Masterclass – Mediating Asian Youth: How to Hope in a Precarious Time

Mediating Asian Youth: How to Hope in a Precarious Time

When? Friday November 14, 13.00-17.00
Where? University of Amsterdam, Oude Manhuispoort C1.23

RMeS-NICA Masterclass with:

  • Anneke Beerkens (Department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam)
  • Donna Chu (Chinese University of Hong Kong)
  • Jeroen de Kloet (Amsterdam Centre for Globalisation Studies)
  • Leonie Schmidt (Department of Mediastudies, University of Amsterdam)

We are living in a time of increased risk, fragility and precarity, both in the West as well as in Asia. Especially the young generation faces an uncertain future, in which job security has become an illusion from times past, environmental crises are looming and violent upheavals are becoming more rather than less common. It is a time, also, when everybody is deeply connected with all these events and changes, in which everyday lives are profoundly mediatized, and geographical boundaries seem to become obsolete. But is that really the case? How do boundaries matter in the lives of Asian youth today, what are the characteristics of the mediated lives, hopes, fears of youth in Japan, China, Hong Kong and Indonesia? This master class offers new venues of thinking about these issues, based on recent research into Asian youth and media cultures.

Take Hong Kong, 17 years after its return to China. Instead of getting closer, the two systems appeared to be moving apart more apparently than ever. Mobilized and led by a group of high school students, tens of thousands took to the street to protest against the introduction of a new national education curriculum in 2012. The social media-savvy student leaders manage to set new agenda for a Hong Kong that appears to be going nowhere.  Young people are debating what it means to be living a good life, and whether development is inherently desirable. Labeled as the Post-80s generation, these young people are said to be the bearers of emerging post-materialistic values.

Meantime, mass media in China as well as Hong Kong continue to come up with new labels for young people. Single young women are dubbed as “Sheng Nu”(surplus women); materialistic women are called “Gang Nu” (Hong Kong Girls); gamers are “otaku”; single boys are “Du Nan” (toxic boys). Their widespread use often conveys an impression that the new generation is hopelessly stuck.

Similar debates, but with quite a different twist, can be witnessed in Japan. In a time of increased precarity, shortly after the tsunami hit the shores of Japan and caused a nuclear disaster, Japanese youth are facing a future that appears to be the inverse of their parents. How to imagine a life less prosperous, less busy, more fragile? How to carve out an alternative lifestyle, and how can media and fashion help to do so?

Indonesia on the other hand is, like China, growing at unprecedented speed, it is a country that leapfrogs towards high-modernity, while it simultaneously also Islamizes. Today’s youth are thus facing the double challenge to become both modern and a good Muslim, and media and popular culture prove the ideal visual and sonic battleground to negotiate and stage these challenges.

In all places, like elsewhere in the world, including The Netherlands, young people are engaged in what we can term a politics of hope in times of precarity. Media are crucial in these politics, and in this seminar we will try to disentangle and discuss the different mediated trajectories taken by different youths.