CfP: Struggle and Swagg: South African Youth Today (University of Helsinki)

University of Helsinki & South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council:
„Struggle and Swagg: South African Youth Today“
12 September 2014 – University of Helsinki, Finland
Deadline: 16 May 2014

„Struggle and Swagg: South African Youth Today“ is an international one-day symposium organized by the University of Helsinki’s discipline of Social and Cultural Anthropology in cooperation with South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council. The symposium seeks to address current issues concerning South African youth from an interdisciplinary perspective, and warmly welcomes contributions from the humanities and social sciences.

The symposium will approach youth as a life stage, nowadays often a prolonged period before adulthood. According to conventional measures, such as establishing an independent household, many South Africans remain reluctantly „youthful“ well into their 30s. South Africa is also experiencing a demographic „bulge“, with approximately half the population under 24 years of age. Counted within this demographic are the first South Africans to live their lives free from the formal restrictions of the apartheid system and independent of the anti–apartheid struggle; the so-called „Born Free“ generation.

Subject to high levels of unemployment and relatively weak educational options and outcomes, and both victims and perpetrators of crime, contemporary youth in South Africa have been alternatively viewed as the embodiment of the disappointment and dysfunction of post-apartheid society and as a key cause of it. At the same time, South African youth are increasingly exercising their economic muscle; youth are the key makers of popular culture, and the key market for media and communications technology. Youth culture, particularly popular music, has had an important economic and social impact on South African society. This year, South African youth will have the opportunity to express themselves at the ballot box. The elections will be one instance for observing how the youth understand their agency and the relevant arenas for exercising it.

This symposium seeks to understand South African youth today from perspectives that move beyond familiar narratives of youth as a social problem and as an undifferentiated entity. The symposium seeks to work towards more nuanced understandings that take into account not just ethnic and class differences, but questions of consumerism, gender, globalization, media, migration, music, sexuality, spirituality, subculture, technology, pedagogy and the rural/urban divide.

We invite individual presentations (30 minutes including discussion) and complete sessions (90 minutes). Proposals with contact information should be submitted to by 16 May 2014. Notifications of acceptance will be sent on 30 May 2014 by email.

Keynotes and updates on symposium programme will be updated also on the project

The symposium organisers regret that they are unavailable to provide funds for the travel or accommodation costs of participants.

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