WHY STUDY FORMS OF ANTICIPATION AND YOUTH AGENCY
According to many, Italian youth have experienced an inexorable downward spiral; fewer investments and opportunities for them hamper their self-realization, inducing many to lower their expectations (Leccardi, 2017), and driving many to emigrate abroad (Bello & Cuzzocrea, 2018). Whilst the COVID 19 pandemic has had the most serious consequences for the older population, it is expected to significantly reshape young people’s futures. In Italy it will contribute to a further reduction in opportunities for young people. Moreover, it is already enhancing long standing ideas of young people as ‘bamboccioni’; which refers to the notion that they are spoiled and unable to make personal sacrifice. On the contrary, we are counting on young people’s capabilities to deal with the future – Appadurai’s capacity to aspire (Appadurai, 2013) – as an important precondition and resource for the development of their agency. Within this framework, thefocus on young people as drivers of change and their ability to work out creative solutions and practices is at the core of the choice of case studies.
MAPPING FUTURES: A SURVEY
In order to map the field of futurity young people inhabit, we carry out a survey on a statistically representative sample of the Italian population. The purpose is to show how different forms of anticipation of the future (expectations, aspirations, projects, hopes, dreams and fears) intertwine in young peoples’ agency.
NARRATIVES OF THE FUTURE
The intangibility of the future has been widely discussed in sociological literature. The aim of this research project is to be inspired by creative methodologies in order to facilitate the development of narratives of the future. We are using photo-voice as a strategy to elicit narratives. We also aim to put the emotionality of the encounter between the researcher and interviewees at the core of the research process. We will be conducting 160 qualitative interviews (via Skype) with young people aged 25-34 with a view to focusing on four different kinds of active responses to a range of social conditions, and particularly with regard to uncertain futures: mobile young people, young people involved in non-conventional forms of political action, young people belonging to the so-called “second-generation of immigrants”, young people involved in the foundation of a start-up.
MOBILE YOUNG PEOPLE
It is often assumed that recent experiences of mobility inevitably lead to more opportunities for the young people involved, and therefore widen the horizon of their choices and orientations towards the future. However, mobile young people are not necessarily privileged, (strictly speaking) innovative, or destined to migration. In addition, mobility has been considered a possible turning point in the imagination of the future (Cuzzocrea and Mandich 2016): it is therefore a meaningful experience in youth transition. There is a need to investigate this nexus further with attention to the deconstruction of possibilities emerging through young people’s narratives.
YOUNG PEOPLE INVOLVED IN NON-CONVENTIONAL FORMS OF POLITICAL ACTION
According to both official surveys and public discourse, young people have little interest in politics and are scarcely involved in traditional political organizations. Nevertheless, as underlined by non-mainstream scholars, young people engage with non-conventional and informal forms of political action. In the age of individualization and presentification (Alteri, Leccardi e Raffini 2016), a process termed as the reinvention of politics (Beck, 1996) – involving new experiences of temporality – has replaced traditional forms of political participation. Our focus will be on young people who have had experiences of political participation. The research aims to analyse the relationship between the political participation of young people and the meanings they attribute to collective action. It aims to shed light on the role of the future in young people’s explanations of their political projects and collective action.
YOUNG PEOPLE BELONGING TO THE SO-CALLED “SECOND-GENERATION OF IMMIGRANTS”
According to Italian research (Miceli 2014), it seems that amongst young people belonging to the so-called ‘second-generation of immigrants’ their orientation to the future is more vivid when compared to other young people, through a considerable “capacity to aspire”(Appadurai 2013). Focussing on this group will allow us to foster our knowledge on the ways in which these young people look to the future in contemporary and “postcolonial” Italy. However, it may also shed light on the ways that past generations’ experiences are generally significant in forming the new generations’ horizons. This group of young people allow us also to see more clearly how representations of the future intertwines with the ones concerning the past (Jedlowski, 2017).
YOUNG PEOPLE INVOLVED IN THE CONSTRUCTION OF STARTUPS
This focus concerns young people involved in training projects which promote digital start-ups in the context of a national programme (Contamination Lab), aimed at fostering youth entrepreneurship. These are configured as spaces of collaboration between university students and PhD students of different disciplines. CLABs are designed to be arenas for developing a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, new learning models and the development of entrepreneurial and social innovation projects.
All the universities involved in the project participate in the CLAB initiative. The inclusion of this particular group will enable us to explore the chances for young entrepreneurs to succeed, especially through digital methods (Savonardo, 2013). The implications of these kinds of programmes represent cognitive capitalist dynamics (Cocco & Szaniecki, 2015): in fact it sustains both self-entrepreneurship capacities (the future as a ‘bet’) and creative skills amongst highly educated youth. Through comparing the experiences of young people in different localities, we aim to identify diverse models of entrepreneurship.