"Be the change you want to see in the world”: Youth social action in India

Youth Research Centre Seminar Series 2016

Professor Craig Jeffrey, Australia India Institute, University of Melbourne, and Dr Jane Dyson, School of Geography, University of Melbourne

Facilitated by Professor Fazal Rizvi, Melbourne Graduate School of Education

Over the past ten years there has been a remarkable rise in the number of social movements in which young people try to ‘prefigure’ the world that they want to exist: so-called ‘prefigurative politics’. In addition, at the ground level, the idea of “being the change you want to see in the world” and using this to try to change aspects of society, is quite ubiquitous. This paper examines the nature and effectiveness of such prefigurative action drawing on long-term ethnographic fieldwork among youth in north India. We argue that young people’s efforts to “be the change” in the fields of education, health, infrastructural development, and environmental change are having important effects on the north Indian social landscape. We will ask the audience to reflect on instances in which they think that ‘being the change’ has been effective or ineffective with a view to opening up a wide ranging discussion of youth and prefigurative action.


Professor Craig Jeffrey

Craig Jeffrey is Director of the Australia India Institute and former Professor of Development Geography at the University of Oxford and Official Fellow of St. John's College. He is a leading authority on South Asian youth and also writes on Indian democracy, educational transformation, globalization, and the 'social revolution' that he sees occurring across India in the Twenty-First Century.

Craig has spent a total of five years since 1995 conducting anthropological fieldwork in western Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. He is author of numerous journal articles as well as six books, including Timepass: Youth, Class and the Politics of Waiting in India (Stanford University Press, 2010) and Keywords for Modern India (with John Harriss; Oxford University Press, 2014). Oxford University Press have recently commissioned Craig Jeffrey to write A Very Short Introduction to Modern India, part of its prestigious Very Short Introduction series.

Professor Jeffrey is currently leading a large project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council on educated unemployed youth in South Asia. Craig was recently elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and, in addition to his academic work, is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4, Times Literary Supplement, and The Guardian.

Dr Jane Dyson

Craig's partner, Jane Dyson, has made a film about their work in India: www.lifelinesfilm.com