A Cosmopolitan Youth? New Directions in Research on Contemporary Youth

Tuesday, 12 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal I (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Distributed Paper
Ilenya CAMOZZI, University of Milan Bicocca, Italy
Contemporary youth is a challenging field of research. The effects of contemporary globalisation processes and social uncertainty on young people’s biographies and their Weltanschauungen require new scientific tools. Cosmopolitanism is a fertile category to investigate the consequences of the individualisation and de-standardisation processes that are affecting young people’s transition to adulthood, and their life-styles in terms of consumption practices, values and future projects. Moreover, it helps to analyse young people’s identitarian configurations and their sense of belonging.       

The paper is based on a qualitative research conducted in Milan (Italy) on young cosmopolitans who were temporarily residing in the city for a dual purpose: that of enriching their education in the arts, scientific research or design,  and  first  and  foremost  that  of  having  new  life experiences.

The biographical profile of these young people – aged between 24 and 33, both with Western and non-Western origins, in possession of high levels of cultural and social capitals, with middle-class origin and a high level of mobility– gives us an image of ‘distinctive subjects’. They differ from ‘traditional’ migrants in terms of educational credentials and highly specific career paths, constant mobility and the planning involved in that. Moreover they consider themselves different from 'traditional' migrants showing a cosmopolitan Weltanschauung. Indeed, since they consider themselves 'citizens of the world', they assume international mobility as a key element of their identity. 

The paper will underline the epistemological need to overstep the dichotomy migration/mobility, suggesting the concept of cosmopolitanism; a concept stemming from political philosophy and recently embraced by anthropology. This new perspective allows sociology to focus on the very characters of contemporary youth, that traditional sociological categories are not able to grasp.