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An interdisciplinary research centre that examines what it means to grow up in a global world


Archive for the 'Youth and the Global South' Category

Youth mobility webinar series week 1: India

By UCL Global Youth, on 9 April 2021

To view a recording of this webinar, visit our Youtube channel.

On Tuesday 4 May, 2021, 12 noon UK time. Register for this event on Eventbrite.

The first webinar of this series will focus on rural/urban youth mobility and international student mobility in India.

To start the session, Prof Supriya RoyChowdhury and Prof Carol Upadhya (NIAS, Bangalore, India) will present their findings on the migration of rural youth to the city to take up (often low-paid, insecure) jobs in the services sector, persuaded by government-funded, private sector-run skills training centres to ‘raise their aspirations’.

Next, Dr Peidong Yang (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore) shares insights into international student mobility, drawing on his ethnographic research on Indian youths pursuing English-medium medical degrees at a provincial university in China. He argues that ‘rationalistic’ explanations of Indian students’ educational mobility do not give the full picture: instead, he draws on the notions of compromise and complicity to explain behaviour and interactions.

Following the presentations, Dr Sazana Jayadeva (University of Cambridge) will draw out key themes and will invite questions for our speakers from webinar participants.

Presentation 1: Taking the Train Back Home:  Migrant Service Workers in Bengaluru

 Prof Supriya RoyChowdhury and Prof Carol Upadhya (both NIAS, Bangalore, India)

This presentation draws on a two-year study of youth from marginalised rural households who have been recruited by skill training and then placed in low-end service sector jobs in Bengaluru, India. We describe the processes of ‘mobilisation’ employed by NGOs to convince young people with 10th standard education and above to join short-term skill courses. While their expressed goal is to ‘raise the aspirations’ of youth from low-income families, once they enter training the effort is to ‘lower their expectations’ because the courses cannot equip them for the type of employment they desire – secure, well-paid government or public sector jobs. We highlight the tension between the aspirations of these rural youth who are channeled into the new service economy on the promise of social mobility, and the realities of these jobs and urban life – leading to peripatetic ‘career‘ paths in which they cycle frequently between the city, their hometowns or villages and other sites, in search of better employment or additional training or education. The instability of their life courses reflects the conditions of work in the new service economy in India, which is marked by fluidity and precarity and whose employers benefit from the availability of a large pool of potential workers from outside the city. The presentation reflects on how youth from low-income households try to forge strategies of social and spatial mobility in pursuit of their own aspirations against the background of the crisis of unemployment in India.

About the authors:

Supriya RoyChowdhury is currently Visiting Professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Her book, City of Shadows: Slums and Informal Work in Bangalore, is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.

Carol Upadhya is Professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru, where she heads the Urban & Mobility Studies Programme. She co-edited the volume Provincial Globalization in India: Transregional Mobilities and Development Politics (Routledge, 2018).

Presentation 2: Compromise and complicity as “extra-rational” logics of international student mobility: the case of Indian medical students in a provincial university in China

Dr Peidong Yang (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)

Existing scholarship on international student mobility (ISM) often draws on Bourdieu to interpret such mobility as a strategy of capital accumulation and conversion used by relatively privileged individuals/families to reproduce their social position and advantage. This perspective stems from and also reinforces a rationalistic/calculative understanding of student mobility. In this talk, I focus on an empirical case that scarcely exhibits “typical” characteristics of student mobility: Indian youths of less affluent backgrounds pursuing English-medium medical degrees (MBBS) at a provincial university in China. After initially struggling to offer “rationalistic” explanations of the Indian students’ educational mobility endeavour, I turn to the notions of compromise and complicity to articulate the sociocultural logics characterizing various stakeholders’ behaviour and interactions in this case. In doing so, I make an attempt to take ISM analysis beyond “rationalistic” theorizations such as those inherent in the Bourdieusian perspective and the “push-pull” framework.

This talk will be largely based on the speaker’s publication:  Yang, P. (2018). Compromise and complicity in international student mobility: the ethnographic case of Indian medical students at a Chinese university. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education. 39(5), 694-708. https://doi.org/10.1080/01596306.2018.1435600

About the author:

Peidong Yang is an Assistant Professor at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. A sociologist of education, Peidong’s main research interest is the intersection between education and migration/mobility. He has worked on a number projects, including Chinese student mobility to Singapore, Indian medical students in China, and immigrant teachers in Singapore. He is the author of International Mobility and Educational Desire: Chinese Foreign Talent Students in Singapore (Palgrave, 2016) and numerous journal articles. www.peidongyang.com


This series is hosted by the UCL Centre for Global Youth and co-organised by Dr Avril Keating (Director of the Centre), Dr Sazana Jayadeva (University of Cambridge) and Rachel Benchekroun (UCL-IOE). The series is funded by IOE International.

 “CGY Conversations with…” a series of interviews with youth researchers around the world

By UCL Global Youth, on 28 September 2020

COVID-19 has disrupted our usual research dissemination methods, and it has not been possible to host our usual seminars and workshops this year. But we didn’t want to miss out on hearing about all the amazing research that is taking place right now, and so we started a new initiative called “CGY Conversations with…”

As the name suggests, the “CGY Conversations with…” series involve us having conversations with youth researchers about their current research and their future research plans. The hope is that this format will be more informal than a research presentation webinar, but still informative. The interviews take place on Zoom and the recordings are posted on our Youtube channel.

Some recent highlights include:

  • Dr Sarah Pickard (Sciences Po) talking about youth environmental activism.
  • Professor Judith Bessant (RMIT) introducing her new book, Making-Up People: Youth, Truth & Politics
  • Dr Brett Lashua (IOE) talking about music, place, race and innovative research methodologies.
  • Dr Kieran Mitton (KCL) discussing youth gangs in Sierra Leone, Cape Town, Rio and London
  • Dr. Crystal Abidin (Curtain University) on the emergence of internet cultures and influencers
  • Dr. Sazana Jayadeva (Cambridge University) on the impact of COVID-19 on student migration aspirations.

To find out more, check out our Youtube channel.

Last updated: 19/04/2021

Youth agency and youth study theories: Perspectives from the Global South

By UCL Global Youth, on 28 September 2018

In late October, the Centre for Global Youth is hosting Dr Sharlene Swartz, the Executive Director of the Transformative Education research programme at the Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa. As part of this visit, Dr Swartz will be giving two talks, which are open to all.

Tuesday 30st October 2018 (10am – 11.30am, Room 739): Agency and impasses to success amongst higher education students in South Africa

In this lecture, Dr. Swartz will talk about the experience of young Black students in South African universities and highlight some of the particular obstacles that these students face. She will draw on the five-year longitudinal study that culminated in the book Studying while black (Swartz et al, 2018), and show an excerpt from the documentary Ready or Not! Black student experiences of universities in South Africa (https://youtu.be/hFcouu8ICfk). Dr Swartz will also discuss the methodological and theoretical frameworks she used for understanding student experiences in the context of inequality, and the challenges of formulating recommendations through such a theoretical framework.

This lecture is part of the 3rd year undergraduate Youth in a Globalising World Module but it is open to all, particularly students.

Wednesday 31st October 2018: Decolonising the curriculum – What can we learn from Global South theories and experiences? (Elvin Hall, 12.30-2pm)
*** This event is free, but booking is essential. To book you ticket, click here.
Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

Recent student protests in South Africa and around the world have centred attention on what has been termed ‘epistemic justice’ – the need to ensure that knowledge is released from the rhetoric of modernity, the logic of coloniality and the illusion of globality. Steering a careful pathway through a minefield of undefined and loosely employed terminology (inter alia indigenous, empire, Global South) this seminar will attempt to craft a careful answer to the questions: what does it mean to decolonise the curriculum and what will it take to do so? With regards to meaning, decolonising centres on three central questions: what is taught, how it is taught and who teaches it. In an attempt to show what kinds of interventions are needed, and the difficulties encountered, Swartz will describe a project in the field of youth studies (The Oxford Handbook of Global South Youth Studies). The Handbook, currently in preparation, offers an instructive case regarding how theory develops, travels, unravels and regenerates. Whilst showcasing new theoretical ways of understanding Southern youth’s life-worlds with its starkly differing material realities, it offers ways to avoid essentialising and homogenising Southern experiences and to ensure a renewed global youth studies from which everyone benefits.

Dr. Sharlene Swartz is Executive Director of the Transformative Education research programme at the Human Sciences Research Council in South Africa, an Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at the University of Fort Hare and an adjunct Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Cape Town. She holds undergraduate degrees from the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Zululand in South Africa; a Master’s degree from Harvard University and a PhD from the University of Cambridge. Her expertise and current research centres on the just inclusion of youth in a transforming society that includes interpersonal and communal notions of restitution. Her work is characterised by a focus on Southern theory, emancipatory methodologies and critical race theory. Before embarking on graduate studies, Sharlene spent 12 years at a youth NGO where she pioneered peer-led social justice programmes for school-going youth. She has published widely in academic journals and has authored or edited multiple books including Ikasi: the moral ecology of South Africa’s township youth (2009); Teenage Tata: Voices of Young Fathers in South Africa (2009); Youth citizenship and the politics of belonging (2013); Another Country: Everyday Social Restitution (2016), Moral eyes: Youth and justice in Cameroon, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and South Africa (2018) and Studying while black: Race, education and emancipation in South African universities (2018). She is the President of the International Sociological Association’s Sociology of Youth research committee, is a nationally rated researcher in South Africa and is the chair of the board of the Restitution Foundation, an NGO in South Africa.

This visit was facilitated by a grant from the UCL Global Engagement Fund.