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Precarious Hope: Situated Perspectives on the COVID-19 Pandemic from Undergraduate Students in Manchester, UK

Nunn, Caitlin and Germaine, Chloe and Ogden, Charlotte and Miah, Yasmin and Marsh, Jessica and Kitching, Rhiannon and Kathrada, Nasira and Hough, Katerina and Harper, Isabel (2021) Precarious Hope: Situated Perspectives on the COVID-19 Pandemic from Undergraduate Students in Manchester, UK. Journal of Applied Youth Studies, 4 (5). pp. 429-444. ISSN 2204-9207

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Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the lives of young people, transforming and disrupting education provision, employment opportunities, social practices, mobilities, and experiences of health and wellbeing. In the UK context, the pandemic can be understood as both a unique event and as a further addition to the intersecting crises – including austerity and Brexit – that are increasingly shaping and constraining youth experiences and aspirations and exacerbating precarity and inequality. In this article, seven undergraduate students from Manchester, UK, with two academic co-authors, employ a co-productive approach to reflect on our experiences of the pandemic. Our autoethnographic accounts draw attention to the situated effects of the pandemic and its intersection with existing challenges and pressures, including the gig economy, mental and physical ill health, and transnational family networks. At the same time, our narratives capture a sense of precarious hope: hopefulness that is both a product of precarity and itself precarious, opening up new possibilities for collectively imagining and pursuing viable and meaningful futures in uncertain times. Supporting our endeavours requires the inclusion of youth voices in research, policy, and practice; work we begin here.

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