Future Islands? Mobility, Creativity and Decline in Post-Growth Societies

Professor Favells inaugural lecture will explore parallels in the demographic, political, economic and cultural trajectories of the UK and Japan.

Professor Adrian Favell

School of Sociology and Social Policy

As the UK contemplates closing its open borders to the EU, it would do well to think about the fate of the former East Asian powerhouse, Japan. Newly appointed as Chair in Sociology and Social Theory, Professor Favell’s inaugural lecture will explore parallels in the demographic, political, economic and cultural trajectories of these two awkward island nations, focusing in particular on the dynamics of internal and international migration among young workers in the creative economy.

The UK’s creative boom years since the mid 1990s have drawn substantially on the aspirational trajectories of young and talented migrants to the country, many free to move there as European citizens. London as a regional hub city triumphed massively over Paris and elsewhere as the hottest destination in Europe—for all kinds of artists and creatives. At the same time—and despite the burgeoning of mobile creativity as a core ideology of education and professional ambition—social mobility has been increasingly blocked to natives amidst growing polarisation and inequality, with the arts sector notably becoming less accessible to young creatives of a non-elite background. Similarly unbalanced towards an illusion of growth monopolised by a global city capital, “post-growth” Japan has in the same period seen serial lost generations of surplus young native talent fleeing the country, even as restrictive xenophobia limits international relations and migration flows with neighbours. Yet, post-2011, it offers hope as creativity has become decoupled again from economy, in favour of a more reconstructive, albeit inward, welfarist and community-based orientation of the arts—both in terms of mobile careers and substantive aesthetics—addressed to the country’s steep demographic decline and vulnerability to natural disaster.

Setting an agenda for interdisciplinary comparative research linking the arts, critical theory and the social sciences, Favell will discuss how the fate of Japan may not be so distant to the UK if it chooses demographic shrinkage, regulation of free movement, and national cultural isolation. And will we see a similar flight of creative talent away again from London, as the city passes its peak and young artists choose to invest their personal and conceptual ambitions in alternative cities or declining backwaters?

To register please contact Jodie Dyson – j.c.dyson@leeds.ac.uk or telephone: 0113 343 4438.


Adrian Favell originally trained in comparative literature and philosophy at the University of East Anglia, followed by a doctorate in social and political theory at the European University Institute, Florence. He then pursued a career in social sciences working internationally in Europe, North America and East Asia, including professorships in sociology at UCLA and Sciences Po, Paris. Initially established as a migration studies scholar with his PhD work on Philosophies of Integration (1998/2001) about immigration, multiculturalism and citizenship in Western Europe, he is known in European studies for his work on intra-EU migration and mobilities and the sociology of European integration, particularly the book Eurostars and Eurocities (2008). Having also worked as a human geographer, he contributes to debates on creative economy, culture in cities and urban theory, and since the late 2000s has become a recognised commentator on Japanese contemporary art since 1990, publishing the first history in English of this period, Before and After Superflat (2012).

For further information, see his personal website (www.adrianfavell.com), or his blog on the current project about art and architecture in post-growth Japan:

(aLTERNATE f UTURES / www.adrianfavell.tumblr.com/publications)