CF Panelists—MESA 2019: Activities, Positionality, and Futures of Youth in the Maghreb

Erin Gould's picture
Call for Papers
February 10, 2019
Louisiana, United States
Subject Fields: 
Anthropology, Middle East History / Studies, Arabic History / Studies, Political History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies

Please circulated widely to interested parties:

Activities, Positionality, and Futures of Youth in the Maghreb

In diverse literatures, youth is an important and thoroughly discussed framework for research but also a highly debated and fluctuating term. Policy-makers often narrowly conceive of youth as a period of life based on a set age range. In contrast, most scholars define youth as a socially constructed and contextual term, referring to individuals who are no longer children and have not yet reached adulthood. While some research focuses on youth as a liminal life-stage where young people gain the social and economic resources to transition to adulthood, other studies emphasize how young people practice youth as a distinct socio-cultural category. Both approaches can provide useful frameworks to further knowledge about youth as a life-stage, especially when considering its contextual construction.

In many areas of the world, state, market, and social institutions have largely failed to provide adequate opportunities and resources for youth. Youth in the Middle East and North Africa are in a precarious situation due to the current “youth bulge,” where as much as 40% of the population are under the age of 30 years old (Herrera and Bayat 2010). Some scholars argue that longer periods of education, delayed entry into the labor force, and later marriages demonstrate a prolonged transition to adulthood in this region (White 2012). This delayed transition has been described as ‘waithood’, which works to construct young people as passive subjects in the face of a changing world (Assaad and Ramadan 2008). However, this panel demonstrates how young people have actively pursued alternative means of social, economic, and political participation in society through diverse choices, including migration, activism, extremism, and artistic endeavors.

As the “youth bulge” contributes to instability in opportunities and careers, how do young people consider their aspirations and futures in these societies? This panel will investigate the ways in which young people experience and practice the life-stage of youth in the Maghreb. Specifically, we focus on the diverse activities and labor in which youth engage, their future aspirations, and how they conceive of their positionality within society. This works to demonstrate the breadth of youth responses to their precarious societal position, particularly in the context of blurring urban/rural boundaries, challenges to gender norms, increasingly informal labor markets, and transnational cultural flows. By concentrating on how young people practice the life period of youth, we aim to bring together multiple scholarly approaches that analyze youth reaction and experiences in the Maghreb.

For this panel at the Middle Eastern Studies Association (MESA) annual meeting (New Orleans, LA, USA from November 14th to 17th, 2020), we are looking for 2 individuals interested in youth in the Maghreb region who are looking at narratives of futures, aspirations, opportunities, livelihoods, or hobbies for contemporary youth in the region. We encourage contributions focusing on different elements of the practice of the life stage of youth, as described above. Any disciplinary approach is welcome. Submitted abstracts must be 300-400 words and must demonstrate relation to the overall theme, have a clear thesis, describe methodology and data, and convey conclusions from research. 

If interested in presenting on this panel, submit abstracts by February 10th, 2019 at 5:00 pm EST. If interested in the topic but wish to be a discussant or be a panel chair, please submit a statement of 300-400 words about your interest in adding to this discussion. For all types of submissions, please include a short (1 to 2 line bio). Submit all to abstracts and statements to and

We will notify all interested of the status of their participation by February 12th, 2019. This panel is organized by David Balgley and Erin Gould.

David Balgley is an M.A. student in the Arab Studies Program at Georgetown University. His research focuses on agrarian political economy, land tenure, and rural transformations in Morocco.

Erin Gould is a Ph.D Candidate in Anthropology at the University of California, Riverside. Her research focuses on young storytellers in Marrakech, Morocco, and how these youth are enacting transformations to storytelling practices in the city.

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Erin Gould

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