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Representing Youth

Representing Youth: Methodological Issues in Critical Youth Studies

Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 342
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    Representing Youth
    Book Description:

    From youth culture to adolescent sexuality to the consumer purchasing power of children en masse, studies are flourishing. Yet doing research on this unquestionably more vulnerable - whether five or fifteen - population also poses a unique set of challenges and dilemmas for researchers. How should a six-year-old be approached for an interview? What questions and topics are appropriate for twelve year olds? Do parents need to give their approval for all studies?In Representing Youth, Amy L. Best has assembled an important group of essays from some of today's top scholars on the subject of youth that address these concerns head on, providing scholars with thoughtful and often practical answers to their many methodological concerns. These original essays range from how to conduct research on youth in ways that can be empowering for them, to issues of writing and representation, to respecting boundaries and to dealing with issues of risk and responsibility to those interviewed. For anyone doing research or working with children and young adults, Representing Youth offers an indispensable guide to many of the unique dilemmas that research with kids entails.Contributors include: Amy L. Best, Sari Knopp Biklen, Elizabeth Chin, Susan Driver, Marc Flacks, Kathryn Gold Hadley, Madeline Leonard, C.J. Pascoe, Rebecca Raby, Alyssa Richman, Jessica Taft, Michael Ungar, Yvonne Vissing, and Stephani Etheridge Woodson.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-3920-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-36)
    Amy L. Best

    I begin with a researcher’s parable. Several years ago, I undertook a qualitative study examining youth and the high school prom (Best, 2000). I was interested in understanding the intersection of youth identity formation, schooling, and popular culture and the dynamic ways race, class, sexuality, and gender come to bear on these social forms and collective practices. I drew on a range of materials for analysis—in-depth interviews, participant observation of four public high schools, prom narratives written by college students, archival documents, and various media—to explore the rich meanings and subtle complexities of the prom as an iconic...

  5. PART I Framing Youth:: Definitional Boundaries and Ambiguities

    • Chapter 1 Across a Great Gulf? Conducting Research with Adolescents
      (pp. 39-59)
      Rebecca Raby

      Over the past two decades there has been an increase in reflection on, and engagement with, children’s active involvement in research projects, fueled by the recognition that young people are social actors who have important things to tell us about their lives. This work comes primarily, though not exclusively, from those within the new sociology of childhood (e.g., Christensen and James 2000a, Fraser et al. 2004, Holmes 1998, James, Jenks, and Prout 1998; Mayall 2000). I enter into these discussions by focusing on adolescence, with specific attention to questions of distance and power. Our conceptualizations of adolescence influence how we...

    • Chapter 2 “Label Jars Not People”: How (Not) to Study Youth Civic Engagement
      (pp. 60-83)
      Marc Flacks

      When it comes to political engagement, it often seems that young people are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. In periods when youthful political action has been relatively widespread (e.g., the 1930s and 1960s), young activists are often condemned as naively rebellious at best, and as dangerously deluded at worst. Yet in periods of relative youthful quiescence, young Americans have been admonished for being disengaged, or lazy, or idiotic (in the original sense of that term). Scholars have thus approached youth politics as a “problem” and have typically sought “causes” for the problem (whether too much politics...

    • Chapter 3 Grow ’em Strong: Conceptual Challenges in Researching Childhood Resilience
      (pp. 84-109)
      Michael Ungar

      An increasing fascination with resilience among researchers and service providers concerned with enhancing the capacities of at-risk children, youth, and families has led many in the field of children’s mental health to shift their focus from psychopathology to resilience. Despite this interest in health-related phenomena, however, the validity of the resilience construct remains a point of debate. Which child is resilient, and which not? To a large extent we have probed and discussed the lives of children facing multiple risks with the blinders of a culture deeply imbued with the perspective of a Western psychological discourse. That discourse arbitrarily designates...

    • Chapter 4 A Roof over Their Head: Applied Research Issues and Dilemmas in the Investigation of Homeless Children and Youth
      (pp. 110-130)
      Yvonne Vissing

      Sociologists have often been asked to conduct research in order to solve social problems (Dahrendorf 1959; Eitzen and Smith 2003; Kornblum and Julian 2005). As public attention to the social problem of child and youth homelessness has increased in recent years, so have opportunities to conduct applied research. During the past fifteen years, I have learned that researching invisible populations, such as homeless children and teens, is often made more difficult because of complex structural, emotional, conceptual, and methodological obstacles that must be overcome. Homelessness in general is a politically sensitive topic, and its existence among children is a hot-button...

  6. PART II From the Field:: Adults in Youth Worlds

    • Chapter 5 With a Capital “G”: Gatekeepers and Gatekeeping in Research with Children
      (pp. 133-156)
      Madeline Leonard

      It is only recently that researchers into the everyday worlds of childhood have adopted practices that place the child at the center of the research process. This involves acknowledging that doing research with children based on active partnership is much more likely to produce rich, meaningful data than research done on children. Moving from researchonto researchwithchildren necessitates involving children in an informed way at all stages of the research process. But this brings up an initial problem concerning access to children as respondents. It is a well-established procedure in sociological research that at the outset the...

    • Chapter 6 Will the Least-Adult Please Stand Up? Life as “Older Sister Katy” in a Taiwanese Elementary School
      (pp. 157-181)
      Kathryn Gold Hadley

      On June 23, 2001, eighteen Taiwanese children and I graduated from a public kindergarten class in Taipei City, Taiwan. As we stood proudly on the stage under a banner congratulating the kindergarten class of academic year 2000–2001, parents and relatives applauded. When I, a thirty-year-old, white American woman, walked across the stage to receive my graduation certificate, my classmates’ parents smiled while unfamiliar relatives turned to one another with puzzled expressions. Once the head of the kindergarten explained that Older Sister Katy was here conducting research, the confused expressions turned into cautious smiles. In my carefully prepared and memorized...

    • Chapter 7 The Outsider Lurking Online: Adults Researching Youth Cybercultures
      (pp. 182-202)
      Alyssa Richman

      I prepared to begin this fieldwork as I did for my other youth research projects. I considered which details about myself and my project I would reveal and which I would withhold, and I brainstormed ways to minimize my adult status. I scouted out my locations and researched their rules and norms. And as my first official day of data collection approached, I felt well prepared.

      At 5 p.m. on June 15, I entered my site, data recorder at my fingertips, prepared to begin my research. I stepped into the middle of a conversation that began long before I arrived...

    • Chapter 8 Racing Age: Reflections on Antiracist Research with Teenage Girls
      (pp. 203-225)
      Jessica Karen Taft

      Issues of racial insider-outsider status have been explored by numerous field researchers (for example, Beoku-Betts 1994; Naples 1996; Twine and Warren 2000) and feminist ethnographers have written about a multitude of concerns and dilemmas of fieldwork (Abu-Lughod 1990; Reinharz 1992; Wolf 1996), but the impact of age in the research process requires increased attention from critical ethnographers and scholars. The growing body of scholarship on children and youth raises methodological questions that are inherent in qualitative research but with differences and additional considerations (some of which have been explored in, for example, Fine and Glassner 1979 and Mandell 1991). However,...

    • Chapter 9 “What If a Guy Hits on You?”: Intersections of Gender, Sexuality, and Age in Fieldwork with Adolescents
      (pp. 226-248)
      C. J. Pascoe

      “Yeah, she’s writing a book on River guys,” said sixteen-year-old Ray as he introduced me to a few of his friends in River High School’s bustling main hallway. Don, a tall, lanky basketball player, leaned casually against the stone pillar next to me. “Damn,” he said, smiling down at me, “I was gonna hit on you.” Six months into my research I had grown more accustomed to, although certainly not comfortable with, this sort of response from boys at River High School. During my time in the field I often heard similar comments from boys interested in dating me, my...

  7. PART III Activating Youth:: Youth Agency, Collaboration, and Representation

    • Chapter 10 Trouble on Memory Lane: Adults and Self-Retrospection in Researching Youth
      (pp. 251-268)
      Sari Knopp Biklen

      Like it or not, ethnographers who study youth often travel down memory lane to revisit their own adolescence. In many ethnographies of youth, authors refer to their own youthful experiences in their narratives. More common than uncommon, these references reaffirm an adult’s status as a former youth. With such a status, narrators announce that they are not complete strangers to their informants. Rather, these narrators bring to bear on their projects some experience that increases their interpretive authority. Memories of youth also signify the narrator’s social location in relation to the research, reflecting the importance of articulating the vantage point...

    • Chapter 11 Power-Puff Ethnography/Guerrilla Research: Children as Native Anthropologists
      (pp. 269-283)
      Elizabeth Chin

      For decades now, anthropologists have attempted to unhinge our discipline from its colonialist frames. Challenging constructions of both “native” and “anthropologist,” many have collaborated with research “subjects” or embarked on autoethnography in order to critically examine what it is that we do. In collaborations with children, my own work has endeavored to engage in just this type of imaginative repositioning, a project that is equally political and intellectual in its aim. In this chapter, my interest is in thinking about the potential of collaborative research with children for shifting the ways in which we as anthropologists view our own work,...

    • Chapter 12 Performing Youth: Youth Agency and the Production of Knowledge in Community-Based Theater
      (pp. 284-303)
      Stephani Etheridge Woodson

      This student in my community-based drama class was working with me on a Place: Vision & Voice project with long-term-care foster youth in the metro-Phoenix area. Since 2000, Place: Vision & Voice (PVV) has operated under my direction as a community-based performance and digital arts residency program focused on youth participants at the Herberger College of Fine Arts at Arizona State University. During residencies—which typically last anywhere from one to ten months—the adolescent youth and I (plus assorted graduate students) collaboratively create and edit multimedia performance collages (digital storytelling pieces) incorporating performance, music, interviews, digital graphics and images, creative movement,...

    • Chapter 13 Beyond “Straight” Interpretations: Researching Queer Youth Digital Video
      (pp. 304-324)
      Susan Driver

      When I tell people about my research project on queer youth sexualities, I am struck by the arousal, fear, and discomfort this topic elicits. I think that it is my passionate interest and the directness of my approach that triggers surprise and embarrassment. Connections between sexuality and girlhood have become a locus of whispered titillation and moral condemnation, but rarely do we candidly address our own and others’ feelings and attitudes about this taboo realm of experience. Even feminist academic researchers have learned to translate the intensities of flesh-and-blood teen worlds into safely packaged knowledges. The very categories of “girl”...

  8. About the Contributors
    (pp. 325-328)
  9. Index
    (pp. 329-342)