Syllabus: Economic Geography: Youth, Education and Work

December 3, 2013  • Posted in Teaching Resources  •  0 Comments

Stephen Young, University of Wisconsin-Madison

A number of geographers argue that youth have been more adversely affected than most by recent economic restructuring (Katz 2004; Jeffrey 2008). A scarcity of secure work, lack of public sector support and growing indebtedness are just some of the problems that millions of young people confront today. Yet, they are not passive in the face of such changes. Indeed, youth have been at the forefront of a number of recent protests from NYC, to London, to Cairo. Some scholars have even argued that because young people experience a “fresh contact” with entrenched social problems, they are particularly adept at developing innovative ways to tackle them (Mannheim 1923; Cole 2004).

The focus of this course will be on how youth in different parts of the world are responding to a shifting social-economic landscape. We will begin by examining some important conceptual debates in economic geography regarding neoliberalism, economy, youth and spatiality. We will then read a series of critical ethnographies that will take us from southern Africa to Silicon Valley and many places in between. We will be centrally concerned with the question of how young people find a way to “make ends meet”, often under conditions of considerable constraint. In the process, we will also be trying to “make ends meet” in an academic sense by considering how these case studies relate to one another, what similarities and differences are revealed, and how they might inform larger theoretical debates in economic geography.

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