Young People as Agents of Decolonization: Activism, Friendship, and the Pursuit of Leisure - I

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups:
Poster #:
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM (MDT)
Room: Studio 6, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Organizers: Mabel Gergan, Sneha Krishnan, Sara H. Smith
Chairs: Sara H. Smith


In this current historical conjuncture, young people are at the forefront of debates and protests against growing economic and ecological precarity. As indigenous youth protesting against pipelines on native land, or as activists tearing down confederate monuments in the U.S. and statues of colonizers in South Africa and the UK, young people are agents of history, exposing legacies of imperialism, racial capitalism, and settler-colonialism, as they simultaneously strive to understand their place in the world and grapple with an uncertain future. Within geography, everyday practices of decolonization have been increasingly studied, both in the context of the academy and in our ‘fieldwork’ (Tolia-Kelly 2017; Noxolo 2017; Baldwin 2017; Sundberg 2014; Last 2015). In this session, we are interested in theoretical and methodological interventions that center the voices and experiences of young people, especially minority and racialized youth, as they relate to projects and practices of decolonization.

Along with young people’s activism and political protests, following Bayat (2007), Ranade, Phadke, and Khan (2011), and Deeb and Harb (2013) we are interested in how and when might young people’s “politics of fun,” and pursuit of leisure and free time be part of decolonization work, broadly interpreted? When might the additional labor of decolonization that is taken up often by racialized minorities become a burden, precluding experiences of youth as a time of light-hearted fun and friendship? Further, how are friendship and intimacy configured as an ethic that can reconfigure kin relations, and geographies of belonging, or perhaps even question colonial relations, and subversively engage the nation-state, even as friends and intimates remain within an uneven imperial social formation (Sinha 1995, Burton 1994, Bressey 2015). This panel addresses young people’s practices of activism, protest, intimacy, friendship, and leisure as intimately tied to the larger project of decolonization. A few questions this session considers: How does this present moment connect to or reformulate longer trajectories of inter-racial and transnational solidarity? How do young people enact political solidarities and communities of faith through practices of friendship and love? In what ways do the politics of friendship reconfigure and shape ‘youth’ as a social and historical category of experience? How do such friendships engage geopolitical processes – for instance nation-making, imaginaries of global ‘north’ and ‘south’? What institutions, political discourses, and systems of belief mediate such intimacies?


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Introduction Mabel Gergan Georgetown University 10 3:20 PM
Presenter Sneha Krishnan*, University of Oxford, Rejecting the Nation: Friendship and Anti-Imperialism in India’s Student Christian Movement in the early 20th Century 20 3:30 PM
Presenter Amanda Gilbertson*, University of Melbourne, Politicizing and depoliticizing the personal: Young gender justice workers in Delhi 20 3:50 PM
Presenter Jacob Fairless Nicholson*, King's College London - London, International exchange and encounter: the case of the Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council 20 4:10 PM
Presenter Ruth Judge*, University College London, Hard Work, Helping or a Holiday? The politics of fun and friendship within ‘neocolonial’ volunteering programmes 20 4:30 PM

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