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Balancing Acts

Balancing Acts: Youth Culture in the Global City

Natasha K. Warikoo
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Balancing Acts
    Book Description:

    In this timely examination of children of immigrants in New York and London, Natasha Kumar Warikoo asks, Is there a link between rap/hip-hop-influenced youth culture and motivation to succeed in school? Warikoo challenges teachers, administrators, and parents to look beneath the outward manifestations of youth culture -- the clothing, music, and tough talk -- to better understand the internal struggle faced by many minority students as they try to fit in with peers while working to lay the groundwork for successful lives. Using ethnographic, survey, and interview data in two racially diverse, low-achieving high schools, Warikoo analyzes seemingly oppositional styles, tastes in music, and school behaviors and finds that most teens try to find a balance between success with peers and success in school.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94779-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Understanding Cultural Incorporation
    (pp. 1-22)

    A simple explanation—offered by scholars, policy makers, and educators alike—for seemingly self-defeating youth behaviors such as fighting in school and talking back to teachers is that they stem from a rejection of the dominant ideology of equal opportunity and education as keys to success. This oppositional stance is thought to embody itself in hip-hop and rap music and style among minority youth. Using this logic, a bill passed in 2005 by the Virginia State House of Delegates would have fined the display of undergarments, a style popular with both boys and girls, especially in urban areas (the bill...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Music and Style: Americanization or Globalization?
    (pp. 23-45)

    It is common knowledge that young people place great importance on music tastes and style. Indeed, this is what comes to mind when most people think of youth cultures. Although music and styles may seem frivolous and unimportant, many think that tastes and styles embody great meaning. State legislatures and city councils across the country have tried to ban baggy pants for fear of their negative influence (Koppel, 2007; Warikoo, 2005b). Among American scholars of immigration, some have suggested that certain second-generation youth’s taste preferences for styles associated with urban African Americans are symbolic of an oppositional culture that can...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Racial Authenticity, “Acting Black,” and Cultural Consumption
    (pp. 46-72)

    Fourteen-year-old Mary, a white English student, told me she listens to hip-hop, R&B, and U.K. garage music. Her style, as she described it, was “townie”—the style of hip-hop fans, the opposite of “grungy.” She told me that some kids in her school are “wiggers”: “A white person trying to act black, and it’s not working. . . . They can’t do it properly. Doing their hair like it. Talking like them and putting bandanas on and that. . . . But they can’t act. They can’t do it.” Mary’s voice grew annoyed as she described peers who “act black”...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Two Types of Racial Discrimination: Adult Exclusion and Peer Bullying
    (pp. 73-88)

    Given the peer cultures they encounter at school and the racialization in the larger societies in which they live, what experiences with racial discrimination do second-generation teens face? Racial discrimination toward minority children of immigrants in schools, both interpersonal and structural, has been reported on both sides of the Atlantic (Gillborn, 2005; Gillborn and Mirza, 2000; López, 2002; Majors, Gillborn, and Sewell, 2001; Parker, Deyhle, and Villenas, 1999; Sewell, 1997; Solorzano and Ornelas, 2004; Valenzuela, 1999; but see Foster, 1993, for a critique of this literature in Britain). Some scholars of immigration have suggested that certain children of immigrants react...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Positive Attitudes and (Some) Negative Behaviors
    (pp. 89-106)

    In the previous three chapters, I focus on tastes in music and style, the meanings those tastes have, their variation between ethnic groups, and the consequences of racial meanings attached to hip-hop music and ethnic identities, both inside and outside school. The global reach of MTV and hip-hop radio led Londoners to express tastes and styles very similar to those of New Yorkers, and students reported these influences as mattering more than their peers’ opinions in determining their styles. Still, hip-hop was commonly racialized as black, conferring on black students high status among their peers, even while adults unfamiliar to...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Balancing Acts: Peer Status and Academic Orientations
    (pp. 107-124)

    The findings on youth cultures that I have presented in this book so far suggest that second-generation youth living in disadvantaged areas do not hold oppositional attitudes, that perceptions of discrimination do not influence their aspirations, and that a taste for rap or hip-hop music does not lead to oppositional attitudes. Furthermore, I did not find evidence that academic success leads to social failure. What, then, explains the aspects of youth cultures thatseemoppositional? Why do kids—especially but not exclusively boys—fight in school, when they know it will lead to suspension? Why are students with the stereotypical...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Ethnic and Racial Boundaries
    (pp. 125-157)

    In previous chapters I have described a youth culture in which peer status looms large, in addition to high academic aspirations. I have shown how wearing the right clothes, listening to hip-hop music, observing racial authenticity, adopting black racial identity, and maintaining one’s respect can all lead to peer status. In this chapter I move from cultural products, behaviors, meanings, and identities and how these influence peer status to how youth culture organizes itself in the realm ofsocial groups and relationships.Given that peer status matters so much to students, what social divisions do we see in their schools?...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Explaining Youth Cultures, Improving Academic Achievement
    (pp. 158-178)

    During the week that I was putting the finishing touches on this manuscript, a group of students from a Boston public high school gave a presentation at Harvard. They had worked with a doctoral student on a study of social justice at their school. As they presented their three key findings, I was struck by one in particular. The student reading from the group’s PowerPoint presentation prefaced her comment by saying, “Okay, this is big,” to laughter from the audience. Then she read: “Student choices don’t always match their vision for themselves. Don’t interpret on the basis of what you...

  13. APPENDIX: Research Sites and Methods
    (pp. 179-188)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 189-196)
  15. Works Cited
    (pp. 197-212)
  16. Index
    (pp. 213-224)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 225-225)