There is extensive research on the growing uncertainty in young people’s lives, focusing on the difficulties met in the transitions to adulthood in different spheres of life, whether private or public. These struggles are somehow exacerbated by the assumption, rarely challenged (Cuzzocrea and Collins 2015), that the route to adulthood implies a lonely journey. What has been sociologically conceptualised as a postponement of the markers of adulthood (Cavalli and Galland 1996 among many others) can be seen as a sign of a diffuse difficulty in making one’s own way into the adult world. For instance, the precarity of career paths -often having serious implication on one’s private life such as the deferral of parenthood - is one element of an overarching difficulty in participating to public life and assuming public roles of several kinds.
But where do these struggles are supposed to take place? And through what temporalities, given that linear time does not explain anymore the structure and experience of young people’s lives? On one side, if we can start agreeing that choices that are taken while becoming an adult cannot be assumed to happen ‘at home’, a lot remains to investigate regarding what it is not ‘home’ –not yet, but may become so. How to make sense of ‘spatial reflexivity’ (Cairns et al. 2013; Cairns 2014), to account for youths’ reasons for wanting (or not wanting) to move for a study or work experience, for instance? On another side, the notion that young people find themselves taking time before embarking on one path or another, or while doing so, is seen as a constitutive element of the transition itself- the so-called psychosocial moratorium (Erikson 1968), whether in erratic forms or under institutionalised shapes (eg gap years). However, while the need for exploration brings along some positive aspects and openess to the future, forms of ‘time taking’ such as ‘waithood’ are more slippery and may hide ambivalent sides of youth’s agency.
The research line I will develop while at MWK intends to explore contextually notions of time and space in the transitions to adulthood, elaborating on the contribute that social theory can bring to the study of young people and critically assessing the ‘mobility turn’ discourse in view of the fundamental need of young find for themselves a place in the (adults) world. This work is intended to be preparatory for further empirical investigations on this theme.
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