Reflections on Youth Studies Conference

In 2014 we ran our conference funding for Early Career Researchers scheme for the first time. In this series of posts, some of the winners report from the conferences they attended with our support. 

By Christy Kulz

The Journal of Youth Studies Conference took place over three days in Copenhagen last March. This conference was probably the best-organised and well catered-for affair that I have attended in my conference-going career. From a stand offering myriad varieties of organic hot dogs at the evening reception to lunches including creative salads, delegates had plenty of sustenance on offer to get them through an extensive programme of over 270 papers with 350 participants from more than 40 countries. Freedom from mystery luncheon goujons aside, the conference programme was intellectually rigorous and considered a range of issues relating to the study of youth, including education, work and unemployment, gender and sexualities, politics and resistance, exclusion and marginalisation and place and space. It also covered historic debates in youth studies and the purchase these previous theoretical and methodological approaches might have when considering current issues of precarity and unemployment facing youth. While the conference’s focus was decidedly western, delegates from outside the global north vocally interjected in the discussion to bring this (often) implicit focus into sharp critique.

The conference offered a time for me to reflect on how my research both fits within and sometimes jars with the field of youth studies. It provided a chance to consider how different concepts and languages may or may not offer my research fruitful theoretical and methodological resources in the future. How would using the language of belonging or risk or subculture fit with or shift the focus of my research? And how do different ways of speaking or approaching research act as political choices where these modes of reflection offer or preclude certain discussions? My paper ‘To the margins: securitisation, racialization and the business of education’ was included in the stream on exclusion and marginalisation. This was the first time that I had presented my new postdoctoral research on practices of school exclusion in the face of continuing deregulation and centralisation in England alongside some of my previous work on academy schools. Despite being scheduled for one of the conference’s final paper sessions, the session was well attended and I enjoyed fruitful discussions with fellow panel participants from Austria and Canada.

The conference also gave me a chance to reconnect with Danish researchers that I had met during my time as a visiting postdoctoral fellow at the University of Copenhagen in the previous year. The Nordic perspectives on young people and inequality explored in the sessions fed into the development of a grant proposal and has also laid the foundations for a future potential collaborative project with Danish researchers working on the production of the ethnic other through modes of governance. Notably Professor Jon Kvist’s keynote lecture showed how macro-level social policy has a direct bearing on the micro-level contexts youth live within. His paper about why youth in Nordic countries have been more shielded from the financial crisis and resulting austerity policies than youth from other EU nations displayed how structures of governance continue to matter despite neoliberalism’s emphasis on the aspirational individual.

Originally posted 5th November 2015.

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