Just farming? Neoliberal subjectivities and agricultural livelihoods among educated youth in Kenya
This article in the journal Development and Change examines how and with what impacts educated youth in Kenya construct and perform new identities as farmers. This is distinct from the stigmatized smallholder farmers and keeps with their status as elite, urbanized, social change makers. Given the precariousness of graduate employment in most African countries, coupled with intersecting challenges of food insecurity, urbanization and population growth, educated youth are increasingly being encouraged to seek alternative livelihood opportunities in agriculture. Agriculture is a sector traditionally associated with the uneducated rural poor but which has received considerable developmental attention. The article analyses how educated young farmers construct themselves as productive and socially respectable through different and locally understood neoliberal subjectivities. This is done by developing the concepts of neoliberal youth subjectivities and opportunity space, and examining their life and work histories. The author argues that the performances of educated youth who identify themselves as diversified selves, as members of the elite, and as social change makers challenge the normative notions of protracted youth-hood and, instead, illuminate the neoliberal lives of these young people, facilitated by a liberalized economy and their social positioning in society.