public sphere. This could be explained by the weak impact of education and employment policies on knowledge, the importance of virtual and alternative spaces for observing youth practices and giving them new opportunities, and the lack of confidence in institutions and migration alike. Young people’s representations, in the post-2011 context, are thus directed inwardly, more towards personal success than collective actions.

Henri Onodera

On waithood and shifting life-spheres in Egypt today

Since 2011, Egypt has witnessed a historic period of revolutionary upheaval, unprecedented since its independence in 1952. At the same time, it witnessed similar demographic development as other postcolonial societies in the Middle East and North Africa, such as the apparent “youth bulge” whereby almost some two-third of the population are under 29 years of age. Many have faced deep contradictions between, on one hand, powerful aspirations that stemmed from the promises of revolutionary change in relation to what they feel they are due and their livelihood expectations and, on the other, the continued uncertainties and challenges of attaining them. Although the post-2011 period instigated wide turbulences and changes in high-level politics, the longstanding challenges of unemployment and socioeconomic polarization have not withered away. For the young, it specifically involves the challenges of finding a satisfying job, an apartment, and getting married and attaining the productive and reproductive roles as adults. In this talk I approach these issues through the coinciding notions of waithood and life-spheres; the former pointing to the period of prolonged adolescence and the latter to the multiple domains of everyday life through which young people navigate their pathways and transitions to adulthood.