Youth Futures: Connection and Mobility in the Asia Pacific

15-16 November 2018
9am to 4pm
Deakin Downtown

The Alfred Deakin Institute’s flagship conference for 2018 will explore the increasingly interlinked, complex and uncertain world that young people across the Asia-Pacific live in. We are excited to welcome our three keynote speakers who will expand on their abstracts below.

Abstracts

'Mobile Kinscapes: Youth stewardship and Indigeneity in the multicultural settler nation'

Associate Professor Sandrina de Finney (University of Victoria, Canada)

Western settler nations (e.g., Canada, the US, Australia, Aotearoa, etc.) are colonial countries where “the settler never left” (Tuck and Yang, 2012). Under the adaptive neocolonial logics of settler nations, Indigenous peoples have been systematically excavated from their homelands, enabling the proliferation of a white anthropocentric settler ideal.

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In this presentation, I examine how white dominion, Indigenous nativism and minoritization are (re)constituted under the shifting contours of the new multicultural settler nation, which is characterised by eroded Indigenous sovereignty, renewed white longing and resentment, increased hybridity, mobility and migration, a growing anthropocene footprint, and uncertain and deeply racialized hyper-capitalist conditions.

I am particularly interested in understanding how young people’s responses to these 21st century dilemmas are being depoliticized as the neocolonial management of diverse bodies is extended and reimagined under the capitalist logics of bio-medicalization. Increasingly, white youth anxieties about their possible futures have been appropriated by the pharmaceutical industrial complex and framed as “mental health” disorders, with striking impacts on social and educational systems serving young people. In contrast, the persistent policing and necropolitical tracking of racialized others (de Finney, 2017) obscure the central role played by the medico-legal alliance in re-enshrining the sanctity of white settlements and white life (Palacios 2017).

In examining these questions, I draw on the concept of kinscapes (Atkinson, 2013; MacDougall, 2015) to consider how young people’s socio-political and material relations and (im)mobilities are constituted through settler-Indigenous-racialized relations. With a focus on my Indigenous homelands and the Canadian settler multicultural kinscape, I consider questions such as: What precarious attachments are being formed and performed as young people living in white settler nations look for new kinscapes of engagement with whiteness, Indigenous resurgence, and multicultural urbanities? What other onto-ethical frameworks might be available to youth who want to be good relatives and good stewards outside of anthropocentric settler logics? Amid growing concern for the anthropocene and posthuman/multispecies relations, how might Indigenous tribal ethics support Indigenous futures and disrupt settler durabilities –and at what cost?

'Chronomobilities of the Middle: Temporality and Young Asian Migrants in Australia'

Dr Shanthi Robertson (Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University)

For many of the young and middleclass in Asia, living, working and studying internationally, particularly in the Anglophone West, is assumed to engender possibilities to craft global lifestyles and global careers.

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This paper unveils the complex social realities of such aspirations. Focusing on how transnational mobility reshapes lived experiences of time for young Asian migrants in Australia, I unpack the complex nexus between social mobility and spatial mobility in a global era in which hegemonic flexibility is fundamentally reshaping career, migration and life trajectories.

Drawing on extensive narrative interviews and visual ethnographic material, I focus on how experiences of cultural, social and embodied time are transformed by transnational mobility for young Asian migrants in Australia. I draw here on the concept of 'chronomobilities' to describe the temporalities that structure mobile lives as well as emerge from them, via a conceptual framework of ‘time-regimes’ — the macro and mesoscale temporal conditions that shape contemporary social life — and ‘time-logics’ — the way individuals narrate and make meaning of their lived experiences of time.

This analysis reveals how young migrants’ trajectories are changing under the socio-temporal conditions of modernity and how multiple lived experiences of time structure translocal and transnational imaginaries and experiences of work, place and social life. I highlight how for the young and ‘middling’ migrant, pathways through migration and into adult life are intricately entangled and neither smoothly linear nor clearly temporally demarcated by ‘departure’ and ‘arrival’. Instead, transnationally mobile lives emerge as a series of contingencies, unexpected detours, and reimagined aspirations and desires, within which mobility is often ongoing and futures are often uncertain.

'Influencers and the materiality of youth digital cultures in Singapore'

Dr Crystal Abidin (Jönköping University, Sweden)

The earliest formations of the Influencer industry debut in East Asia in the mid-2000s. Having first taken root in vernacular digital cultures: narrative-formats on web blogs and forums, later progressing to still image, moving image, and audio formats as social media has evolved globally, Influencers have since become increasingly commercialised in their transactions, professional in aesthetics, and spectacular in content through their self-presentation formats.

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At the height of the industry’s Instagram culture in the early 2010s, Influencers flocked towards producing pretty images for self-curation. However, given the speed and saturation of social media attention economies, users soon grew fatigued with luxurious artifice and returned to networked intimacies of "self-deprecating relatability". At the same time, early histories of amateur blogshop culture from the 2000s, in which young women were selling used clothes and small-batch manufactured goods on blog platforms, quickly instigated shadow economies and networked knowledges around the production and purchase of "authentic replicas" of luxury items. Influencers who were role-modelling these knock-off "luxury alternatives" then became arbiters of taste, and tastemakers for working and lower-middle class youth seeking social mobility through consumption.

In this talk, I draw from an in-depth anthropological study of Influencers in Singapore and East Asia since the mid-2000s to interrogate notions of belonging and community, agency and resistance in relation to visual displays of class. Specifically, I ethnographically examine how some Influencers have initiated a hierarchy of knock-off consumption and display through grammars and practices that create and curate circuits of aspirational knowledge in which watered-down luxury fashion procures accretive value, while everyday products attain inflated monetary values by virtue of being imbued with the socio-cultural capital of Influencers. In closing, I consider how Influencer cultures create ambivalent models for social mobility and inclusion, by examining the bodies who are excluded from participation in these spaces.