A Global Age: Doing Transnational Histories of Youth

AHA Session 133
Society for the History of Children and Youth 2
Saturday, January 4, 2014: 9:00 AM-11:00 AM
Diplomat Ballroom (Omni Shoreham)
Richard Ivan Jobs, Pacific University
Sayaka Chatani, Columbia University
Richard Ivan Jobs, Pacific University
Fabio Lanza, University of Arizona
David M. Pomfret, University of Hong Kong
Ashwini Tambe, University of Maryland at College Park

Session Abstract

The discussants have been participating in a project featuring a dozen scholars from around the globe leading to a book manuscript, “A Global Age:  Transnational Histories of Youth in the Twentieth Century,” which is currently submitted for publication.  This project seeks to explore the history of youth through the methodologies of transnational history.  In so doing, it has sought to reveal what the history of youth can tell us about doing transnational history as well as what new things a  transnational approach can tell us about the history of youth.  For this roundtable, the discussants will explore how the transnational approach affected their work.  David Pomfret has been looking at the ways in which youth in its modern incarnations was profoundly shaped by the exigencies and flows of empire. Taking up the case of young Vietnamese travelling to France in the interwar period he suggests that this group identified travel as essential to achieving the transformations, personal and political, necessary to bring about an end to colonial rule. Focusing upon “circularity,” and the spaces in between departure and arrival, allows us to see such movements between centre and periphery as “transnational,” in the sense that youth-on-the-move conceived of themselves, and were conceived of on account of their mobility, as a kind of nation-in-waiting.  Sayaka Chatani sees youth as central to both empires and nation-building. The global nature of youth mobilization as a lens of research lets her question the artificial distinction between empires and nations.  In her research on rural youth mobilization in the Japanese empire, multi-national comparative research was the only way to highlight the role of youth as a social force within the simultaneous construction of nation and empire.  Fabio Lanza has concluded that understanding the complex history of youth activism in twentieth-century China is impossible if we don't take into consideration how activists framed their ideas and practices in connection to global trends, and in particular how the very concept of "youth" was shaped by the interactions with transnational audiences and histories. From 1919 to 1989, not only young Chinese protesters staged their "youth" for global spectators, but also their "youth" was always deployed and interpreted in relation to transnational cultural and political frameworks.  Ashwini Tambe wondered if, in contexts where early marriage was a norm, was youthfulness available as an identity to married girls/women, and under what conditions? She examines mid-twentieth century Maharashtra, India, where marrying just after puberty was widely prescribed, and her work probes how the boundaries of girlhood were experienced and navigated. She traces the circulation of exemplars from outside India, and explores how the imperatives of a cosmopolitan modernity shaped this context.  The recent work of Richard Ivan Jobs has explored the transnational mobility of traveling youth in postwar Europe.  His research as led him to nearly forty archives and libraries in seven countries and five languages.  He will discuss the challenges of following archival trails of research across national archival systems.

See more of: AHA Sessions