Provincialising Mannheim: what do youth in Benin and Austria have in common?




generation, youth, deprovinicalising, Benin, Austria


Generational conflicts are increasingly addressed in media and in academic debate. Against this backdrop Karl Mannheim’s investigation of generational change can be brought back into focus. He argues that every generation is a potential for change, but this often goes hand in hand with a conflict between generations. From a postcolonial lens we challenge this universal conceptualisation of generational conflict: drawn from case studies in Benin and Austria we show that Mannheim’s argument has to be provincialised. Despite the different settings and methodological approaches, our results are similar: while young people perceive themselves as distinct from the older generation, and despite the rhetoric of rupture, no conflict can be observed in the concrete behaviour of the actors. Despite these similarities, it is important to witness the particular contexts, with specific, generational locations and specific spatial and temporal conditions. Only taking this into account, can it be said why, in what form, and in which contexts young people contribute to social change through the way they interact with other generations. Therefore, we want to question Mannheim’s assumption of a generational conflict and highlight the need to provincialise it as an engine of change.


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