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International Perspectives on Childhood and Youth in Hard Times

Bringing together new, multidisciplinary research, this book explores how children and young people across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas experience and cope with situations of poverty and precarity.

It looks at the impact of neoliberalism, austerity and global economic crisis, evidencing the multiple harms and inequalities caused. It also examines the different ways that children, young people and families ‘get by’ under these challenging circumstances, showing how they care for one another and envisage more hopeful socio-political futures.

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This book set out to illuminate the personal, everyday effects of hard times for children, young people and families in diverse global contexts. In this concluding chapter, we begin by outlining the contribution of the three Parts of the book and their constituent chapters to our understanding of the hard times which interlace with the lives of children, youth and families. Our focus on ‘hard times’ aims to shed light on all manner of structural inequalities, longstanding exclusions and power imbalances which are being constituted or intensified by neoliberalisations, austerities and economic crises. Elucidating the implications of these complexly relational, hurtful and deeply affecting moments leads us to reflect on the opportunities and prospects for socially-differentiated children and young people getting by and growing up in hard times. In bringing together neoliberalisations, austerities and economic crises, we recognise how these processes are lumped together, materially and spatially (Katz, 2004; 2018) and in people’s everyday experiences. Drawing the collection to a close, we consider further directions for research which is sensitive to the interrelations between broadscale political-economic shifts and locally-scaled, personally inflected inequalities.

Divided into three key Parts, the collection began with an exploration of the transformative impacts of hard times for children, youth and families at the sharp end of neoliberalisms, austerities and economic crises. Drawing on work from diverse international contexts, Part 1 explored the transformations which play out unevenly at personal, familial and local scales as a result of political-economic processes.

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This collection gives voice to children, young people and families at the sharp end of contemporary processes of neoliberalisations, austerities and economic crises in diverse global contexts. We wish this book was not necessary or timely. However, as three geographers who have worked with many children, young people and families in different settings over the last 15 years, we are writing from a deep sense of sadness and urgency. This book has developed out of our anger and concern that the lives and prospects of so many of our research participants have demonstrably been adversely affected by manifestations of neoliberalisations, austerities and economic crises. The book is also written from heartbreak that our own communities, families and lifecourses have been profoundly affected by the same horrible processes. So as a point of departure, the following three vignettes from our research introduce some key terms, processes and deeply affecting encounters which echo throughout the following chapters.

During the global financial crisis of 2007–08, John was in the middle of several research projects based in spaces of play, youthwork and social care in the English Midlands. These spaces and communities were radically transformed by subsequent public sector funding cuts. Literally all of the youth organisations John worked with back then have now closed; literally all of the youthworkers and practitioners he worked with were made redundant. Within a few years entire, taken-for-granted categories of work/space (‘the public library’, ‘the statutory youth service’) were downsized, decommissioned and – apparently permanently – deemed unviable.

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