The Youth thematic group has had a very active and productive couple of weeks, beginning with the Youth Symposium on the 22nd of November at the University of Melbourne, and continuing the following week at the annual TASA conference at Monash University.
The theme of the Symposium was ‘Emerging Concepts in the Sociology of Youth’, and was designed to promote collaboration and discussion between scholars in the sociology of youth who are working between some the dominant ‘transitions’ and ‘cultures’ approaches. Drawn from submissions to the Newsletter earlier in the year, the Symposium was organised around four key areas: continuity and change; consumption, creativity, identity; the body and embodiment; and space and place. Each of these sessions were chaired and organised by members of the group: Dan Woodman, Andy Bennett, Julia Coffey, David Farrugia and Paula Geldens. Each session featured 3-4 short presentations closely linked to each theme, and provided the context for discussion and debate with the symposium attendees. Each session also featured a presentation by a PhD candidate in the sociology of youth. These papers were chosen competitively, and awarded $250 to acknowledge their contribution to the field as emerging scholars. The Symposium event, including the PhD award, was supported by funding from TASA.
PhD Award Recipients:
Rose Butler, Australian National University: ‘In Fairness We Trust: Children, Families and Economic Insecurity’ (presented in the ‘Continuity and Change’ session)
Ben Green, Griffith University: ‘Epiphanies with music: peak music experiences, feeling and identity’ (presented in the ‘Consumption, Creativity and Identity’ session)
Valeria Varea, University of Queensland: ‘New methodological approaches to studying the body among Human Movement undergraduate students’ (presented in the ‘Body and Embodiment’ session)
Michelle Mansfield, University of Newcastle: ‘Space, Place and Youth Cultural Expression on the Streets of an Indonesian City’ (presented in the ‘Space and Place’ session)
Dan Woodman, chair of the ‘Continuity and Change’ session began proceedings with a sketch of the field of sociology of youth in relation to dominant and emerging perspectives, based on a book he and Johanna Wyn are currently co-authoring. Steven Threadgold’s presentation discussed the figures of ‘hipster’ and ‘bogan’, and how they feature in the Australian imagination, linking to established class inequalities. Rose Butler’s presentation explored the ways school children understand and negotiate economic insecurity with notions of ‘fairness’.
Andy Bennett chaired the second session, ‘Consumption, Creativity and Identity’. Brady Robards (with co-author Sian Lincoln) discussed how ‘growing up’ narratives are present in both the bedroom and social networking spaces in the lives of young people. Ben Green presented findings from research with young people on their understandings of ‘peak’ music experiences, and the ways taste and identity are formed by social norms. Susan Bird’s presentation described the ways the urban playground can be used as spaces of creative consumption. Eli Golpushnezhad outlined the history of rap music and the rap scene in Iran, and explored the different ways rap intersects with consumption and identities for young people in Tehran.
Julia Coffey chaired the session on the ‘Body and Embodiment’. Julia’s presentation suggested that embodied approaches are not commonly used in the sociology of youth, and explored some of the ontological and methodological tensions to navigate in pursuit of a more ‘embodied’ research. Audrey Yue, a cultural sociologist, discussed the ways that youth sexualities can be understood as sites of embodied modernity for young people living in Asia. Megan Sharp and Pam Nilan presented research with young women in the hardcore music scene, and discussed the ways ‘queer’ was mobilised to navigate this emphatically masculine space. Valeria Varea’s presentation discussed the use of visual methods such as photo elicitation in discussing the body in research on bodily ideals and health.
David Farrugia and Paula Geldens chaired the final session, ‘Space and Place’. Their co-authored presentation explored the ways space and place have been used problematically in research with young people, and require re-theorising in order to understand the intersections of place with inequalities. Alan France, with Dorothy Bottrell, presented on the ways youth identities can be understood as formed within their local, specific conditions, but also in reference to a broader political ecology. Michelle Mansfield discussed the ways urban and public space is negotiated and continually reshaped through street art in Indonesia. Chivoin Peou’s presentation discussed the ways that place, tradition and resources impact on young people’s transitions to work in contemporary Cambodia.
Each session generated vibrant discussion, and there was great congruence between the different presentations throughout. Familiar themes of class and gender ran throughout, as well as a growing focus on ‘Southern’ perspectives through the range of work exploring the lives of young people living in Asia. The challenge of using familiar, dominant concepts such as individualisation and a Western focus on modernity to understand the complexity of young people’s lives in rapidly changing and diverse contexts, such as Asia, will likely be an ongoing focus for the sociology of youth. The breadth of presentations in the symposium also demonstrated the potential for greater interdisciplinarity in the sociology of youth. Furthering connections and collaborations with scholars working in cultural studies, for example, and other areas of sociology could assist us to better respond to the complexity of young people’s lives through developing new conceptual and methodological responses.
Many who attended the Symposium also attended and presented papers at the TASA Annual Conference, 26th-28th November at Monash University. The conference celebrated TASA’s 50th anniversary, and was themed around reflections, intersections and aspirations across the 50 years. Keynotes by Professor John Holmwood, Professor Celia Lury and Professor Raewyn Connell explored these themes in relation to the changing higher education landscape and hopes for Australian sociology in this environment. The conference dinner, held at the MCG, was a highlight, in which those who have made significant contributions to TASA and to sociology were celebrated.
As in past years, the Youth stream featured prominently in the conference program, with one or more Youth sections running across every session time. The Youth stream ran eight sessions, with a total of 33 presentations. These sessions ran across themes of wellbeing, migration, agency and conceptual challenges, culture, place, community and participation, social media, and education and employment. As conveners, we were thoroughly impressed by the quality and scope of presentations across these sessions. The conference and symposium confirmed to us the talent of this group! One of our biggest strengths as a thematic group is the breadth of those working in the sociology of youth; our group is made up of established, senior academics, as well as a good number of mid-career and PhD and early career scholars. The mentorship and contributions provided by our established colleagues in particular really helps to create the atmosphere of collaboration and support that ultimately strengthens all of our work. It is this environment that will also help us to address the range of challenges that have been identified across both the symposium and conference.
Please get in touch if you have any feedback or ideas for future events, or would like to volunteer to contribute to the group in any way. Writing a blog post on your research would be a great way to contribute, for example!
We really hope those who attended the symposium and/or conference enjoyed the sessions. Many thanks to all presenters, session chairs and attendees for your contributions. We look forward to continuing opportunities for collaboration and engagement for the TASA Youth thematic group next year and into the future!
TASA Youth Conveners
Julia Coffey, David Farrugia and Paula Geldens.
More photos of the symposium can be found on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/TASAyouth/