Buckingham, David; Bragg, Sara and Kehily, Mary eds.
Youth Cultures in the Age of Global Media.
Studies in Childhood and Youth.
Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan (forthcoming).
The category of ‘youth’ has been a focus of attention for academic researchers since G. Stanley Hall’s ground-breaking work on adolescence at the beginning of the twentieth century; while the term ‘youth culture’ was first coined by the sociologist Talcott Parsons in 1942. Successive generations of scholars have sought to define the unique characteristics of youth culture, often in starkly divergent terms. Recent psychological research has seen the development of the ‘emerging adulthood’ perspective; while sociological research in the UK has coalesced around the notion of ‘youth transitions’. The pioneering work of the Birmingham CCCS in the 1970s established youth culture as a key dimension of the emerging field of Media/Cultural Studies, and helped to situate the analysis of young people’s engagement with popular culture within a broader account of the social and historical context of post-war Britain. Over the past decade, however, this work has been challenged by exponents of ‘post-subcultural’ research and by advocates of the ‘youth transitions’ approach: this has led to some significant debates about the basic theoretical principles of youth culture research. Meanwhile, parallel developments in Childhood Studies have drawn attention to the social construction of childhood, although the implications of this approach have yet to be fully addressed in the field of youth research. Perhaps most significantly, much of this work remains focused on specific local or national settings, and has yet to address the implications of cultural and economic globalisation.
Young people are now growing up in a world in which they have significantly greater access to globalised media: media companies are increasingly constructing and targeting global markets, and young people are using new media to form and sustain transnational connections. Growing numbers of them have also experienced global migration, and inhabit communities in which a wide range of global cultures mix and cross-fertilise. New media technologies offer new possibilities for transnational connectedness and dialogue; and yet the media market is increasingly dominated by a small number of global corporations. These developments are manifested in youth culture in specific ways, through the emergence of a global lingua franca (for example in the form of MTV or celebrity culture) and through the development of new ‘hybrid’ forms (as in the case of hip-hop or bhangra). However, this is not simply a matter of changing relations between ‘centre’ and periphery’: on the contrary, youth cultures typically display a complex and uneven negotiation between the global and the local. For some young people the ‘flows’ of global capital can be enjoyed and embraced in ways that increase the repertoire of expressive youth cultures and styles. For others who are geographically displaced and living transitional lives, their relationship to global cultures may seem distant and remote; and there remain significant inequalities in access to media, both within nations and at a global level. The study of youth culture in this wider global context thus challenges the limitations of place-based research, and necessitates a less parochial approach; and it also requires innovative forms of knowledge production and new methodologies for accessing the cultural worlds of young people.
This book, which draws on a two-year seminar series funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council, aims to contribute to the broader rethinking of youth culture studies by means of a specific emphasis on media and globalisation: it focuses primarily on young people’s consumption, use and production of media and popular culture (including audio-visual, digital and online media, popular music and fashion), and considers how definitions of youth are constructed in different cultural settings. The book is organised in five sections, each containing three chapters. The first looks at broad issues to do with the theoretical and disciplinary nature of youth culture research. Subsequent sections consider the changing relations between the global and the local; media and consumption; youth participation; and political activity. The chapters are authored by an international team of well-established scholars. The editors will also produce an overall introduction, laying out the broader issues outlined here and introducing each of the sections.
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