Imagining a future in the austerity city: Anticipated futures and the formation of neoliberal subjectivities of youth in Ireland

Sander van Lanen*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)
    106 Downloads (Pure)


    This paper explores what anticipated futures of disadvantaged urban youth can reveal about the contemporary and future consequences of austerity. As austerity has disrupted several transitions associated with adulthood, such as finding work and moving out of the parental home, it affects how young adults imagine their future. Young adults living in neighbourhoods of concentrated deprivation were particularly vulnerable to such disruptions. Therefore, this paper builds on semi-structured interviews with youth from Knocknaheeny (Cork) and Ballymun (Dublin) in Ireland to present two vignettes reflecting dominant narratives on anticipated futures. First, a narrative that embraces neoliberal logic, where young adulthood is the basis for future success through dedicated hard work rather than a phase of exploration of possible futures. Second, a narrative of “acceptance” where youth imagines the future to “go on” from the present and becomes a source of anxiety or resignation. This paper shows that combining vignettes with interview data presents two benefits. First, they illuminate the complex and sometimes contradictory stories of youth making sense of their present, past and future. Second, comparing and contrasting the vignettes to multiple participant stories can disentangle roles of location, class, gender and other differentiations. In conclusion, the paper stresses the importance of imagined futures for understanding everyday geographies of austerity as anticipated futures surface in everyday practices, behaviour, and attitudes.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2033-2049
    Number of pages17
    JournalEnvironment and Planning A
    Issue number8
    Early online date10-Aug-2021
    Publication statusPublished - 1-Nov-2021


    • Anticipated futures
    • austerity
    • austerity urbanism
    • vignettes
    • youth transitions


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