Reappraising Youth Subcultures and the Impact upon Young People’s Sexual Cultures: Links and Legacies in Studies of Girlhood

Kehily, Mary Jane and de Lappe, Joseph (2015). Reappraising Youth Subcultures and the Impact upon Young People’s Sexual Cultures: Links and Legacies in Studies of Girlhood. In: Renold, Emma; Ringnose, Jessica and Egan, R.Danielle eds. Children, Sexuality and Sexualization. London: Palgrace Macmillan, pp. 56–70.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137353399_4

Abstract

In this chapter, we aim to consider the links between youth subcultures and young people’s sexual cultures and particularly how the concept of youth subcultures has had an impact upon the study of young people’s sexual cultures, leaving a distinguished legacy of ideas and methods that have had a generative impact upon the fields of education and childhood studies. Studies of youth subcultures burgeoned in the post-war period as a way of making sense of the self-generated activity of young people in broader terms than the pathologizing themes of deviancy or youthful rebellion that permeated prior studies (Hall & Jefferson, 1976). Largely associated with the disciplines of sociology and cultural studies in the US and the UK, youth subcultural studies, at their most persuasive, provide compelling accounts of youthful expression: reading and interpreting what young people say and do in the collective stylization of subgroups such as teddy boy, mod, punk, skinhead or goth. Since the high-water mark of subcultural research in the 1970s, the concept of subculture has been subject to successive waves of critique, the most recent questioning its explanatory power in a changed environment that can be described as post-subcultural (Muggleton & Weinzier, 2004). While recognizing the salience of much critical commentary, this chapter argues for an acknowledgement of its rich heritage, revisiting youth subcultures as a generative approach to understanding children and young people as social actors in the present.

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