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877 - Indigenous youth and the politics of the future in the Americas

19.07.2012 | 08:00 - 13:30

Convener 1: Grotti, Vanessa (British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow , Oxford, United Kingdom/Ver Königr)
Convener 2: Brightman, Marc (Graduate Institute, Geneva, Genève, Switzerland / Schweiz)

Young indigenous people’s perspectives on the future are of great importance when, as is well known, the native societies of the Americas and elsewhere are undergoing continual change through their contact with world religions, state bureaucracies and modern technologies (in forms such as digital communication technology or biomedicine), and are affected by often dramatic environmental and demographic transformations. Few anthropologists have made detailed inquiries into the aspirations of indigenous people for the future, least of all into those of the youth. Anthropology has tended to focus on the past and the present, often maintaining a vestigial impulse towards ‘salvage’ ethnography. In doing so, it has naturally given more emphasis to the voices and perspectives of elderly and mature adults. Often the responses to contemporary changes among young people are markedly different from those of their elders. In some cases, they are more open to novelty, embracing it at home and traveling to the city to experience it further. Frequently, they express a sense of desperation, and bleak future prospects are blamed for alcoholism, drug addiction and even suicide, all of which are often most prevalent among young people. Such observations call for detailed ethnographic accounts that permit a fine-grained analysis. Recognizing the recurrence of similar features expressing attitudes towards the future among indigenous peoples across both continents, this panel seeks to foster a dialogue between anthropologists specializing in the different regions of the Americas, from Amazonia to Alaska, to compare and contrast case studies. In doing so, we expect to be able to contribute to knowledge of the common responses to change among Amerindian peoples. We hope that this focus on continuities will also allow us to build a bridge between the past and the future, allowing us better to understand the enduring features of indigenous youth. We invite contributions based on the ethnography of South, Central and North America, addressing the full range of questions raised by young indigenous people reflecting on the future. This may include (but is not restricted to) ethnographic accounts of: - Political engagement and youth activism - Narratives of and aspirations for the future - Health problems among young people, including addiction and suicide - Religion among young people, such as evangelical Christianity or shamanic revivalism - Cosmological or ontological perspectives, and, for instance, how they vary between generations - Parenthood, growing up and the 'moulding' of children for a changing world.

Keywords: Americas, change and continuity, indigenous peoples, politics of the future, youth

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