Young people making the future: Activists, Practices, Enmeshments

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Young people are always at the vanguard of social change, first to bear the brunt of evermore precarious labour markets and expensive education systems while being at the forefront of emancipatory global social movements such as feminism, trans rights, anti-racism and climate change. By being involved in overt political protests, online debates and via the sociality of their everyday lives, young people are making the future. In doing so they challenge the moral panic scapegoating of them at a time when there are more demands placed upon them than previous generations of adults could imagine. This seminar will present a diverse array of the engaged social actions of young people that contribute to making a viable future including climate change protest, feminist practices and learnings, and everyday friendships.

Sarah Pickard (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle)

Young Environmental Activists’ Motivations, Mobilisations and Methods:  Findings from Fieldwork

This talk discusses young people’s environmental activism in contemporary times. It starts by outlining why this current wave is important for multiple reasons. Next, I briefly describe my qualitative research on young environmental activists involved in various youth-led and youth-supported environmental movements, including climate school strikes, Fridays For Future (FFF), Extinction Rebellion (XR), Scientist Rebellion, Global Justice Now, etc. This research is centred on interviews before and after protest actions at various locations and types of events since March 2019 with young people between the ages of 12 and 34 who are cited throughout the talk. Then, I go on to discuss in more detail findings about 1) Motivations: the reasons why young people get involved, 2) Mobilisations: the reasons why young people engage with particular groups and networks, and 3) Methods: the reasons why young people adopt and adapt a particular repertoire of contention.

Julia Coffey (University of Newcastle) and Akane Kanai (Monash)

Everyday feminisms: exploring contemporary digital feminist learning and activism

In this presentation, Julia Coffey and Akane Kanai discuss two projects on contemporary online feminism. The first: a pilot project exploring the feelings and experiences associated with deliberation and disagreement in online feminist spaces conducted by Dr Coffey and Dr Kanai; the second, an expanded ongoing project on what young feminists learn from feminist online spaces and how this knowledge impacts their everyday lives. Both projects explore questions about how online architectures interact with existing social structures in shaping feminism’s new impacts and new meanings.

Thijs Schut (University of Amsterdam)

Young people’s friendships and the reproduction of everyday village life in rural Indonesia

In this presentation I explore the enmeshment of educated, but un(der)employed, young people in their rural communities in Ngada District (Flores, East Indonesia). In particular, I focus on their friendships, which help these young people to navigate personal aspirations, frustrations, anxieties and social pressure by providing channels for projects of the self, mutual care and, most importantly, having fun. In doing so, these friendships reproduce ‘liveliness’ (ramai), a highly valued social quality in Ngada, indicating a sense of togetherness. In Ngada, a strong morality of interdependence prevails and liveliness is one way in which this is expressed. Hence, the reproduction of liveliness by young people matters, as it transcends the everyday, giving sustenance to Ngada life and its social organisation, and brings vibrancy to marginalised communities.


Dr Sarah Pickard is a senior lecturer and researcher at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, in Paris, France, where she did her PhD after a BA Degree in Britain. Her research situated in Youth Studies and Political Sociology addresses the interplay between young people, youth policy, youth culture, political participation and protest in contemporary Britain with broader international perspectives.

Sarah is involved in many international research collaborations on young people’s civic and political participation such as convenor Young People’s Politics specialist group of the Political Studies Association (PSA) and vice president Sociology of Youth Research Committee (RC34) of the International Sociological Association (ISA). Sarah’s recent publications include: Politics, Protest and Young People (Palgrave, 2019, 501 pages) and coediting three volumes When Students Protest (Rowman & Littlefield, 2021).

Julia Coffey is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Newcastle, Australia and Deputy Director of the Newcastle Youth Studies Centre. She publishes in the areas of youth, gender, embodiment and feminism. Her most recent books are titled Everyday Embodiment: Rethinking Youth Body Image (2021, Palgrave) and Gender in an Era of Post-truth Populism (co-edited with Burke, Kanai & Gill, 2022, Bloomsbury).

Dr Akane Kanai is a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Media, Film and Journalism at Monash University. Her research explores identity in digital culture, feminism, cultures of femininity, and the gendered and racialised politics of emotion and relationality. She is currently undertaking an Australian Research Council research fellowship investigating the everyday impacts of online feminism for young feminists. Her book, Gender and Relatability in Digital Culture: Managing Affect, Intimacy and Value was published in 2019.

Thijs Schut is an anthropologist studying youth and their educated subjectivities, rural-urban connections, (global) flows of people and goods, and commodity chains. He obtained his PhD from the University of Western Australia with a study on the troubled education-to-work transitions of young people in rural East Indonesia. Currently, he studies young entrepreneurs on Sumba.

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