CFP: Struggle and Style: African Youth Cultures Today

“Struggle and Style: African Youth Cultures Today”

12 September 2014 University of Helsinki, Finland

Call for papers and sessions

“Struggle and Style: African Youth Cultures Today” is an international symposium organized by the University of Helsinki’s discipline of Social and Cultural Anthropology in cooperation with South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council. The symposium seeks to address current issues concerning youth cultures across Africa from an interdisciplinary perspective, and warmly welcomes contributions from across the humanities and social sciences.

This symposium expands upon the themes in the previously advertised event “Struggle and Swagg: South African Youth Today” which will form one part of the symposium program.

“Struggle and Style” approaches youth as a flexible and often prolonged period of life; according to conventional measures, such as establishing an independent household, many Africans remain reluctantly “youthful” well into their 30s. Yet even by more basic measurements, Africa is experiencing a demographic “bulge” with approximately sixty per cent the population under 24 years of age. Subject to high levels of unemployment and relatively low levels of education, Africa’s youth are alternatively depicted as a “ticking time bomb” ready to explode if new opportunities are not made available, and a vital asset to be harnessed in rapidly developing economies.

It is in the cultural sphere that African youth are increasingly exercising their economic muscle and making their voices heard. Youth are the key producers of popular media and style, and the key market for information and communications technology. Youth culture, particularly popular music, has had an important economic and social impact on African society and the global African diaspora.

It is therefore necessary to understand African youth cultures from perspectives that move beyond the familiar narratives of youth as a social problem or youth as an undifferentiated statistical cohort. This symposium seeks to work towards more nuanced understandings of the cultural lives of young people in Africa, taking into account not just factors such as ethnic and class differences, but questions of consumerism, gender, globalization, media, migration, music, sexuality, spirituality, technology, pedagogy and urbanization.

We invite individual presentations (30 minutes including discussion) and complete sessions (90 minutes). Proposals (abstracts with approximately 250 words) with contact information should be submitted to by 21 July 2014. Notifications of acceptance will sent on 25 July 2014 by email. News and updates on the program will be available on the project blog (  We have confirmed two international keynote speakers, Alex Perullo (Bryant University, USA) and Benita Moolman (Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa).

The symposium organizers regret that they are unavailable to provide funds for the travel or accommodation costs of participants.