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Landscapes of youth at work: places, practices and possibilities for livelihood making in South Africa

Book - Dissertation

This thesis is about young people's livelihood making in contemporary South Africa. In a first exploration of youth at work, I use the concept of employability as analytical lens to evaluate young people's engagements with work in the labour market through the development of a multidimensional employability index. This quantitative perspective clearly shows the impact of lived realities at the individual, household, and neighbourhood level on young people's chances in the labour market. The analysis also shows the limitations of employment as a strategy for livelihood making and invites one to look at more diverse and intricate ways of youth making a living. Following, I ethnographically explore livelihood making among youth in the small harbour community of Hangberg in the Cape Town area. Diverse economic practices and everyday interactions through which young people get by and seek to get ahead intersect with social, political, ecological and economic contexts. Young people juggle multiple temporal horizons implied in the enduring impact of colonial histories, the urgency of surviving, and yearnings for wellbeing and social becoming. Assemblage thinking provides the overall framework that synthesises the different methodologies used to describe macro and micro-levels of livelihood making in this research. Assemblage thinking also provides a lens to look at the material and affective places, practices, and possibilities involved in how young people materialise, experience and envision their livelihoods in post-apartheid South Africa.
Publication year:2022