Negotiating vulnerabilities in space and time in the twenty-first century

Rosalyn Black, Lucas Walsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Young university students are experiencing a changing relationship with the future as economic and geopolitical anxieties alter the temporal and spatial horizons with which they engage. Du Bois-Reymond and López Blasco suggested almost 20 years ago that ‘youth is now […] a life condition that is marked by unpredictability, vulnerability and reversibility’ (2003, p. 20). This situation has only accelerated since then. This paper draws on the authors’ research in the UK, France and Australia to consider how university students imagine a future that is essentially unknowable. At the time of the authors’ interviews, this future included conditions of vulnerability within the living social present that extended into the anticipated future and that ranged from the local to the global in their origins and impact. These conditions have since been even further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the global recession accompanying it. Despite the uncertainty arising from these conditions of vulnerability, almost all interviewees read the future as possibility or potentiality as reported by Cook (Time & Society 25(3): 700–717, 2016). The paper concludes that young people’s lived experience of time and space is being reshaped by complex forces beyond their control as discussed by McLeod (British Journal of Sociology of Education 38(1): 13–25, 2017), but it also mounts an argument for the durability of young people’s relationship to hope.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-343
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Applied Youth Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Higher education
  • Hope
  • Precarity
  • University student
  • Vulnerability

Cite this