John Loewenthal

John Loewenthal



Thesis title: What do University Graduates Want? Deliberations of Meaningful Futures amid Shifting Social Contexts in New York City

Start year: 2015


Research topic

This is an ethnographic study of young people as they transition out of higher education in New York City. The central question asks how the future is negotiated through overlapping, altering, and imagined social contexts. Key themes addressed in the research include:

  • How is higher education and particular degree subjects preparing young people for uncertain futures marked by a changing, highly competitive economy?
  • How are young peoples’ perceptions of the future framed by places (bedrooms, neighbourhoods, cities, passports, visas, or global geographies), institutions (university, internships, work) and social relations (peers, family, partners)? How do these socially contingent perceptions intersect and change over time?
  • How do university leavers and graduates reconcile competing demands, desires, and imagined future responsibilities?
  • How should we approach the demography of graduate transitions and graduate futures – as a city-wide and indeed global phenomenon lived out in personal and particularized ways? Might a cosmopolitan framework allow us to appreciate people’s overlapping influences and identities without reverting to ethnic or class-based reductionism?

Research is being conducted between 2017–2018 as a Visiting Scholar at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development.


Education to Work Transitions; Graduate Futures; Existential Anthropology; Temporalities of Youth Culture; Affective Geographies

General research interests

Social Anthropology; Youth Studies; Education, Higher Education, and Informal Education; Aspiration and Imagined Futures; Urban Anthropology; Ethnography; Tourism Studies; USA; UK; India; Nepal

Work in progress

  • I am also the Research Assistant for a similar project among school leavers from urban, rural, and regional contexts in the UK, conducted with Patrick Alexander and Graham Butt. The project blog, for which I write monthly posts (March 2016–July 2017), can be found here: Two articles from this project are currently under preparation
  • A book chapter from my Master’s research entitled, ‘Navigating the Neighbourhood and Dreaming of Travel: Cultural Imaginaries of the City and the World among New York City Youth’ co-authored with John Broughton (Columbia University) has been accepted to the edited collection, Youth, Place and Theories of Belonging by Stahl, Ward, and Habib (Eds.) Forthcoming in 2018
  • Guest blog posts for the Sociological Review and the Life Course Blog: explore developing themes in my doctoral research

Teaching experience

  • U20104 Introduction to Social Anthropology (Associate Lecturer/ Seminar Leader)


Conference papers

  • Temporalities of Youth Culture: How Social and Institutional Structures Shape Activities and Ideas – Guest Lecture – Columbia University – 25.04.2017
  • Imagining Heritage through Dreams of Travel – Heritages of Migration: Moving Objects, Stories, and Home – Museum of Immigration, Buenos Aires – 06.04.2017
  • Collectivizing Individuals and Conceptualizing Emotions in the Demographically Diverse, Temporally Transformative Contexts of University Leavers in New York City – AAA Society for Psychological Anthropology, Biennial Meetings – New Orleans – 11.03.2017
  • Urban and Rural Youth Transitions: Life after school in London and Oxfordshire. Presented with Alexander, P. and Butt, G. – School of Education Seminar Series – Oxford Brookes University – 07. 12. 2016
  • How Changing Circumstances Impact Future Imaginaries: University Graduates’ Transitions to Adulthood in New York City – School of Education Seminar Series – Oxford Brookes University – 09. 11. 2016
  • Precarious Possibility: How the future might feel after finishing one’s degree (Poster) – Graduate College Event – Oxford Brookes University – 03. 06. 2016
  • Debt and Desire after Graduation – Annual Doctoral Conference, Graduate School of Education – University of Bristol – 01.06. 2016
  • What factors, forces or forms of capital shape different trajectories post-university? – Inequality and Social Justice in Education: Issues of Class, Race, Gender and Sexuality, Graduate Seminar Series – University of Warwick – 19. 05. 2016
  • The Social, Cultural and Educational Dynamics of ‘Change’ among 21st Century University Leavers in London and New York City – Royal Anthropological Institute Annual Student Conference: Anthropology in the 21st Century – Oxford Brookes University – 18. 05. 2016
  • Maps and Other Methods for Eliciting Emotional Connections to Imagined Times and Places – Innovative Research Methods with Children and Young People – Cardiff University – 25. 04. 2016
  • The Implications of Higher Education upon Graduates’ Immediate and Imagined Futures – Becoming a 21st Century Graduate: Learning and Teaching Conference 2016 – University of Roehampton, London – 20. 04. 2016
  • Imagining One’s Future in the World: Aspiration, Limitation and Dreams of Global Travel among New York City Youth (Poster) – ‘GetPublished!’ Student Research Conference – Oxford Brookes University – 15. 04. 2016
  • The Lived and Imagined City amongst New York City Youth (Poster) – European Symposium on Adolescent Research – University of Roehampton, London – 30. 11. 2015
  • Imagining Indebted Futures: Risk calculation amongst adult university applicants in New York City – Introduction to Learning and Teaching in Higher Education – Oxford Brookes University – 20. 11. 2015
  • A Socioeconomic Ethnography of Delhi’s Informal Waste Management Sector – University of Oxford Annual Archaeological and Anthropological Fieldwork Conference – University of Oxford – 13. 03. 2014

Academic and professional training

  • MA (Dist) Anthropology and Education – Teachers College, Columbia University (2015)
  • BA (Hons: First) Anthropology and Archaeology – University of Oxford (2014)
  • Certificate in Management Accounting – Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (2013)

Scholarships and prizes

  • 150th Anniversary PhD Studentship – Oxford Brookes University (2015 –)
  • Margaret Mead Fellowship – Teachers College, Columbia University (2014)
  • International Scholarship – Teachers College, Columbia University (2014)
  • Summer Fieldwork Grant – St Hugh’s College, Oxford (2011)
  • Grant for Archaeological/Anthropological Research – Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford (2011)