Held on wednesday 13th January 2016 at 2.30 in D/L/116 Kim Allen from Sociology and Social Policy Department at the University of Leeds will deliver a talk on: Celebrity culture and young people's imagined futures: Narratives of aspiration in austere neoliberal Britain.
Kim will explore the stories that young people tell about their aspirations and imagined futures within a context of austerity as growing poverty levels, unemployment and welfare retrenchment are disproportionately affecting young people’s lives. Specifically, it will examine how discourses of individualism, self-responsibility, hard work and enterprise feature in young people’s everyday talk about ‘success’ and ‘failure’. The paper will highlight the pervasiveness of neoliberal discourses of meritocracy within young people’s accounts, locating this as a ‘structure of feeling’ (Littler 2014) that circulates across political discourse and celebrity culture. However, it will complicate claims that the centrality of these discourses within young people’s account reflects a simple adoption of neoliberal ideology in which they are ‘blind to their circumstances’ (France and Haddon 2014). Attending to the powerfully emotional nature of discourses of self-reliance and ‘striving’ in the young people’s narratives, it will consider how these are entangled with individual and family biographies and entwined with practices of ‘resistance’ as young people seek to reconcile discourses of meritocracy with their lived experiences. Finally Kim will also interrogate the possibilities for young people to refuse to tell themselves according to these discourses, and consider silence, doubt and ‘not knowing’ as strategies of resistance. In doing so, the paper seeks to unpick the contradictions, complexities, ambivalences and ambiguities within neoliberalism as it works within and through the messiness of everyday practices.
Kim has been involved in the exciting CelebYouth project funded by the ESRC into young people and celebrity.