The (Normal) Non-Normativity of Youth

SLATER, Jenny (2016). The (Normal) Non-Normativity of Youth. In: MALLETT, Rebecca, OGDEN, Cassie and SLATER, Jenny, (eds.) Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane : Precarious Positions. Chester, University of Chester Press, 14-44.

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Abstract

Youth unnerves us. Awkwardly bridging the space between ‘child’ and ‘adult’, we are delivered demonising depictions of young people (hoodies and hooligans), and working out how to deal with these not-quite children but not-quite-adults is high on policy makers’ agendas (Slater, 2013b). On the other hand, the non-normativity of ‘teenage rebellion’ is considered an ‘identity forming’ rite of passage for young people to cross the border zone between child and adult (Lesko, 2002). We hear, in fact, young people scorned upon for their apolitical, apathetic acceptance of normativity – the youth today a pale reflection of their predecessors (Bennett, 2008). Even our ever-so reasonable politicians tell us that they “[did] things that teenagers do”, before they “pulled [themselves] up and headed in the right [direction]” (Cameron in Watt, 2009). This chapter will explore how, through youth, ‘non-normativity’ emerges as a place allowed, indeed expected, as a stage of ‘normative development’. I will argue, however, that it is a stage only permissible to young people fitting neatly into other culturally privileged positions. Furthermore, it must be played out by meeting other societal expectations (‘masculinity’ - lads will be lads; first heterosexual encounters, and so on) which set young people on the path to normative adulthood. Commercialised and commodified ‘what it is to be young’, I argue, is an illustration of the required flexible neoliberal subject; it is okay to be ‘non-normative’ if ‘non-normativity’ can be compartmentalised, as a phase to be grown-out of, and later periodically bought into. Drawing on fieldwork with disabled young people alongside other cultural and media representations of ‘youth’ and ‘youth culture’, I will argue that perceived ‘non-normativity’ leaves young people not fitting into other culturally privileged positions much more precariously positioned.

Item Type: Book Section
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Sheffield Institute of Education
Depositing User: Jenny Slater
Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2016 08:58
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2016 00:01
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/13466

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