In June and July 2021 two new journal articles from this project were published. These can be found on the Publications page.

The first article focuses on a methodological innovation in relation to ‘interviews with things’ or, more specifically, object-based interviews. This is a method that has so far been used to either explore memory and the past as objects have proven to serve as great prompts for telling rich stories about these events, or to explore materiality and the history of specific objects. I wanted to explore the potentials of using objects to explore future orientations. In this article I describe how I used an object task (‘will you bring two objects to the interview, one that reminds you about your past and one that reminds you about your future’) to enable participants to project themselves into the future and the analytical potentials this task generated. As I write in the article, the participants seemed to find the task interesting and, while some commented that it was difficult, they had all chosen an object for both past and future. In the paper I demonstrate how this task facilitated different types of future narratives: those that were settled and clear on plans and dreams ahead; those that depicted the future as an unresolved and in that sense still open question and those that focused less on future plans but were oriented towards self and wellbeing.

The second article contributes to the literature on youth, mobility and belonging. Mobility is a buzzword that is high on the agenda in both policy and research, and being mobile is a positive descriptor, not least for young people. But this valorisation of mobility has a downside, in that ‘immobility’ has clear, negative associations: being immobile equals being ‘stuck’, a ‘failure’ and not being aspirational. In this article I focus on a subgroup of the total sample in the research project; young women who lived around three hours from Melbourne in a regional area with higher than average unemployment and an overrepresentation of a range of other social problems too. While this might look like a place where young people would not want to stay, this was not the case for the participants.

Even though most of them described the area in very negative terms (‘a shithole’ and ‘depression-inducing’ were just a couple of the descriptors used), this did not mean that they were ready to move elsewhere (with a few exceptions) – quite the opposite. Their decisions to stay, however, required them to negotiate both their sense of belonging in light of the stigmatised identity of the area, as well as negotiate their future aspirations to be able to accommodate other aspects of their lives than their own education and/or a job, but also children’s futures, own and partner’s families, and other forms of ties to the local area, as well as in some cases their financial situation; moving to a ‘better place’ would be more expensive.

This led to an aspiration for ‘good enough’ futures, as one participant put it. ‘Good enough’ futures were a compromise between those multiple dynamics, but also a clearly classed (inferior) and gendered (in their focus on care and familial relations) orientation to the future. The article concludes by calling for shifting our terminology from immobility to a positively connoted term such as spatial continuity to valorise decisions to stay when grounded in strong ties and a sense of belonging. This, however, must be accompanied by social justice initiatives and social infrastructure to ensure that regional areas are not lacking behind in terms of the futures and lives that are possible here.

Image: Shubham Dhage on Unsplash

%d bloggers like this: