Preface by Paul Willis
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.
48 Epistemology of Emancipation: Contemporary Student Movements and the Politics of Knowledge
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Knowing, like living, grows up out of the dirt and the cracked pavement—through the fences and around the corners. It reveals itself in uninvited and miraculous shoots that spring up everywhere that people live and struggle. This living knowledge of experimentation and protest, of assertion and critique, ubiquitously presses outward into its surroundings. Anchored in the lives of ordinary people, and drawing on marginalized perspectives and struggles, the production of this knowledge enlarges the circle of knowers beyond the professional intellectuals that have claimed authority even within many critical and alternative traditions. On the basis of a consideration of two recent youth and student political mobilizations, I argue here that youth movements represent an incipient and systematic knowledge project that fuses politics, theory, and culture. I call this an epistemology of emancipation, and argue that it challenges several common theoretical assumptions: that knowing and being are separate; that the body is external to the understanding; and that the analyses of young people are necessarily incomplete or unformed relative to those of their elders.
After constructing a theoretical framework for my discussion that draws on contemporary critical and decolonial work in political theory and cultural studies, I focus in this chapter on two exemplary recent struggles: the movement against racist and xenophobic state legislation in Arizona, and the struggle against austerity and tuition hikes in the public higher education system of California. I limit my discussion to these two cases in order to give texture and depth to...
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