Accepted paper:

"Opening up la chance": (un)certain futures of university graduates in Bamako, Mali


Susann Ludwig (University of Leipzig)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation elaborates on how university graduates in Mali act in an uncertain present context. It is argued that the process of “opening up la chance” is crucial in order to seize how futures develop and are being developed.

Paper long abstract:

In Mali, more than 70 percent of young academics are searching for employment. They encounter severe difficulties finding a job that corresponds to their qualification or entering the labor market in general. University graduates find themselves in situations characterized by uncertainty, which impacts both their actions in the present and their imagination and planning of their futures. This paper elaborates on two questions: what is it that graduates do in the present? And to what extend are their present actions geared towards the futures they imagine? One answer lies in what Malian graduates refer to as "opening up la chance". La chance is a phenomenon that separates the present from the future since it enables a different present - a present that has been imagined as the future in the past. Drawing from narratives about individual and common experiences with la chance, I argue that the process of "opening up la chance" is a way to deal with uncertainty in the present and, consequently, a way to access the future. The results presented are based on three periods of ethnographic fieldwork in Bamako during which biographical and narrative follow-up interviews were conducted with thirty university graduates. The longitudinal character of the study enabled me to understand the social context of my informants, to follow their present actions, to trace their pathways into the future and, ultimately, to seize how futures develop and are being developed.

panel P57
Im)possible lives: on futures as process