Harms, Dana Elena (2022). The social making of futures: planning for uncertainties. Masters thesis, Universität zu Köln.

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The Master’s thesis of Dana Elena Harms, supervised by Prof. Michaela Pelican, deals with a highly topical issue that has gained new relevance in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and on-going environmental crises, namely the question of how young people can make a future under conditions of uncertainty. Harms approaches the subject by focusing on young educated Cameroonians who live in environment that long has been characterized by economic uncertainties, and asks how social relations shape their future making strategies. She makes a convincing argument to learn from young people and scholars in the Global South and derives theoretical and practical insights useful for future making in the Global South and North. The thesis, which was supervised by Prof. Dr. Michaela Pelican, is based on empirical research conducted in two consecutive stretches: a 6-weeks guided, collaborative research program organized by the University of Cologne and three Cameroonian universities in summer 2018; and a self-organized 4-months internship and research stay in Yaoundé in 2019. The thesis is an excellent study that contributes to a growing body of research and theories on future making in Africa and elsewhere. It highlights the modalities of short-term and long-term planning as well as the crucial role of social investments as strategies of future making and, as she innovatively frames it, as ways of “routinizing” (p. 57) – rather than overcoming – uncertainties. Furthermore, by integrating critical voices of scholars from the Global South, Harms goes beyond established approaches and brings new ideas to the existing debate. In addition, different from much of the existing literature, Harms does not center on recent graduates, but focuses on young individuals who have already advanced a little in their career and can look back on their achievements and fallbacks in terms of planning for uncertainties. Harms takes issues with two widespread assumptions that dominate much of the writing on future making in Africa: On the one hand, she questions the notion of young Africans being locked in a state of prolonged youth and passiveness, and draws attention to their planning and strategies to attain both short- and long-term goals. On the other hand, drawing on Mboti (2015), she argues against a one-sided perspective on social relations as either supportive or distrustful, and holds that social relations can entail both facets at the same time. She pleads for understanding social relations as “messy, ambiguous and ever changing” (p. 3) and for recognizing them as a vital (re)source a of future making. Hereby she adds fresh angles to the subject of future making under uncertainty and contributes to a more nuanced debate.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters thesis)
CreatorsEmailORCIDORCID Put Code
URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:38-647289
Series Name at the University of Cologne: Kölner ethnologische Beiträge
Volume: 61
Date: 2022
Place of Publication: Köln
ISSN: 1611-4531
Language: English
Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Humanities
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Fächergruppe 4: Außereuropäische Sprachen, Kulturen und Gesellschaften > Institut für Ethnologie
Subjects: Customs, etiquette, folklore
Uncontrolled Keywords:
Cameroon, Youth, Uncertainty, Future making, Social relations, Master thesisEnglish
Kamerun, Jugend, Unsicherheit, Zukunftspläne, Soziale Beziehungen, MasterarbeitGerman
Date of oral exam: 2022
NameAcademic Title
Pelican, MichaelaProf. Dr.
Refereed: Yes
URI: http://kups.ub.uni-koeln.de/id/eprint/64728


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