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Critical Youth Studies Reader

Preface by Paul Willis

Awad Ibrahim and Shirley R. Steinberg

This book won the 2014 AESA (American Educational Studies Association) Critics Choice Award.

This reader begins a conversation about the many aspects of critical youth studies. Chapters in this volume consider essential issues such as class, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, cultural capital, and schooling in creating a dialogue about and a conversation with youth. In a society that continues to devalue, demonize, and pathologize young women and men, leading names in the academy and youth communities argue that traditional studies of youth do not consider young people themselves. Engaging with today’s young adults in formal and informal pedagogical settings as an act of respect, social justice, and transgression creates a critical pedagogical path in which to establish a meaningful twenty-first century critical youth studies.
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5 Becoming Revolutionaries: Toward Non-Teleological and Non-Normative Notions of Youth Growth

← 46 | 47 →CHAPTER 5


Our purpose in this chapter is to seek to articulate ways in which young people might be given critical opportunities to read the discursive contexts of their lives, and thereby be given an ­opportunity to “imagine themselves otherwise” (cf. O’Loughlin & Johnson, 2010). Young people can experience constraints on their growth for many reasons. Silence in a family and community, for ­instance, may limit expansive possibilities for imagining self in terms of gender possibilities, racial and ethnic possibilities, class possibilities, or any subaltern subjective identifications. This can impose a sanitary cordon around a young person’s imagination and lead to foreclosure of opportunity to imagine life otherwise. Lack of knowledge and lack of opportunity to engage in self-reflection around the socio-historical and socio-political contexts within which individual subjectivity is constituted, and the absence of a critical reading of the ways in which, as Butler (1997) noted, subjectivity is in large part constituted through subjection to pre-existing grand narratives of being, can lead to a lack of self-reflexivity about intergenerationally inherited ghosts, spectral traumas, and unsymbolized experiences, and can produce a re-enactment of foreclosed life scripts and delimited aspirations across generations (O’Loughlin, 2009, 2010a, 2013b). And then, of course, there is the conundrum of structural constraints imposed by hegemonic systems such as unequal schools, and institutionalized ethnic and/or racial and gender discrimination that can foreclose the possibilities of even the most determined young person. In Ain’t No Makin’ It, for example, Jay MacLeod (2008) demonstrated how structural and institutional constraints prohibited even...

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