Stephen Young


Ambivalent Attachments: Youth and Economic Insecurity in India

Interpretations of youth unemployment tend to pitch young people as either harbingers of positive social change or as politically naïve and prone to impulsive, destructive actions. Drawing on fieldwork in North India, I argue that the strategies through which young people navigate economic insecurity demonstrate greater ambivalence than is often assumed. I focus on a cohort of lower middle-class men who had initially aspired toward securing salaried, government jobs. However, when the government further privatized the higher education sector, they found themselves well placed to establish their own colleges and profit from a new generation of students. I explore how these men styled themselves as entrepreneurs who could quickly adjust in a rapidly changing economy. I further highlight how the men assuaged the moral anxieties they sometimes felt about their actions by pointing to their own marginality in relation to India’s economic “take-off.”

Part of Overworked and Underpaid



Stephen Young (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Stephen Young is assistant professor of geography and international studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He received a PhD in geography in 2010 from the University of Washington. His dissertation research examined the commercialization of microfinance programs in Andhra Pradesh. More recently, he has been conducting fieldwork on the expansion of private colleges in northwest Uttar Pradesh. Both projects focus on the contradictory ways in which educated young men are embroiled in these processes as entrepreneurs or activists. His work has appeared in journals including Antipode, Economy & Society, Political Geography, and the Annals of the Association of American Geographers.

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