Young People, Gender, Race and the Aestheticisation of Enterprise in a De-Industrialising City

Friday, 20 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Meave NOONAN, RMIT University, Australia
This paper will explore the ways in which particular, aestheticised understandings of youth, gender and race are mobilised in representations of young people’s ‘enterprise’ in the de-industrialising city of Geelong, Australia. In these kinds of globalised, de-industrialised, precarious labour markets young people’s employability skills, innovation and enterprise are understood as providing the ‘solution’ to the problem of youth unemployment. The paper draws on a larger project that is examining how is it that, at the start of the 21st century, we have come to understand the problem of youth unemployment largely in terms of employability skills, innovation and enterprise?

As part of a broader concern to explore the ways in which ideas of young people’s enterprise are represented in different contexts, this paper will present a critical content and discourse analysis of a selection of stories in GT Magazine – a weekly, large circulation magazine in Geelong. The analysis illustrates a number of key themes and concerns of enterprise in the 21st century, including: the way in which the self is imagined as an enterprise, and must carry the responsibilities for his or her differing abilities to be ‘enterprising’ (Kelly 2006, 2013); the enhanced role that the aesthetics of cultural and creative enterprise are said to play in the economic and spatial reconfiguration of ‘Rust Belt’ cities and regions (Florida 2002, 2005); and the significance of the gendered and aesthetic dimensions of enterprise in the making of the confident, adaptable ‘Can-Do Girl’, a figure that Harris (2004) suggests is most capable of turning the opportunities in globalised, precarious labour markets to her advantage.

The analysis raises significant questions about the ‘aesthetic’ dimensions of the figure of the ‘enterprising young person’, and the ways in which this figure produces and reproduces gendered and racialised understandings of young people, work and ‘enterprise’.