Featured in International Development Planning Review 45.1: Between the village and the city: the in-betweenness of rural young people in East Indonesia

The editors of International Development Planning Review (IDPR) have selected the following paper as the Featured Article in IDPR 45.1.

This paper will be free to access for a limited time:

‘Between the village and the city: the in-betweenness of rural young people in East Indonesia’ by Jessica Clendenning.

When asked to describe the paper and highlight its importance, the author stated the following:

‘Between the village and the city: the in-betweenness of rural young people in East Indonesia’ examines the consequences of rural young people’s changing aspirations. Markedly different from their parents’ generations is how many rural youth desire to pursue university degrees and ‘modern’ work in larger cities. While we know greater access to education, technology and mobility influence rural young people’s aspirations and agency, we know less about why rural youth aspire in similar ways, and what these changes bring for  their natal villages. Drawing on household survey and ethnographic interview data, I show how shared ideas about ‘success’ for the future push many young people from poor and middle-income households into similar pathways for university education and work.

I use the lenses of doxa, habitus and emergent aspirations to study how rural young people’s aspirations are made, shared and altered.  These concepts and data illustrate why rural young people’s capacity to aspire remains heavily informed by place, and help to explain why many young people pursue the same, but limited, educational pathways. They also show that aspirations emerge and change as young people move between rural and urban worlds and gain experiences from each.

The consequences of rural young people’s changing aspirations were felt in several ways in the village. Socially, many educated or ‘urbanised’ youth were seen as ‘gengsi’, or as having superior attitudes because they had grown to look down upon farm work. The combination of superior attitudes and a shared doxa for migrating out of the village for ‘modern’ work caused physical changes in the village, such as more youth, and particularly males, leaving for cities. What is new about these trends is in terms of the pace, scale and extent of change.  Compared to their parents’ generation, the logics of aspiring influenced many more young people, whether from relatively rich or poor families, not to farm. Instead, many youth spent years away from the village to pursue higher education and experience city life.

How one views the influence of education and migration on rural young people means regarding what these decisions have meant for youth’s lives in the short and long-term. Short-term patterns saw greater education and migration adding to young people’s sense of self, family and peer relationships. Longer-term patterns saw how working and living in the city seemed to lose its appeal to youth as daily life became more expensive and difficult. A troubling outcome of these educational trends is that many youth felt stuck between urban and rural worlds. This was largely because of the instability of urban work, and the inexperience in rural work. The greater concern then is that, even with more education and its promises for social mobility, rural young people’s futures remain precarious in rural and in urban areas.

– Jessica N. Clendenning

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