Drawing on fine-grained ethnographies from Bissau, Chile, China, Egypt, Ecuador and Nepal, this volume explores how politically, religiously and (sub-)culturally inspired Utopias motivate youth in the Global South to imagine, enact and embody what was missing in the past and present.
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 mobilised to individually and collectively imagine, enact and embody Utopian futures as alternatives to reigning orders that moulded their subjectivities but simultaneously fail them. The contributions to this book look at 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.
As youth enact and embody their aspirations for the future in the present, this book will be of interest to those researching how utopian visions shape practices and subjectivities of youth in the present. This book was originally published as a special issue of Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power.
Oscar Salemink is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark; and Adjunct Professor in the Institute for Religion, Politics and Society at ACU Melbourne, Australia. He has conducted field research in Vietnam, China and Europe, amongst other places, and his current research interests concern religion, heritage, museums and contemporary art.
Susanne Bregnbæk is an anthropologist and Associate Professor at University College Copenhagen, Denmark. Her book Fragile Elite: The Dilemmas of China's Top University Students (2016) explored the predicament of Chinese youth in a society undergoing rapid transformation. Her current work focuses on the encounter between migrant families and the Danish welfare state.
Dan Vesalainen Hirslund is a social anthropologist from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He works primarily on South Asian politics and economy, and has conducted extended fieldwork in Sri Lanka and Nepal on refugees, Maoism and informal labour. He is currently exploring connections between capitalist globalisation and the construction industry.
Introduction: youth, subjectivity and Utopia - ethnographic perspectives from the Global South
Oscar Salemink, Susanne Bregnbæk and Dan V. Hirslund
1. Utopias of youth: politics of class in Maoist post-revolutionary mobilisation
Dan V. Hirslund
2. Experimenting with alternative futures in Cairo: young Muslim volunteers between god and the nation
Sara Lei Sparre
3. In search of the heart of a heartless world: Chinese youth, house-church Christianity and the longing for foreign Utopias
4. Displaced utopia: on marginalisation, migration and emplacement in Bissau
5. 'When breaking you make your soul dance' Utopian aspirations and subjective transformation in breakdance
Maritza Bode Bakker and Monique Nuijten
6. Disjunctive belongings and the utopia of intimacy: violence, love and friendship among poor urban youth in neoliberal Chile
Helene Risør and Ignacia Arteaga Pérez
Afterword - Utopia: secular and religious
Bryan S. Turner