Academic journal article Journal of Curriculum Theorizing

"Ginas," "Thugs," and "Gangstas": Young People's Struggles to "Become Somebody" in Working-Class Urban Canada

Academic journal article Journal of Curriculum Theorizing

"Ginas," "Thugs," and "Gangstas": Young People's Struggles to "Become Somebody" in Working-Class Urban Canada

Article excerpt

Introduction

   So the street becomes the arena where the 'growing up' game
   is played out, a social space and time of apparent freedom
   from the more insidious forms of parental control and consent.
   Here the peer group assembles itself to enact its rivalries, and
   so the game of identities and differences between the sexes and
   between the generations can begin. (Cohen, 1972 as cited in
   Cohen, 1999)

Drawing upon the theoretical insights of cultural geography (e.g., Massey, 1999) and the sociology of youth culture, this paper explores perceptions of "peer rivalries" (2) and accounts of social exclusion on the part of economically disadvantaged male and female youth (aged 14-16) in one inner city urban concentration in Ontario, Canada. In particular, we examine the inter-relational impact of contemporary urban youth class conflict and neo-liberal school cultures on the social formation of youth sub-cultural identities in the modern urban Canadian inner city. In so doing, we seek to assess the ways in which economically disadvantaged male and female youth perceive and understand the influence of gender and urban schooling in shaping their conceptions of their social futures, which are viewed here, following Reay and Lucey (2003), as "tied to the geography" of urban cities and school life.

Our overarching aim is to establish a preliminary hermeneutic and praxiological framework for understanding the "formation of new youth subcultures which may function, in some degree, both as a response to, and a connection between, macro and micro forces of social change" (Gardner, Dillabough, & McLeod, 2004, p. 11). At the same time, we also wish to offer a phenomenological reading of youth sub-cultural identity formation and social exclusion which represents neither the view of an outsider nor that of an insider, but which instead reflects a mediated reflexive view. Such would be a view which both accounts for youth culture in its contemporary expressive forms but also remains ultimately tied to a materially informed analysis which seeks to expose its stratified, historical and symbolic character. An account of this kind is important in exposing how young people negotiate, in the world of the everyday, the varying degrees of alienation they experience and "what they do with the cultural commodities they encounter" (Williams, 1977, p. 17). In common with Goffman's (1959) concern with modes of representation in everyday culture, we too are interested in the ways in which the particular modes of representation young people construct for themselves, and for each other, constitute the ground for particularly powerful forms of sub-cultural identification through the socio-cultural practices of peer rivalry.

But how do we establish such a theoretical framework in relation to the changing social landscapes of urban Canada? Our starting point is that any such framework needs to address the complex ways in which the differentiated effects of contemporary class conflict, cultural elements of social and educational change, and gender relations conjointly impact upon young people, and are negotiated by them, at the level of the local urban spaces and the educational institutions to which they find themselves tied. We do not, therefore, simply look to the concept of "peer rivalry" as a property peculiar to working-class life, leading in the direction of a normative fate as "criminals, deviants, or kids who get into trouble," and standing somehow outside the realm of political economies of hierarchy and stratification. Rather, we are interested in the representational modes of gender conflict such rivalry takes and the manner in which cultural "rules" or deeply sexualized "territorial" discourses are manifest in the socio-spatial relations of peer conflict. We therefore view peer rivalry as a key site where identity work and sub-cultural youth engagement are undertaken. In so doing, we identify how gendered forms of symbolic domination--often articulated by young people as conflicts in style, symbolic control (3) and sub-cultural gender identity politics--are simultaneously embodied and utilized by young people to obtain what Thornton (1996, p. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.