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Title: Educated youth in Kenya : negotiating waithood by greening livelihoods
Author: Mwaura, Grace Muthoni
ISNI:       0000 0004 6062 2346
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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The burgeoning scholarship on African youth indicates that young people are experiencing difficulties in attaining social adulthood and spend extended time in waithood - a period of economic and job insecurities that is becoming a permanent marker of their youth, affecting their life trajectories and future aspirations (Honwana, 2012; Locke & te Lintelo, 2012). Youth waithood involves navigating precarious conditions arising under neoliberalism and its economic liberalization reforms, and developing new subjectivities resulting from the acquisition of extra skills set, maintaining social networks, and engaging in new political formations (Jeffrey, 2008). Informed by concepts of neoliberal subjectivities, opportunity spaces, and Bourdieu's forms of capital, I conducted qualitative research with university students in six public universities, and with educated young farmers in Western, Eastern, and Central regions of Kenya. I investigated how Kenyan youth navigate waithood by occupying new opportunity spaces opened up by student environmentalism and agricultural entrepreneurialism - two areas that have been reconfigured by global discourses of environmental change, green jobs, and agricultural transformation. My findings show that the occupational aspirations of educated youth were changing to include navigation strategies of portfolio occupations, tarmacking, and side-hustling. Within the new opportunity spaces, these youth realized neoliberal subjectivities that enabled them to garner capitals through self-making, entrepreneurialism, and reworking of elite distinctions. Student environmentalists' navigation strategies included acquiring environmental knowledge and work experiences; joining networks of environmental professionals; and participating in environmental anti-politics. Educated young farmers embraced ideologies of portfolio occupations and green livelihoods. They also relied on the reconfigurations of gendered identities and the rural-urban divide, competitive individualism, and associational life to rework their occupational aspirations and maintain elite distinctions in society. In sum, negotiating youth waithood is a complex, intertwined, and uncertain process involving flexibilities and chance opportunities to access, maintain, and utilize capitals. The emergent subjectivities remain insecure, unstable and do not necessarily guarantee exiting waithood.
Supervisor: Daley, Patricia Sponsor: World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Human geography--Kenya ; Environmentalism--Kenya ; Youth--Kenya--Social conditions ; Students--Political activity--Kenya ; Environmental policy--Kenya