In this article we engage critically with how metaphors have been used in sociological youth studies, including a turn to new metaphors that capture the foreclosure of futures and experiences of waiting, delay and non-institutional temporalities. Drawing on the resources of queer theory we challenge the developmentalism that underpins youth studies, employing notions of the impasse and growing sideways to capture the open-endedness of young adult lives. Working with data from a qualitative longitudinal study of Danish youth, we focus on how 47 young people responded to an invitation to talk about and through an object that represented the last three years of their lives. These rich accounts can be understood as examples of Paul Riceour’s ‘metaphoric discourse’, characterised by the simultaneity of ‘is’ and ‘is not’. The article first offers a schema of the biographical objects (trophies, hobbies, mortal, connective and protest) that captures the work of ‘being in time’ for young adults, mapping this onto the formal and informal markers of adulthood. We then engage with participants’ own metaphorical thinking in greater depth – suggesting that the paradoxical metaphors that emerge from their talk can expand how we understand the struggle for maturity. The metaphor of open-endedness is offered as a hybrid term, allowing us to look in two directions at once: capturing and comparing transitions as part of a project of social justice, while also recognising the limits of such frameworks for understanding the experiences of a new generation.
- Rachel ThomsonJeanette Østergaard
About this publication
Published inThe Sociological Review