PRODUCING ‘OUT OF SCHOOL’ WORKING CLASS GIRLS: URBAN SPACE, PLACE & VALUE by STEPHANIE SKOURTES B.S., The University of Oregon, 1995 M.A., Michigan State University, 2000 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULLFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Educational Studies) THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver) July 2012 © Stephanie Skourtes, 2012 Abstract At a time when individualized narratives have replaced structural explanations like social class to account for inequality, the material conditions of girls who are marginalized economically, politically, and socially are being reproduced through the uneven outcomes of globalization. Young women who are on the fringes of social change are under valued as contributing members to a futuristic individually oriented society, and often not included in academic and mainstream definitions of ‘girl.’ This study addresses these epistemological silences through an empirical investigation of girls between the ages of 16-23 who are in various ways marked as a ‘problem’ by dominant social discourse. This research considers the structural organization of working-class girl subjectivities and seeks to broaden our understanding of contemporary girl culture in the changing nature of the ‘new global city’ (Sassen, 2001). I conducted an eighteen-month ethnography of working-class, urban female youth who are living on the margins of the post-industrial city of Vancouver, Canada. Utilizing a materialist theoretical framework, which draws heavily from theories of social and cultural space, along with multiple visual ethnographic methods the ethnography took place in a provincially funded drop-in social service center for youth, and the surrounding neighborhoods. Analyses revealed how class as culture operated along with other classification systems like gender, ethnicity, and sexuality to inscribe the girls as ‘abject.’ Utilizing a theoretical intervention to retrieve ‘use-value’ as separate from ‘exchange-value’ I suggest that the girls’ narratives describe alternative value systems that provide collective significance and at times economic value to the girls. I also uncover the affective economies operating as the present expression of the girls’ collective histories to reveal the structures in place and historicity that produce the abject girl. It is my hope that this study will advance the fields of youth cultural studies, ethnographic approaches, and the sociology of education by deploying materialist accounts of young, female workingclass lives. The consideration of use-value (Skeggs, 2004a) and affect (Ahmed, 2004) as a demonstration of structural constraints provides a compelling approach to reposition socially marginalized young people and is key to understanding the processes and effects of urban change. ii Preface Ethics Approval This study was approved by the Behavioral Research Ethics Board at The University of British Columbia on August 14, 2008 and July 7, 2009. Approval number: H08-01467 Photographs Photos found throughout the chapters of this dissertation were taken by the research participants; thus, they remain anonymous and untitled. Photos at the end of each chapter are from the 2011 documentary photography exhibit that accompanied this research titled, Ab/Ob-jection: Encountering Youth and the City. These photos are indicated as such by the photographer’s name below each image. Photos on page 93 were not part of the Ab/Ob-jection exhibit and are included in the text to provide a visual context for this research. The photographers granted permission in all instances for reproduction here. iii Table of Contents Abstract ..................................................................................................................................................ii Preface ...................................................................................................................................................iii Table of Contents..................................................................................................................................iv Acknowledgements .............................................................................................................................vii Dedication ...........................................................................................................................................viii 1. Subjectivity, Space, and Class Among Urban Working-Class Girls....................................... 1 Theoretical Rationale .................................................................................................................. 5 Research Questions and Theoretical Issues ..................................................................... 8 Research Site and Research Group of Interest ............................................................. 10 2. The Making of Working-Class Girl Subjectivities: Space, Social Class, and Value .......... 13 Working-Class Youth and the ‘New’ Global City .................................................................. 13 The Study of the Girl................................................................................................................. 17 Historical Recountings of the Adolescent and the Teenager........................................ 18 The Contemporary Field of Girls’ Studies............................................................................... 22 The Limits of Modernist Conceptions of Girlhood....................................................... 22 Post-structuralism and Feminism ................................................................................... 28 Girls as Cultural Producers............................................................................................. 30 Girls and Class Subjectivities......................................................................................... 39 Moving Forward From Contemporary (Postmodern) Girls’ Cultural Studies ...................... 43 Reading the Spatial Landscapes of 21st Century Girl Culture: Theoretical Concepts .......... 45 The Hidden Dynamics of Class...................................................................................... 46 Use Value – Rewriting the narrative on girls ...................................................... 48 Theories of Space and the Making of the Urban Girl ................................................... 51 Spatializing the dialectics ..................................................................................... 54 Objectives Going Forward........................................................................................................ 56 3. The Methodological Politics of Power and Representation .................................................... 58 My Entry Into the Research ...................................................................................................... 58 Insider vs. Outsider ......................................................................................................... 59 Concerns Relating to Epistemology ......................................................................................... 61 The Politics of Representing the ‘Other’ ....................................................................... 61 Representation and the Ethics of Appropriation ........................................................... 64 Theoretical Perspectives on Ethnography................................................................................ 65 Critical Feminist Ethnography ....................................................................................... 65 Visual Ethnographic Methods ........................................................................................ 66 A Reflexive, Pragmatic Epistemology........................................................................... 68 Methodological Framing........................................................................................................... 70 Auto-driven Photo-elicitation......................................................................................... 71 In-depth Interviews ......................................................................................................... 73 The ‘Go-Along’ ............................................................................................................... 73 Multiple Visual Methods ................................................................................................ 75 Participant Observation................................................................................................... 76 iv The Phenomenologies of Speaking For/With/Of Marginalized Young People .................... 78 Strategies of Knowledge Construction .......................................................................... 78 Techniques of Interpretation........................................................................................... 81 Open coding .......................................................................................................... 81 Across and within-case level analyses................................................................. 82 Analytic strategies................................................................................................. 83 Methods of Representation ....................................................................................................... 84 4. Resisting Risk and Individualization: Girls’ Doing Divergent Femme(s) in Space and Place....................................................................................................................... 86 Urban Canadian Landscapes and its Global Manifestations .................................................. 86 Spacing and Placing ........................................................................................................ 86 Vancouver: New Global City ......................................................................................... 87 The Local Scene ........................................................................................................................ 92 In the Neighborhood(s) ................................................................................................... 92 East Van ........................................................................................................................... 93 The Center ....................................................................................................................... 98 Making a ‘Home Space’ – Friendship and Family................................................................102 Spaces of Representation ..............................................................................................105 5. Urban Girls’ Struggles for Symbolic Recognition: Redemption, Value, and Imagined Futures ..............................................................................................................110 Reclaiming Value ....................................................................................................................112 Stories of Self and Imagined Futures: Class, Race, and Gender Distinction ......................115 Re-Narrating Redemption through the Language of Individualization: Achieving, Deliberating, and Trying to ‘Be Good’........................................................................117 Redemption through Ethnic Distinction: Separation with Pride ................................121 Redeeming Oneself through Class Distinction: Performing the Good Mother.........129 Imagining Future Selves .........................................................................................................136 6. Making Abject Social Identities ................................................................................................138 Classifying Structures and Embodiment: Gender, Value, and Youthful Inscriptions ........139 Not Performing Normal: Culture, Style, and Challenging Middle-Class Femininities ...................................................................................................................142 Policing the Disadvantaged and Invisible Girls: Social Services, School, and the State ...152 Social Service Surveillance and Modern Day Child Saving ......................................154 The emergence of the problem girl ....................................................................156 The erasure of history .........................................................................................159 School as a Disciplining Agent...................................................................................165 Police Encounters in Space ........................................................................................172 The Making of the Abject Girl: Politics and Power Relations .............................................178 7. See Me Now! Feeling the Past in The Present: Space, Selfhood, and Affect.....................183 Anger as Power, Working-Class Rage, and Challenging Emotive Norms: Practicing Girlhood in a Context of Exclusion........................................................................................185 No History, No Affect.............................................................................................................190 Spatial Affects: Loneliness, Anxiety, and Nostalgia for Home ...........................................195 Affect as Transformative Revaluing ......................................................................................203 v 8. Ab/Ob-jection: Encountering Youth and the City ..................................................................205 Value Ex Nihilo: Bringing Something From Nothing ..........................................................207 The Persistent Burdens of Class .............................................................................................209 Reflections, Contributions and (Im)practicalities..................................................................211 Rewriting the Narrative on Girls: Not ‘can do’ and Not ‘at risk’ ..............................211 Considerations on Practice ...........................................................................................213 Political Pasts, Presents, and Futures ...........................................................................216 References .........................................................................................................................................219 Appendices A Research Participants .........................................................................................................235 B Codes ...................................................................................................................................236 C Interview Protocol – Staff ..................................................................................................237 vi Acknowledgements An endeavor like this one, the writing of a dissertation and the completion of a PhD, is not accomplished alone. There are many people whose efforts, talents, wisdom, and guidance have enabled me to accomplish this goal. Thank you goes first to the girls at The Center who trusted me enough to allow my presence in their lives over the course of many months. I hope that my representation of your stories motivates others to SEE you and to walk with you. I am especially grateful to the director of The Center and to all of the staff for allowing me to conduct research in their space and for assisting my access to various programs and events. It was an honor to go to ‘work’ each day at The Center and witness the hard work and dedication that goes towards bettering the lives of young people. I extend particular gratitude to the youth worker ‘Steven.’ He not only provided me with invaluable insight into his profession and the young people at The Center, but also became a mentor and a friend. I thank Dr. Jo Anne Dillabough, my academic supervisor and intellectual inspirer, for her guidance and support. Your encouragement and trust infused me with a sense of confidence to pursue my vision and to ‘keep going’ despite the intellectual and personal doubts that would sometimes plague my process. My additional committee members, Dr. Mona Gleason and Dr. Deirdre Kelly provided insightful comments and sound direction during the various phases of this study. I am indebted to each of you for encouraging me to engage with my research in a manner that was consistent with my political intentions and theoretical aspirations for this work. I thank too Dr. Dawn Currie for serving on my comprehensive exam committee and for agreeing to supervise a directed study on cultural studies and materialist feminism. Through that experience I was able to explore the theories and concepts that would later form my theoretical framework. I learned a great deal from our discussions and your guidance. I also want to thank Dr. Lisa Loutzenheiser who mentored and inspired me early on at UBC. It was in her Feminist Pedagogy class that I wrote my first paper deconstructing the dominant discourse on girls. Your encouraging feedback and unapologetic pedagogy helped me discover how I too could have a PhD, despite (or because of) my critique of academia. This research was made possible by generous support from the Izaak Walton Killam Memorial PreDoctoral Fellowship, UBC Four Year Doctoral Fellowships, UBC Ph.D. Tuition Fee Awards, and the Faculty of Education Graduate Student Research Grant. I want to extend a special thank you to all of the people who made the Ab/Ob-jection: Encountering Youth and The City Documentary Photography exhibit come to fruition. First and foremost I thank Megan Low and Tracei Therres for their creativity in translating this research into beautiful, challenging photography. I am amazed and humbled by your talents. I am also grateful to the photographer Yun Lam Li for his mentorship and artistry with this project. All three of you injected artistic inspiration into this work and gave me renewed motivation when the enormity and the isolation of writing a dissertation set in. I also want to thank the staff and youth at L.O.V.E for their interest in this photography exhibit and for their help in the staging of some photos. And finally, I thank the two galleries and the curators who showcased our exhibit; The Lobby Gallery at the Liu Institute for Global Issues and Lara Rosenoff-Gauvin and The Rhizome Café and Lisa Moore. I appreciate both of you for recognizing the feminist and anti-oppressive implications of this research and for valuing the use of the visual as a tool for social change. My time in this program has been greatly enhanced by the camaraderie and intellectual and moral support of my research group colleagues; Ee-Seul Yoon, Erin Graham, Lyn Daniels, and Dr. Dilek Kayaalp. I also want to thank my Vancouver friend/family: Anya Chase, Cathryn Lecorre, Maria Routledge, Teal Beattie and especially Dr. Maryam Nabavi, my ‘school’ ally/friend. You all kept me focused and distracted at the appropriate times and showed me that working towards a PhD can be part of an enjoyable life. I accomplished this with you all. Finally, I want to thank my family. My parents Jackie and John Skourtes and my sister Jennifer Skourtes have continually supported and believed in me throughout my intellectual endeavors. Thank you for instilling in me the confidence to pursue an ‘unusual’ route. I especially thank Brian Ganter for his inspiring insight, intellectual guidance, creative ingenuity, and unyielding support. I’ve learned the most from you. vii Dedication To all of the hard working young women I’ve known along the way. The girls in Project RESPECT in Lansing, Michigan; the Seattle ‘teen moms,’ Keyanna, Jennifer, Patricia, and Leanna; and the Vancouver girls, Donna, Sam, Riley, Cali, Ramona, Alice, Veronica, Bianca, Alyssa, Lilly, Mary. I see you, I hear you, and I thank you for all that you’ve taught me. viii Chapter One Subjectivity, Space, and Class Among Urban Working-Class Girls This thesis represents my attempt at conducting a critical feminist, ethnographic inquiry into the lives of working-class urban female youth who live on the margins of the post-industrial city of Vancouver, Canada. Specifically, the study is centered around an urban drop-in social service center for young people in Vancouver. My primary objective with this research has been to explore how urban working-class girls navigate their daily lives, engage with social services and with each other, and, in doing so, seek to bring value to their own experiences as a response to a wider symbolic undervaluing of ‘who’ they are seen to be in a larger urban context and within the context of Canada. I engaged in this work in order to better understand how negative youth subjectivities are formed and constituted, as well as to demonstrate the ways in which socio-cultural processes function to re-inscribe the ‘out of school’ working-class girl as abject. I also sought to expose how the micro-spatial dimensions of the city and social class as both real and as imagined elements of everyday life play significant roles in forming working-class girls’ subjectivities and in further securing and consolidating their symbolic status within states of abjection inherited from a long narrative of colonization, legitimate citizenship, and nationbuilding (Adamoski, 2002; Ahmed, 2008). I use the term ‘working-class’ to highlight the significance of class in shaping and regulating one’s subjectivity. Yet the girls who are the focus of this ethnography do not fit neatly into a specific social scientific population or a rigid account of class. The term ‘working-class,’ as E.P. Thompson (1968) argued over three decades ago (that is, the idea that ‘class is a relation’), reveals little about the behavioral, familial, and living situations that these girls find themselves in on an everyday basis. In addition, the category of ‘working-class’ when referring to young people—particularly in Canada, a country which does not necessarily carry the symbolic inheritance of working-class pride—is often used in social scientific parlance as a code word for so called ‘at-risk youth.’ Such terminology points to the history of pathology behind the term ‘working-class’ without saying so forthrightly (Skeggs, 2004c). Nor does the category ‘working-class’ reveal the often negative but sometime invisible reactions that teachers, 1 researchers, and the public have in relation to this term and the people who they imagine constitute the category. When it comes to classifying working-class communities there remains the traditional divisions of working class into rough and respectable (Vincent, Ball & Braun, 2008) with the ‘rough’ referencing the ‘underclass:’ those who are estranged, isolated, living ‘morally adrift’ lives. The notion of the ‘respectable’ working class, in turn, refers to people positioned as law-abiding, hard working, and employable (Smith, 2008). This extends the distinctions posited by sociologists of the family between hard living (unemployed families living in poor-quality rental housing) and settled living (stably employed families who are homeowners) (Gorman, 2000; Howell, 1973; Rubin, 1976). By the same measure, when classifying youth there is the respectable, settled or ‘good’ working class (the wellbehaved youth in school working to improve their situation) and the rough, hard-living apparently ‘bad’ working class (the so-called/classed delinquents, deviants, and drop-outs) (Archer, Halsall, & Hollingworth, 2007; France, 2008). The girls who participated in this research could largely be grouped in the ‘rough, hard-living’ category from an economic and subjective standpoint, but importantly they do not rest neatly within any category that would signify something akin to ‘bad’ or even ‘rough.’ The young people selected for this study were girls from lower socio-economic backgrounds who simultaneously struggled against, and sometimes accommodated, the subjectivity identified by social service agencies and officials as ‘problem youth.’ They all could be considered recalcitrant, if the term is considered as a form of class or social/cultural resistance to the ‘at risk’ discourses circulating within the social services world. They defy authority, sometimes overtly, and more importantly resist dominant social norms that prescribe and mandate feminine, middle-class practices as the only acceptable way to be a young female. In this way they are all positioned in particular and contingent ways as ‘problems’ existing within, and at the margins, of mainstream society. At a more concrete level, the commonalities among my research participants take shape around geographic location (all urban dwellers), their ages (all between 16 and 23), gender and sexuality (all identify as heterosexual girls), economic categorization (all working-class or poor), and perhaps most importantly in their symbolic positioning as stigmatized young women. This stigma is attributed to them because of their class position, the performative dimension of 2 their social class, and their use of social services. Throughout, I will refer to the girls as ‘working class’ keeping in mind that they don’t fit neatly in the ‘rough, hard-living’ category, as they sometimes represent the ‘respectable, settled’ category as well. It is appropriate at this time to discuss why I am focusing specifically on girls or young women as opposed to girls and boys. In the past two decades, the concept of the girl as a subject of inquiry and as a subjectivity has permeated the semiotic and ideological landscape of Western culture. Whether through television shows such as 16 and Pregnant or in books and films such as Twilight, popular culture presents the contemporary girl as independent, strong, successful, and capable. More than a subject, conceptions of the girl serve as the moral compass for society. In much the same way that the white, male adolescent was fashioned at the beginning of the twentieth century as the emblem of a new, emergent industrialized society, the contemporary post-feminist adolescent girl is now filling that role. This girl or the ‘future girl’ (Harris, 2004) is defined by her flexibility and resilience in the face of uncertain career pathways and shaky economic outlooks. The future girl can be contrasted with the other dominant depiction of girlhood at the beginning of the twenty-first century: the idea of the girl as problem. Detailed descriptions of this girl’s social situatedness and history are, however, frequently absent from mainstream accounts, particularly as much sociological research focusing on traditional structural determinants of one’s future, such as social class, have diminished in significance (Archer & Leathwood, 2003; Cohen, 1999; Reay, 2004). I also find it equally troubling that such class analysis is on the wane at a time of near world-wide recession: such work seems to be absent precisely at a time when it is most urgently needed. This structuring debate that undergrids the field of youth studies when framing the girl relates to the proliferation of theories of the self and notions of youth difference and effectively works to eliminate the problem girl as a subject. Thus, while some young women are produced as a problem because of poverty, family distress, racism, and sexism these same girls can sometimes be subordinated within academic inquiry. Given this dynamic, I wish to argue that it is key to engage in critical analyses of the conditions and processes that continue to subordinate working-class, female, young people thirty years after second wave feminism resurrected the girl from the confines of ‘youth’ (Llewellyn, 1980). 3 Furthermore, as I will elaborate and expand upon in the next chapter, a substantial amount of sociological and youth studies research focused on girls has, in recent years, neglected to consider the stigmatized girl who doesn’t fit easily into a particular sub-category in the definition of the girl by either invoking notions of homeless, high school dropouts, and teen mothers on the one hand or sub-groups such as punks, ravers, and skaters on the other. Thus, I wish to underscore how the politics of categorization operates in particular settings that are associated with the symbolic idea of abjection as it relates to out-ofschool girls. I will also explore the cultural practices and forms of resistance engaged in by girls who are stigmatized as a ‘problem’ or objectified as a ‘symptom.’ Given that Bourdieu’s (1989) notion of symbolic violence is widely discussed in existing youth studies literature and is also intimately intertwined with what I witnessed on a daily basis in my research with young women, I seek to illustrate the processes and conditions such violence plays in the formation of a very particular kind of girlhood. I do so as a way to contextualize how both victimization and pathologization play out in certain ways when it comes to young women. This, I seek to argue, is a girlhood which is neither an ‘at risk’ form nor is it free of pathologization, but represents instead a more complex account of girlhood in space and time. I also seek to demonstrate how our understandings of young women change when we attempt to read girlhood differently or though an ethnographic approach which draws on a layered analysis of and reaction to her class position. Through this ethnographic account of the cultural practices of a group of working class girls who frequent a drop-in social service center, I seek to present a different lens through which to understand and come to know the ‘girl.’ This lens attempts to move away from and to begin to counteract liberal understandings of gender and its associated normative categories and seeks instead to highlight the hegemonic constructions that constitute a binary of good and bad behaviors and some of the inherited ideas that produce the making of the ‘girl.’ Here, then, my primary aim is to reveal how the girl participants in this study provide a theatre of understanding for showcasing the intersection of inherited social class relations, social service relations, and their everyday cultural practices. Ultimately, I see this ethnographic account as offering a platform for unraveling, reconceptualizing, and troubling normative definitions of girlhood. 4 Theoretical Rationale This study is a contribution to the expanding range of literature and research in the field of girls’ studies. In using the phrase ‘girls’ studies’ I am referring to the collection of social thought, academic research, and textual representations that relate to contemporary enquiries into the political significance of the girl and girlhood as cultural entities. Given that I locate the present project in girls’ studies I will use the most often-used designation in the field, ‘girl,’ to refer to the female young people who are in this study, while still noting the complexities and problems inherent to the term. The term ‘girl’ often connotes immaturity and can signify a pejorative image when used to refer to women or even young people over the age of thirteen (Jones, 1993). Girl can also be used politically as a reclaiming of feminist power. The ‘Girl Power’ approaches and movements of the mid 1990s were an attempt to signal precisely this move. Despite the challenges that surfaced with this liberal movement initially meant to empower girls (Gonick, 2006), this reclaiming of the ‘girl’ as distinct from the androcentric ‘youth’ served to put young women in a prominent academic and historical space. The use of ‘girl’ in girls’ studies signals this sort of retrieval. One way I address the problematic nature of ‘girl’ in the presentation of my research is by utilizing a variety of terms. In this text I use ‘young women,’ ‘young people,’ and ‘girl’ interchangeably. At times I also use ‘female’ and ‘youth’ when it seems appropriate to the flow of the story. I generally avoid the term ‘adolescent,’ as it refers to a constructed category derived from psychological discourse, as well as ‘teenager’ which refers to the popular culture term invented by marketers (Schrum, 2004). There is some debate about both the historical and the theoretical origins of girls’ studies, but as a recognizable field it is thought to date back to the mid-1980s (Ward & Benjamin, 2004). At the same time it is important to acknowledge that much of the research that has become associated with girls’ studies has been conducted by authors who do not necessarily align themselves with this field (de Ras & Lunenberg, 1993; Griffin, 1993; Kerber, 1986). Still, I have multiple rationales for avoiding the broader category of ‘youth studies’ or ‘the sociology of youth.’ The first key issue is that girls’ studies emerged in order to challenge the androcentric bias inherent to these other fields. Girls’ studies have explored a number of topics pertaining to ‘growing up’ as a ‘girl’ or ‘being female,’ particularly since the emergence 5 of second-wave feminism. For example, classic studies from feminist ethnographers such as Vivienne Griffiths (1984, 1989), Christine Griffin (1980, 1985), Mandy Llewellyn (1980), and Angela McRobbie, (1978, 1980) have all, in various ways, repositioned the girl as the primary, if not central, subject of inquiry within the social-scientific study of youth. Conceptions of femininity and masculinity were reconceived through this research and seen as cultural constructs, as effects of contingent practices (discourse, ideology, culture, embodiment), in marked contrast to the innate features of the sexed body foregrounded in the prior historical focus on male youth. Early cultural studies work on youth subcultures in the British tradition is an example of the latter (Hall & Jefferson, 1976; Willis, 1977). In girls’ studies, the experiences of women and girls as gendered beings is seen as valuable and legitimate knowledge about young people and the current work that falls under the heading of girls’ studies includes research that considers girls’ cultural production. A second reason for aligning the present research with the field of girls’ studies is to contribute to what I see as gaps in the current work so as to build a more expansive and inclusive girls’ studies approach, especially in relation to ethnographic accounts. To date much of the work in girls’ studies has been initiated or carried out through a post-structural epistemological frame whereby agency, individuality, and multiple hybrid identities are foregrounded with the objective being to trouble or deconstruct the fixity of the girl as a stable concept. Informed jointly by third-wave feminism and the rise of identity politics in the 1990s, the new emphasis in girls’ studies now has turned to girls’ own production of cultural artifacts (Chesney-Lind, & Irwin, 2004; Harris, 1999, 2003, 2004; Kearney, 2006) and their associated displays of agency and resistance in negotiating with popular culture and dominant forms of femininity (Harris & Fine, 2004; Jiwani, Steenbergen, & Mitchell, 2006). While this work has made great strides towards productively troubling gender bias in the concept of ‘youth’ and in addressing gender inequality, it can be argued that particular postmodern- and post-structuralist informed understandings of assumptions regarding the self, identity, and difference that are dominant within contemporary girls’ studies research has sometimes functioned to dehistoricize and dematerialize ‘difference.’ In doing so, they have disembedded girl subjectivities from their contingent structural mooring or their social position in relation to conditions of inequality and the forms of exploitation that 6 surround them (Ebert, 1996). Historical effects are therefore bracketed out or simply forgotten in the name of local descriptions of self and identity (Baumgardner & Richards, 2000; Driscoll, 2002). Further, by applying the postmodern conception of difference as discursive and not wanting to totalize youth experience, there is the tendency for youth identity to retreat into a normative dominant signification (Davies & Banks, 1992; Gonick, 2001, 2003). Finally, the postmodern emphasis on describing youth without an explanation for why they are in the situation that they are could arguably have the effect of removing opportunities for transformative social change. These issues or assumptions go far beyond the merely theoretical as current political and material forces are impinging on, impacting, and reordering the lives of young people. Some might also argue that we are living in a time when individualized narratives have replaced structural explanations such as social class to account for inequality (Gillies, 2005). As a result, the material conditions of girls who are marginalized economically, politically, and socially are being reproduced in part through the uneven social and economic outcomes of highly advanced forms of globalization (Nayak, 2003). Girl communities, specifically those composed of girls who operate on the fringes of economic and social changes, are not only socially excluded and left to fend for themselves in the post-industrial risk environment, but are undervalued as contributing members of this ‘high risk’ (Beck, 1992), individualism-rewarding society. Theoretically, class as a concept and an organizing principle has diminished in importance particularly since the 1980s throughout social-science research (Crompton, 1998; Shildrick, 2006). Within the field of youth studies, and particularly in Canada and the US, this has translated into a recurring and systematic absence regarding clarity about class and deeper sociological understandings of class as a pattern which has multiple influences upon the everyday cultural practices of low-income young women who are either marked as ‘other’ (Nayak, 2003) or who simply don’t fit easily within dominant markers of social class (Haylett, 2003). Within the field of girls’ studies, contemporary girlhood is often defined tacitly as middle-class (Shildrick, 2006), and as a result the dominant discourse of girlhood implicitly romanticizes the vision of an economically secure girl who is conscientious, success-oriented, ambitious, creative and willing to adjust to the demands of uncertain economic forecasts (Harris, 2004). A particular 7 type of girl is privileged and arguably she is one who supports the requirements of a neo-liberal state (Burman, 2005). Within this highly circumscribed field of representation there is little room to elucidate the real ‘messiness’ of the category of ‘girl’ without pathologizing the large majority of girls (workingclass, ethnic minorities, ‘delinquent,’ etc.) who do not (or refuse to) achieve this stature and who, correspondingly, are unable to accrue ‘value’ for themselves. Ultimately in the Canadian context the ways in which female youth/ful subjectivities have been investigated within girls’ studies has precluded consideration of the importance of the representation or depiction of youth (class) differences 1. In a partial response to this epistemological silence, I am suggesting that the condition of effective categorization (classification systems like gender, ethnicity, class) in producing youthful, classed, female subjectivities should be investigated more directly, rigorously, and substantively. As subject positions are the effect of discursive, ideological, and organizational structures (Skeggs, 1997) (and in contrast to some post-feminist theorizing and empirical work looking at girls and alternative subjectivities mentioned above) I wish to remain focused upon studying the structural organization of working-class girl subjectivities. This work, therefore, seeks to broaden our understanding of contemporary girl culture through the lens of one social service agency operating in and alongside of that emergent social formation some sociologists have named the ‘New Global City.’ Research Questions and Theoretical Issues I am proposing to broaden the theoretical territory of the study of working-class girls by focusing in particular upon three key theoretical concepts. First, I attend to the concept of ‘value’ and its role in shaping girls’ everyday experience of the urban spaces through which they travel and in which they engage with social services. I use the term value in a way that follows a cultural materialist tradition outlined extensively by Beverly Skeggs (2004a) but which extends the work of Pierre Bourdieu. I do so in order to refer to the positive symbolic qualities of a person and their determining effect on one’s material position within a system of inequality. Following Bourdieu (1977, 1989, 1990), Skeggs maintains that class always matters but she also bridges the gap between concrete identities and global structures by 1 I will detail this class omission in girls’ studies research in Chapter Two. 8 theorizing class as itself a production of value. The second concept I draw upon is spatialization largely because it exists in theory and practice as a material force and form (Aitken, 2001; Sibley, 1995) and theories from urban geography (Lefebvre, 1991b; Massey, 1999). Elements from spatial theory are useful for understanding how and why hegemonic meanings of the ‘girl’ are circulated and are helpful in connecting the operation of space to the concepts of value, class, and female subjectivity. Finally, I will be deploying the idea of ‘abjection’ as a way to talk about the bodily marking and effect of negative classifications that preclude the accumulation of value for those who are marked as abject (Ahmed, 2004; Skeggs, 2004a). Specifically, this research seeks to explore three key questions. First, how do ‘out of school’ young women (aged 16-23) who are either unemployed or underemployed perceive and navigate radically changing urban environments in 21st century modern Canada and in one particular urban concentration (the city of Vancouver, BC)? Second, how do these young women value, describe, and perform ‘girl culture’ as they carry out their lives and move within and/or through the social service ‘industry’ in these ‘New Times’ (Hall, 1996)? Third, how are young women’s accounts of ‘girlhood’ in the ‘new global city’ linked to 21st century social class formations, as well as other symbolic markers of status, exclusion, resistance, and change? In posing these questions, it is my hope that this dissertation will contribute to the advancement of the fields of youth cultural studies, girls’ studies, and the discipline of the sociology of education by simultaneously deploying spatialized and materialist accounts of young, female working-class lives in urban Canada. Particular accounts of working class girls’ experiences are needed to inform the specificities and contours of modern girlhood which cut across the center and the margin and move between the formal and informal educational spaces in culture at large. It is worth noting that the few focused studies of economically marginalized or working-class girls that do exist are overwhelmingly centered around American or British schools (Bettie, 2004; Connolly & Healy, 2004; Hey, 1997). In contrast, this study will contribute to our knowledge of how female, working-class subjectivities—class understood as subject position as well as socio-economic relation—are constructed at multiple levels in the Canadian context by observing girls as they travel in and through multiple spaces beyond and in 9 parallel with the site of institutionalized schooling. The concept of traveling here is an important dimension of my research. ‘Traveling,’ as I develop it here, is integral to an ethnographic encounter which is not simply or solely based on interviews but on the forms of walking and encountering working class experiences in situ, drawing on previous work such as Nayak’s (2006) idea of the walking ethnography. Further, an understanding of the processes of categorization and the everyday material impact of symbolic value in the lives of young women will be an additional contribution of my study to the fields outlined above. The intent is to challenge what constitutes the ‘correct’ way of being a girl by focusing on youth who are negatively stigmatized without preconceived ideas about how they should be or what they should strive for in the future, as well as to bring value to that which is constitutively undervalued: the pathologized, working-class, urban girl. Research Site and Research Group of Interest The central location where this ethnography took place was a multi-service youth resource center located in Vancouver, BC operated by a large, non-profit, social service organization funded through provincial, federal, and private grants and donations. I will call this place ‘The Center’ throughout. It is located on a busy street in a residential neighborhood on the edge of the urban core of Vancouver. This is an area of segregated poverty combined with gentrified housing and middle-income residents (Statistics Canada, 2006). The Center provides assistance to young people between the ages of 13 and 24 in the areas of housing, education, employment, counseling, and addictions treatment and is accredited through the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development (The Center’s website, 2008). Several other agencies are co-located at The Center, such as an Adult Basic Education (ABE) program. The youth who visit The Center live either in the immediate neighborhood or in surrounding locales throughout the Vancouver metropolitan area. Some of the young people live with their families and others are homeless or intermittently homeless, while the remaining young people live on their own or with friends (A. Ross [pseudonym], personal communication, June 10, 2008). They represent the diverse gender, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds of the city as a whole, with over 25% of The Center’s clientele being of Aboriginal descent. Nearly all of the youth visitors are from a working-class 10 background or in some way are economically disadvantaged (S. Miller [pseudonym], personal communication, July 8, 2009). I entered this setting as an adult volunteer for a year-and-a-half prior to the formal start of my research. In the role of volunteer I grew quite familiar with the staff and many of the youth. As I detail in Chapter Three, being a somewhat familiar face around The Center before switching to ‘researcher’ brought its own unique challenges. However, being familiar with The Center and its operations was very useful in narrowing my observation activities and in designing the focused research methods that I used with a smaller group of girls. These were more easily implemented as I already had some idea as to who the girls were and what their everyday cultural practices were. There was a large group of youth who visited The Center almost daily, and spent most of their day in the space when they were there. I call them the ‘Center regulars’ and they were the young people I became most familiar with during the ethnography. Seven of the girls in this group participated in my focused research activities. I also recruited an additional ten girls from the ABE program and four other girls who visited The Center on occasion or were in other programs at The Center. In total, I recruited twenty-one working-class girls between the ages of 16 and 23 to participate in focused research activities but had informal conversations with dozens of youth, both boys and girls, over the course of eighteen months. Among the focused research group, eight girls identified as First Nations, six as white, two as Chinese, one as South Asian from the Punjab, two as Filipina, and two girls as ‘mixed’ race (white and black). These young women were urban dwellers, working-class or poor, and were not ‘properly institutionalized’ for their age: in other words, the majority of this group either were pushed out of high school or attended an alternative education program (two of the girls graduated from a traditional high school within the usual four year time frame). All of the girls enrolled in the ABE program lived at home with their families, while all of the ‘Center girls’ lived either on their own or with friends. Each of The Center girls over age 18 received some government assistance as opposed to being in regular, full-time employment or enrolled in a higher education or skills training program. Some young women held jobs but would certainly qualify as ‘under-employed’ given that only two girls had full-time jobs leaving many 11 of the remaining girls in a perpetual search for work over the course of the research in order to support themselves. Furthermore, all of the youth either sporadically or intimately utilized social services, and eight of the girls had spent a significant period of time in foster care. It is important to note two significant elements of the population I studied. The first is the presence of Aboriginal culture, identity, and history. Importantly, this is not a study about Aboriginal girls. However, nearly half of my research participants identified as Aboriginal2 and I met many Aboriginal young people at The Center. Moreover, the study took place in a post-settler society contending with a history of colonization and ethnic genocide; thus, I addressed these factors in my analysis. Second, motherhood proved to be an important consideration in both my reflexivity and the construction of knowledge that was to follow. I became a mother for the first time as did three of the research participants during the course of the research and the concept of ‘mother’ played a forceful role throughout the ethnographic process. I will elaborate on the significance of the ‘mother role’ in Chapter Three. Through participant observation at The Center and in the surrounding neighborhoods where the girls live, work, and play, along with the use of visual research methods, I constructed a portrait of the spaces and places that constituted the girls’ everyday lives (spaces and places that played a central role in the formation of their subjectivities). Through these activities I observed an ongoing series of instances of girl culture and stigmatization in a uniquely spatialized context. Finally, in this research I have attempted to elucidate the cultural resources and strategies (economic, symbolic, cultural) that working-class girls draw upon to live in the transformed urban spaces of contemporary North America and to share how they see themselves and their futures in the Canadian version of the global metropolis. In the next chapter I will detail the existing bodies of literature that I draw from and seek to expand through this research. I will also present the theoretical framework that I used to accomplish the goals of this study. 2 I use the term ‘Aboriginal’ throughout this text to refer to people who are indigenous to the land that is now known as ‘Canada’ (First Nations, Métis, Inuit). However, all of the Aboriginal young people who participated in this research refereed to themselves and to each other as ‘Native.’ 12 Chapter Two The Making of Working-Class Girl Subjectivities: Urban Space, Social Class, and Value The context for this study stems from several bodies of literature. Broadly, these bodies of literature can be organized within two categories. The first refers to work associated with individualization and the tenets of what is sometimes referred to as post-industrial ‘New Times’ (Hall, 1996) in the West (also known as reflexive modernization) and its impact on working-class, female youth. The second body of literature encompasses the contemporary conceptualization of the ‘girl’ within popular and academic discourses. I will outline the relevant aspects of each of these subjects, highlighting the gaps in our understanding and indicating places where further research is still needed. Working-Class Youth and the ‘New’ Global City Early 21st century market societies have experienced far-reaching social changes over the past several decades. Numerous debates have played out over what to designate our present era: high or late modernity (Giddens, 1996), post-modernity (Harvey, 1990), or a new modernity (Beck, 1992). All of these terms, despite their surface differences, attempt to describe or register the contours of an era of postindustrialization, post-Fordism, and a de-traditionalization and individualization of social life. Stuart Hall (1996) refers to the present era as ‘New Times,’ which he describes as global economic changes marked by flexible specialization, a shift to new information technologies, the move towards decentralized forms of labor processes, an increase in the share of wages put into consumer goods, a decline in the manual working class and rise of service work, and a ‘feminization’ and ‘ethnicization’ of the workforce. GibsonGraham (2006) have also suggested that current capitalist economic arrangements are not independent of social or familial structures. Such global transformations are producing uneven social and economic outcomes for young people (Katz, 1998; Nayak, 2006), who are by definition the most vulnerable members of society. For example, in North America and the UK, state support for youth in terms of special programs and education has been eroding with the rise of neo-liberal social and economic policies or austerity measures that favor individuality, privatization, and fiscal self-restraint (Peters, 2011; Ruddick, 2003). This, coupled with social retrenchment in wealthy Western nations and the outflow of labor to periphery 13 countries, means clear ‘school-to-work’ transitions for working-class youth in the West are much more difficult to navigate (Bivens, 2012; MacDonald & Marsh, 2004). Part-time, flexible work has replaced full-time ‘career building’ jobs. As Castells (2000) has famously observed, “In the new labor market we see a central core of prosperity and security contained within a periphery of part-time contract workers, and those with low skills” (p. 221). Simultaneously, we can see unambiguously that the number of families living in poverty is increasing (Lovell, 2004; Raphael, 2007). Child poverty is on the rise and economic polarization between the rich and poor is increasing with less inter-class movement (Albanese, 2010; Ball, McGuire & McCrae, 2000; Klein, 2010). This can be seen most visibly in the inner cities of North America (Walks & Bourne, 2006). It is on the urban periphery where the highest proportion of dispossessed young people reside. Yet, as Ball et al. (2000) articulate in their research on youth in the ‘New Economy,’ the ubiquity of youth consumerism and the spatial organization of culture obscure the prevalence of inequality within the global city. It has been argued that individualized, globalized capitalism and the product of reflexive modernization is superceding industrial capitalism, and bringing about the demise of traditional, workingclass solidarity (Beck, 1992; Giddens, 1991). According to these ‘risk’ theorists, social class is a relic of modernity (the first one) where it now plays a marginal role in determining either one’s life outcomes or access to material resources. Collective, stable identities, according to this narrative, are declining in significance as people forge their own individually negotiated lives (Brannen & Nilsen, 2005) and assume the demands of so called ‘flexible citizenship’ (Harvey, 1990). It is argued by risk theorists that ‘class,’ as an organizing principle in one’s life, is no longer relevant. This theoretical climate makes building new resistance knowledges of class and highlighting the systematic nature of economic injustice—such as what I seek to articulate here—particularly urgent. It is within this social climate that the present work, seeking to emphasize and rearticulate the continuing significance of class, is situated within the Canadian context. As I have alluded to above, the social climate of ‘New Times’ is marked by an increased emphasis on an individualistic notion of agency in negotiating and managing one’s life events or life 14 chances (Gillies, 2005). According to this view, public ties to traditional social structures are diminishing or at least being ideologically eroded. In response to a systematically and deliberately weakened welfare state across all (post)industrial nations, the rise of neo-liberalism, and economic shifts brought on by what is now referred to as late modern or advanced globalization we are witnessing what Nikolas Rose (1996), echoing Baudrillard (1983), refers to as ‘the death of the social.’ According to this view, individual associations and personal affiliations to local and specific communities are replacing former social connections that were established through kinship or status and rooted in a shared social responsibility, such as collectivity. While there may be evidence to support this claim of diminishing social connectivity, its inevitableness and completeness can be challenged. Still, the cultural ramifications of the rise of neoliberalism are apparent. Rose (1999) suggests we are, “…[in] an era dominated by a culture of the self” (p. 27). Rose (1996) documents that in almost all advanced industrial economies, the certainties of the welfare state are under attack. Gibson-Graham (2006) has also echoed this view. Traditional, statedirected social welfare is being replaced with strategies external to the state that seek to govern through regulated, self-management techniques. The discourses of globalization and the language of neoliberalism are crucial for this process to function. The dialogue of reflexive modernization, where individuals chose their own biographies, functions to present a veneer of individually-driven engagement amongst the forces of globalization. If we are to follow this logic then the citizen (or citizen-consumer) can chose who he or she wants to be in the global marketplace. The ‘new’ subject/person in this new era must now be self-sufficient and personally responsible for her future as part of a process of constant reinvention and self-perfection (Lucey, Melody, & Walkerdine, 2003). Not participating, however, (a state marked by economic deprivation, social exclusion, or a non-consumptive lifestyle) signals a morally limited and failed individual (Rose, 1996). Within the realm of labor and gender, the new worker in this new era is now more likely to be a woman (Ehrenreich & Hochschild, 2003). Walkerdine (2003) too, suggests, “…the female worker [is] the mainstay of the neo-liberal economy” (p. 238). The post-World War II movement of women into the labor market and the subsequent dislodging of some women from traditional roles (largely in the West but also 15 elsewhere in the global economy) have created new forms of classification and emergent social divisions that are increasingly feminized, generating new social roles for women to assume (i.e. sole bread winner, entrepreneur) (McRobbie, 2004). At the same time, however, specific female gender hierarchies continue to be maintained through the denigration of working-class and socially marginalized women. As women become detached from their conventional place in the family, the media ‘field’ (to use Bourdieu’s (1977) term) becomes highly significant for producing these new forms of classification (Lawler, 2004; Walkerdine, 1997), making media an increasingly significant space to ‘occupy’ with oppositional representations, images, and ideas. The push for individuals to take responsibility for their decisions and actions has undermined a social welfare agenda throughout the English-speaking West and instituted a neo-liberal cultural and ideological regime set on promoting individualism as the cure for all social ills. Nowhere is this more evident than in the language of social science research and social policy debates related to young people (Lawler, 2005a; Rouse, 1995)3. Rather than using economic disparity and material need as markers of inequality, working class youth disadvantage is explained through the concept of ‘social exclusion’ which is tied to a culturally distinct (Gilles, 2005) and economically marginalized minority (Croghan, Griffin, Hunter, & Phoenix, 2006). All ‘othered’ youth are referred to through this concept which ultimately homogenizes their experience and fails to reveal the structural reasons for their social segregation as local descriptions of self and identity fill the void of historical and materialist explanations. Inequalities among the ‘included’ majority are overlooked as well (Croghan et al., 2006), as the overriding objective of policy makers and government officials is to create opportunities for all citizens (rearticulated as consumers) to make individual choices based on their own personal desires and needs (Brannen & Nilsen, 2005). As a corollary to this point it is worth acknowledging that today classed subjectivities are inseparable from ‘young’ women. As Angela McRobbie (2004), one of the leading voices on youth culture in cultural studies today elucidates, “…class distinctions are now more autonomously generated 3 Examples of this reframing of class through political rhetoric and the criminalizing of poverty can be seen in Great Britain with policies like, Every Child Matters, or in the U.S. with the No Child Left Behind Act. Both programs target socially ‘excluded’ young people (poor children) with a range of plans and directives to overcome social disadvantage premised on moving poor youth into the mainstream (i.e. transmitting middle class values). In these programs success is measured through state mandated educational standards, local school and teacher accountability, and parental involvement (US-Dept-of-Education, 2007). 16 within the media or journalistic field and refracted through the youthful female body” (p. 102). Young women (young female bodies) are inscribed as ‘welfare dependent’ and ‘teen mother’—among other things—always signifying failure, while expensive tastes, and slim, well-groomed girls signify the opposite, namely, success. This condition of social signification indicates that the promises and goals of second wave feminism, working by way of the liberal ‘Girl Power’ and ‘Reviving Ophelia’ movements of the 1990s, have not been realized for those girls without economic and cultural purchase. Or, as a hypothetical counter argument, could it be that these movements themselves extending from the heyday of liberal feminism may have played some part in perpetuating this inequality (Brown, 2003)? I will take up these issues in the next section as I review the field of girls studies. I conclude this section, however, with a particularly central question: how do girl subjectivities take shape in the current stage of advanced neoliberalism, particularly for working class girls who both utilize social services and are socially excluded, thus leaving them with access to fewer resources to ‘self perfect’? The Study of The Girl The primary body of literature within which I situate this work is the field of girls’ studies. My interests in studying youth subjectivities with a group of working-class, young women stems from both epistemological and methodological gaps within the field of girls’ studies. Epistemologically, girls’ studies has been infused and influenced by some post-structuralist approaches that have been slowly gaining substantial paradigmatic dominance across the social science and humanities disciplines. These post-structuralist perspectives in girls’ studies have sought to trouble the liberal notion of a fixed feminine identity that constitutes ‘the’ girl, highlighting the regulatory norms and discursive processes that produce the very category of the girl (and a hegemonic girl image). Yet, alongside the work of Bettie (2003), Lucey, et. al. (2003), and Walkerdine, et. al. (2001), I wish to argue that the current application of this mode of cultural analysis fails, at least in part, to extend the idea of social construction to explain why a discrete form of girlhood is manufactured. What ideological formations necessitate a particular conception of childhood, and specifically one that disparages the girl? Before I address this issue and identify what I see as gaps within the field, I will evaluate how different perspectives within girls’ studies 17 conceive of young women as classed and gendered subjects subsumed under the category ‘girl.’ It is crucial that we ask: what are the historical processes and forms of knowledge which have permitted the scientific study of young women? Furthermore, what has been excluded from the field in relation to social class and gender analyses because of the field’s theoretical locations and contradictions? Ultimately, these questions will uncover silences, fissures, and gaps within the field of girls’ studies. To start with, it is important to situate girls’ studies within the historical context of the study of childhood and adolescence as it is the adolescent female who is most often the subject of inquiry in girls’ studies. Additionally, it is the role of the adolescent within the historical project of Empire building that continues to give her significance today (Lesko, 2001). Therefore, I start this review by briefly outlining the trajectory of the modern study of adolescence in the Western context leading up to the emergence of the girl as a subject of inquiry within the social sciences and humanities. After a historical appraisal of the emergence of the adolescent and the teenager, I will then move on to explore the early epistemological accounts of the study of the girl in social science research. Next, I’ll review and critique the contemporary work that makes up the field of girls’ studies. I’ve divided the analysis into two sections: (a) girls as cultural producers, and (b) girls and class(ed) subjectivities. In each section I will review the work in that area, discuss its strengths and limitations, and propose possible ways forward. The chapter will conclude with an expanded directive on ways the field could proceed, given the challenges I have identified. Historical Recountings of the Adolescent and the Teenager For the majority of modern history, recognition of people between the ages of 11 or 12 and 17 or 18 as a distinct age grouping did not occur. There was no romanticization or special recognition for people in this age bracket (Schrum, 2004). In the late 1890s, however, this changed as the modern adolescent emerged in North America and Europe. The American psychologist, G. Stanley Hall, is credited as the ‘father’ of adolescence, as he popularized the term and solidified the adolescent malady of psychological ‘storm and stress’ within the minds of the general public (Comacchio, 2006). The meaning of adolescence as a stage in the life span of the culture and of the human person, however, is contested in the social sciences (Fasick, 1994). Outside of psychological discourse, some would call the ‘adolescent’ an invention rather than an observation or a finding (Adamoski, 2002; Lesko, 18 2001; Sangster, 2002a). Fasick (1994), for example, takes the position that the ‘invention’ of adolescence is connected to the growth and spread of the institutions of urban-industrial North America with the secondary educational system playing a dominant role. The historian Joan Sangster (2002a) calls the adolescent a fiction that materialized at a time of tremendous cultural and technological change in the U.S. and the U.K. Tamara Myers (2006) and Cynthia Comacchio (2006) recount the same social transformations in Canada as well. All of these authors highlight the rise of industrial capitalism and, with that, a rise in corresponding social and demographic changes that befell upon the nations of the West. Women had a greater presence in the workforce, fewer men owned their own businesses, and massive immigration and urban population expansion meant an increased presence of people of color, non-English speakers, and poor people (Myers, 2006; Sangster, 2002a). These changes were read by the white, male middle- and upper- classes as threatening to modern civilization—which can be translated, without too much difficulty, to indicate a menace to their way of life. According to this perspective, the legacy of Victorian Puritanism and white masculine bourgeois privilege faced a growing fear in response to challenges to their power. Scientific rationalism was the philosophy that would propel the emerging industrialized societies into the 20th century and was embellished with the promise of solidifying one’s place in the social order (Lesko, 2001). To be rational meant, of course, to be civilized in a way that was presented as evolutionarily advanced (Walkerdine, 1993). One was to be constrained, modest, hard-working, economically productive, pure, and white. All ‘others’ (working-class women, youth, the poor, [dis]abled people, non-white, and non-English speakers) had their ‘differences’ set in relief against this figure which correspondingly helped to define the advanced, rational person over and against all other primitive, irrational uncivilized subjects (StrongBoag, 2002). A new political and civic order preoccupied with nationalism, civilization, and white racial progress would ensue. Adolescence was to become the moment of symbolic and physical division between the rational and the irrational. Since rationality was conflated with maleness, ‘adolescents’ were male youth. As growing beings in their own right, the adolescent contained the hopes and fears of the emerging modern nation-state. He could either grow into a prosperous, productive subject (the national vision of progress), 19 or go astray, becoming nefarious and corrupt (leading to the degradation of society) (Adamoski, 2002). Maleness thus emerged as the site for the production of the patriotic and industrious modern citizen that would be needed to advance the Nation-State into the twentieth century. The direction for girls varied somewhat based on their class and ethnicity (which might involve grooming for marriage and motherhood or domestic servitude) but it was always dictated by their status as Other (Gleason, 1998; Sangster. 2002a). Early 20th century codes of purity and chastity reigned above all else for the female young person, and as a result interest in her development was negligible until promiscuity was detected (Chunn, 2003). To be a ‘female’ adolescent, then, was to be a non-entity: a pathologized Other living through a narrative in which she did not exist. The ‘teen’ girl, as opposed to the male adolescent, didn’t emerge as a conceptualization in Canada until the 1920’s through the marketing of teeny-bopper culture to girls (Comacchio, 2006). An increase in high school attendance played a central role in establishing a distinct peer culture among North American young women which fermented age- and gender-specific norms and provided a platform for the use and exchange of newly emerging teen specific products (Driscoll, 2002). As members of a niche market invented by advertisers, teenagers were defined by their consumption patterns in dress, leisure, and popular culture. This meant that in order to be a ‘teen’ one had to have access to disposable income for consumer goods. Early portrayals of the teenager in pop culture were often just of girls. These were girls who observed proper etiquette, were sexually pure, wealthy, and college bound, girls, in other words, who were suitable marriage material (Schrum, 2004). Thus, less than an afterthought, the teen girl was created as a commodity in service to a capitalist state consumed with the reproduction of labor and markets. This historical relaying of the creation of adolescence for moral purposes by the State and the teenager for financial objectives of marketers is telling, as similar discourses and ideologies are in circulation today in the conceptualization of young people. Youth, and adolescents in particular, are symbols for the dichotomous, fractured selves of the so-called ‘post’-modern society. Young people represent the potential for greatness while they also serve as emblems of the deterioration of the moral and social order (Lesko, 2001). What has changed in the more recent articulations of adolescence, however, is that now this mythology also represents and emphasizes girls (Aapola, Gonick, and Harris, 20 2005). After decades of being ignored and subsumed as part of the androcentric ‘youth,’ teen girls are now depicted as the bearers of a ‘utopian moment.’ In contemporary Western societies, girlhood represents the potential for a complex, globalized, and individualized future. As the girl takes her place as the prevailing emblem of a fresh tomorrow, her real identity is taken for granted. This girl is white, heterosexual, able-bodied, and above all embodies—or at least performs—a middle class persona. This is the ‘future girl’ (Harris, 2004), produced through the post-industrial, neoliberal discourse, who sits in contrast to the pathologized, working-class girl. If the first girl exemplifies society’s potential for the coming decades, the girl as a problem or ‘at risk’ signifies her own personal failings. This second girl, then, stands as a potential national block to future global competition. It is the problem girl’s life circumstances (poverty, family distress, poor school performance) that render her vulnerable or ‘at-risk’ for not transitioning into productive, independent adulthood. The ‘future girl’ is a new character on the academic and cultural scene (emerging in the last two decades), while the girl as a problem, a delinquent, is a familiar figure going back almost to the beginning of the creation of adolescence. In Canada, the identification of ‘delinquents’ began in 1908 (Sangster, 2002b). As a raced, classed, and overly sexualized being, the image of the female delinquent is nearly synonymous with urban, non-white, and poor people. The reverse description serves the same goal. To be an urban, non-white, and/or poor young person means to be either a delinquent or an ‘at-risk’ youth with the potential for future problems. For decades, fear of the urban ‘other’ was generated as an important element of imperialism and attached to the bodies of young people, and today the figure of the ‘at-risk’ youth plays out within a similar political economy (Swadener & Lubeck, 1995). The image of the urban youth is embedded in cultural references, as evidenced by the numerous films depicting both boys and girls from North American cities consumed by drugs, sex, gangs, early pregnancy, and violence (Grossberg, 2007). Far from being a reflection of the modern, dangerous ‘risk’ society (as the liberal, modern-day child-savers would have us believe) (Males, 1996; Pipher, 1994) this image has been fermenting for nearly 100 years. What is most significant now is that the ideological goals and interests for the establishment of the delinquent girl that existed in 1920—the political and economic 21 execution of power based on race, class, and gender and the justification for sustaining dominant social norms (Sangster, 2002b)—are the same goals and interests driving the perpetuation of this myth today. The Contemporary Field of Girls’ Studies The Limits of Modernist Conceptions of Girlhood It has been suggested that girls’ studies, as a distinct area of inquiry, emerged in North America and Europe in the mid-1980s (Ward & Benjamin, 2004). Similar to the progression of the study of youth more generally, the intellectual landscape of girls’ studies research can be correlated with the following and sometimes conflicting paradigms: liberal/humanist, postmodern/post-structural, and cultural studies. Even though they each emerged sequentially, with a degree of overlap between them, there remain representations of each of these traditions in contemporary girls’ studies scholarship. In general, work considered to be a version of liberal/humanism emanates from a humanist philosophical tradition (Griffin, 1993). Such work supports the modernist position on youth which views childhood and adolescence as temporal stages leading to adulthood with the ultimate goal of maturity (Bronfenbrenner, 1986). The common feature of this work is an acceptance of the girl as a stable, embodied subject position. Analyses of media messages and how they may negatively impact upon girls’ identity and development, along with the study of girls’ cultural artifacts are common research strategies within this tradition. There are two popular ‘movements’ associated with a girls’ liberation movement that occurred in the early 1990s that originate simultaneously from a liberal/humanist tradition and mark the beginning of what could be called girls’ studies in North America (de Ras & Lunenberg 1993). The first movement emerged from a purported crisis in girls’ emotional development. Research that emerged from American scholars sought to extend the idea about girls’ moral development, which had been initiated by the American psychologist Carol Gilligan (Gilligan, Lyons, & Hanmer, 1990). Two key studies reported a link between girls’ psycho-social experiences and schooling; they both purported that as girls approach adolescence, girls’ emotional connections with other girls diminishes (AAUW, 1991; Gilligan & Brown, 1992). Girls began to edit themselves and their interactions with others fearing that honesty would lead to conflict or abandonment. Eventually negative feelings were to be suppressed. Over time this silencing bred uncertainty and doubt and made it difficult for girls to express their true 22 thoughts and opinions. These psychological effects were shown to be linked to biased school practices that resulted in deficits in girls’ academic performance (AAUW, 1992). These immensely popular publications would mark the beginning of what could rightly be termed a public scare or moral panic circulating throughout feminist circles about the position of girls in the nation. This panic ultimately reached the ears of child ‘experts;’ somehow, in the development of young women, the researchers proclaimed, girls had lost their self-esteem and the effects of this developmental reality were contributing to, if not causing, their own inequality. Books and articles published by prominent feminist psychologists and journalists during the early 1990s relayed this crisis to the general public. A popular example that became The New York Times’ notable book of the year was Peggy Orenstein’s School Girls: Young Women, Self-Esteem and the Confidence Gap (1994). In that same year Mary Pipher, a clinical psychologist, published another book on this theme: the title was Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls (1994). Reviving Ophelia would become a number one best seller in the U.S. for the next five years and would turn the supposed teen girls’ loss of self-esteem into common household knowledge. This ‘girl-in-crisis’ discourse would eventually be referred to as simply, ‘Reviving Ophelia’4 and prompted years of study of mainstream mass culture and its impact on girls’ development (ChristianSmith, 1987; Kearney, 2006). Extensive documentation from this time—generally in the form of content analyses—demonstrated that popular culture offers up an account of girlhood that reproduces a stereotypic girl. Such stereotypes are often deeply sexist and reveal potentially dangerous messages about femininity and girlhood (Mazzarella & Pecora-Odom, 1999). At the same time, a second girls’ movement was spanning academic and most notably public interest circles across North America and the UK (Aapola, Gonick, & Harris, 2005) to address the ‘girlin-crisis’ dilemma. Since it was thought that the ‘problem’ of girlhood emanated from girls’ development as a response to popular culture, the solution was to protect young women from cultural threats to their psychological health. A primary application of this work can still be seen today in educational and 4 The name for this discourse comes from the title of the 1994 Pipher publication, Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls. New York: Ballantine. 23 extracurricular activities that instruct girls how to recognize and resist media messages. Other curricula fostered the importance of kinship relationships between adult women and girls (Mazzarella, 2007). Good intentions notwithstanding, a large majority of contemporary liberal work in girls’ studies still retains the sheltering language of an adult, centered, rational subject whose presence is needed to ‘save’ the still-forming young girl. Ward and Benjamin, in Women, Girls, and the Unfinished Work of Connection (2004), review the current field of girls’ studies and suggest new directions for the discipline. One of their primary recommendations is for adult women to forge stronger bonds with girls. They describe how the initial association in the field between girls’ development and the adult manifestation of problems in adult women has waned, a factor they suggest has contributed to the de-politicization of the girls’ movement. While connecting girls’ issues to political struggles is important (albeit rare throughout all girls’ studies literature), we can see presence here of the familiar sheltering rhetoric. No acknowledgement, let alone a consideration of the implications, is offered of the essentializing sub-text in this relationship: either the assumption that all girls can benefit from having an adult woman in their life, or the absence of youth agency that such a failed relationship creates. The continual focus on the biologically immature girl in need of adult guidance perpetuates the value of young people only in relation to their potential adult status as future laborers. By focusing on the conflict-ridden society that girls were ‘growing’ up in the Reviving Ophelia discourse initially provided the opportunity for a systemic discussion as to how sexism, capitalism, and lookism—all factors identified as contributing to a girl poisoning culture (Pipher, 1994)—contributed to the individually-received tribulations of young girls. However, a framing of the problem as an inevitable outgrowth of biological development, ultimately positioned girls as victims needing intervention and management from adults to resist the impending forces of the toxic cultures of manufactured femininity. Furthermore, other structures of oppression, such as racism and classism, equal contributors of this troubling culture, were generally not addressed through this discourse (Orenstein, 1994). This sort of essentializing of girls’ experience through the Reviving Ophelia discourse is best understood as a continuation of the early work on girls in the modernist tradition begun by Gilligan. The experiences of white, middle-class girls are extrapolated as the female youth experience. This is a 24 partiality in youth research that mirrors the situation in early second-wave feminism more generally, where privileged Western women constituted the early description of the universal woman (Mohanty, 2003). Another concern within the Reviving Ophelia discourse, a concern reminiscent of early treatments for delinquent youth, is the predominance of the reformative language which is a re-institution of the guardianship parlance used when discussing youth in the early 1900s (Sangster, 2002a). This language is a familiar set of signifiers and is one that has historically aided and abided the societal and political control of the bodies and minds of young women. Behind the ‘save the girl’ verbiage is a moral directive regarding the social behavior of young women: girls should remain docile, virginal, and pure. The unspoken subject of this directive ultimately emerged as a directive towards white, middle-class girls (Swadener, 1995). This sentiment is particularly apparent in the area of ‘risk’ prevention. Sex education and teen pregnancy prevention have almost completely focused on girls as the site for inscribing, as a moral imperative, an appropriate ‘gendered’ behavior, with visible minority girls and working-class girls of all ethnicities constituting the primary targets of the efforts (Lubeck & Garrett, 1995; Tolman, 1994). Still, raising the red flag regarding sexism in popular culture and extending the critique of androcentric social science research to the media and everyday institutional activities was an invaluable contribution of early liberal girls’ studies projects towards the development of gender-specific youth research. These projects also helped initiate a popular movement to recognize the girl as a unique subject in the latter part of the 20th century. Listening to the voices of girls as an extension of the scholarship on media analysis was another positive outcome of this work and marked a shift in girls’ studies (Mazzarella & Pecora-Odom, 1999). The framing of the girl as victim, however, whose contribution to the idea of gendered culture and to knowledge was unnaturally prohibited, ultimately served to limit the transformative impact of this discourse (Gonick, 2006). Within the liberal-humanist frame in girls’ studies the focus is generally about encouraging girls to be-all-that-they-can-be and to mobilize their unique ‘powerful’ selves, and to utilize their ‘girl’ power (Garrison, 2000). The first movement for girls’ liberation, Reviving Ophelia, proclaimed (and continues to raise the specter of) the danger that girls might be in. The second dominant discourse to emerge during 25 the 1990s that would mark the beginning of girls’ studies is ‘Girl Power.’ This discourse would celebrate girls’ uniqueness. The idea of ‘Girl Power’ refers to a complex, popular cultural phenomenon and social position for girls. It was initially associated with a movement of young American women who called themselves the Riot Grrrls (Leblanc, 1999). Coming out of the small, American Northwest city of Olympia, Washington, these young women emerged from a punk subculture and had a fierce ‘Do-It-Yourself (DIY)’ attitude in response to the sexist, male-dominated punk music scene (Gonick, 2006). ‘Girl Power’ is a reclaiming and celebration of girls and girlhood through self-expression in style, music, zines, and other girl produced media forms. The ‘grrrl’ is a political retrieval of the historically subjugated term ‘girl,’ for use by girls as an expression of their agency (Smith, 1997). The Riot Grrrls clearly saw both their actions and the Girl Power mantra as a movement for political and social change (Gonick, 2006). Yet, when their message reached the mainstream media, it was co-opted and transformed into one of the familiar popular descriptions of youth expression: rebellious teenagers ranting or confused ‘girls’ acting out (Driscoll, 2002). The message was almost completely appropriated by consumerism the more successful Riot Grrrls and their allies became in projecting their views to popular audiences (Baumgardner & Richards, 2000). Eventually, a genuine scholarly interest in supporting girls’ voices was turned into an advertising ploy as ‘Girl Power’ was transformed into a marketing campaign to sell everything from pop-music to backpacks (Dept. of Health & Human Services, 2007). One of the biggest extensions of this rhetoric was in the proliferation of girl-centered media production programs in North America and the UK that were, and still are, often funded by corporate media sponsors and that, more often than not, produce uncritical expressions of a hegemonic ‘girl’ voice (Kearney, 2006; Sweeney, 2005). This discourse demonstrates the interpellation5 of young female subjects. Girls are recognizing or acknowledging themselves as subjects through participating in the expectations of dominant ideology. As Gonick (2006) suggests, what appears on the surface to be two contradictory discourses—Reviving Ophelia and Girl Power—is in fact the 5 The concept of interpellation was popularized by French philosopher, Louis Althusser in his essay, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (1971). He introduced the concept to refer to a process where individuals recognize themselves as subjects through ideology. This serves as an example of how ideology functions as a mediator between the state, operating as a system of power, and individuals. 26 common logic of both in enabling the processes of individualization. This is true especially as this individualization directs attention away from structural explanations for why institutions exclude women and girls. This very circumstance is confirmed by Kelly and Pomerantz (2009) as they detail current dominant discourses of girlhood in popular culture that construct girls as individually-oriented outside of any notion of gender-based inequality. In summary, the emergence of girls’ studies in North America and Europe served initially as a potentially progressive corrective to the androcentric bias in youth research that excluded the study of girls. This work spurred on scholarly and popular attention to the gender bias in the socializing institutions themselves, particularly education and the family, as well as highlighting the media’s role in constructing an idealized, hegemonic, girl image. Much of the more recent liberal girls’ studies work, however, reproduces the modernist notion of a singular, universal childhood with the inherent maintenance of hegemonic race, class, and national norms (Garrison, 2000; Harris, 2003, 2004; Jiwani et al., 2006; Reid-Walsh & Mitchell, 2004). Sometimes this is presented through a neo-liberal feminist discourse where gender binaries are used to explain the educational achievements of the ‘successful’ or ‘future girl’ frequently suggesting her success is independent of her race, class, ethnicity, citizenship, or geography (Aapola et al., 2005; Epstein et al., 1998; Francis, 2005; Ringrose, 2007). Equally problematic is a post-feminist developmental discourse that is used to construct a universal ‘mean girl’ as the new middle-class girl image (Chesney-Lind & Irwin, 2004; McRobbie, 2004a; Ringrose, 2006). The key remaining challenge amidst this complex history is that emphases upon the ‘normal’ girl as the primary object of inquiry may have uncritically reproduced and essentialized the female youth subject within the field itself. Furthermore, within the liberal feminist perspective, some girls’ studies research (Mazzarella, 2007; Orenstein, 1994; Sweeney, 2005) accepted the dominant biological developmental view of youth as unformed representatives of future generations, perpetuating a symbolic focus on the idea of the girl in need of a ‘guardian’ and an interventionist approach to working with girls. Neither the power differential between adult and child was challenged, nor was the implied individualistic naturalism of traditional socialization theories. Ultimately, some liberal approaches which sought to 27 engage in the study of girls were unable, at least in part, to advance youth discourse beyond its traditional essentialized, hegemonic roots. Attempts to correct this limitation occurred with the rise of postmodernism in feminist thought during the eighties and nineties. Such thinking would shake the fixity of liberal perspectives on girls even more and turn the focus to differences between girls, a problem that would be seen to have discursive underpinnings. The influence of post-structuralist feminism on girls’ studies is where I turn to next. Post-structuralism and Feminism At the same time that liberal perspectives in girls’ studies were proliferating in the late 80’s and early 1990s, there was also a ‘new paradigm’ emerging for the study of children within sociology that attempted to respond specifically to some of the tensions indicative of liberal youth studies and more generally to the orthodoxy of liberal developmental models (Kitzinger, 1997; Prout & James, 1997; Qvortrup, 1990; Thorne, 1987; Woodhead, 1997). The central tenant of this ‘new paradigm’ was that childhood is a social construction and that at any given period of time the very idea of childhood can be symbolically located in dominant narratives of the nation and state (Corosaro, 2005). The new paradigm drew from interpretive sociologies from the 1950s and 1960s which stressed the role of the creative individual in the construction of human society (James & Prout, 1997). Phenomenology, history, and anthropology provided alternatives to the dominant, socialized child position which gave youth a more active role in building their own culture (Woodhead, 1997). What is now referred to as the ‘new sociology of knowledge’ had recognized the social construction of youth since the 1970s, but by the late eighties, child researchers globally were coming together to share their insight and to solidify, in a more purposeful manner, this perspective within the sociology of childhood (Prout & James, 1997). Post-structuralist feminists around the same time were drawing attention to the relationship between power and knowledge in the production of different gendered identities (Jones, 1993), offering a concrete, theoretical foundation for repositioning childhood away from its historical, developmental psychological domain. For example, Valerie Walkerdine (1989, 1990), initially trained as a psychoanalyst, sought to bridge post-structuralism, psychoanalysis, and cultural analyses to trouble developmental theories of socialization as they were applied to the girl. She 28 took on the humanist moorings of the developmental model which linked full growth with civilization (the apex being understood as the white, Western male) to demonstrate how developmentalism, from its very inception, “…is always already gendered in that it is the male who is given to be more fitted for rationality” (Walkerdine, 1993, p. 11). To be fully ‘developed,’ consequently implied or assumed a civilized, rational adult man. Such theoretical approaches precluded women from ever being the subject and therefore led to the pathologization of female children (Griffin, 1993). Socialization theories, too, became controversial as feminist scholars working in the late 1980s extended constructivist critiques of structuralism within women’s studies more generally to encompass and address the subject position of the girl (Davies, 1989; Davies & Banks, 1992; de Graaf & Grotenhuis, 1993; Frazer, 1989). Critics rebuked the implied naturalness of a uniform path through which the socializing agents transform an unformed child into a functioning adult (Prout & James, 1997). This extension of psychological determinism to the social world precluded any serious account of diversity, of variation, and of resistance in the process of ‘growing up.’ Further, the socialization paradigm reproduces the status quo in the form of a pre-determined path predicted for youth, which for girls is a future of dependency and limited opportunities. Finally, many theories of socialization conceptualize gender as a variable organized around a female/male dichotomy. This precludes analysis of the multiple structural factors that impact girls’ development (Ringrose, 2007). Extending post-structuralist techniques to reveal the relationship between discourse, language, power, and identity, feminist post-structuralist theorists working within girls’ studies, like Davies (1989, 1992), Gonick (2001, 2003), Jones (1993), and Lesko (2001) emphasized the girl as constituted in and through the social and the cultural ultimately producing new conceptualizations of the girl as an active agent/subject. While the work of researchers like Davies, Dormer, Gannon, and Laws (2001) and Gonick (2001, 2003), are providing exciting directions and possibilities for the study of girls, challenges that have been levied against feminist post-structuralism, or postmodernism more broadly, still remain. First, how might one empirically study a form of identification that is seen as a social construction? Moreover, in a deconstruction of the category ‘youth’ or ‘girl’ don’t we lose the subject and the agent, denying opportunities for sustained social change (Clegg, 2006; Francis & Archer, 2004)? Childhood may be a 29 social construction, but children are not. If childhood is produced discursively, and youth identities are fluid, then where is the agency to change one’s current situation? Even if the subject is a fiction, as in classical post-structuralism, these fictions rest upon an axis of power (Davies, 1997). Language is contingent on material culture, which exists within relations of power. Language shapes one’s subjectivity as it is mediated by culture. Thus, the proliferation of new subject positions for girls—beyond a mainstream white, middle-class performance—can disrupt the fixedness of biologically imperative notions of girlhood. Yet we can still recognize (and must) that making available multiple subjectivities does not, by itself, change the social dynamics that privilege a particular set of hegemonic frames to begin with. These issues will be taken up in more detail below as I highlight two areas within feminist poststructuralist girls’ studies: girls as cultural producers (Driscoll, 1999, 2002; Harris, 2004; Harris & Fine, 2004; Jiwani, Steenbergen, & Mitchell, 2006; Maira, & Soep, 2005) and girls and class subjectivities (Ali, 2003; Archer, Halsall, & Hollingworth, 2007; Bettie, 2003; Lucey, et. al., 2003; Reay & Lucey, 2000; Walkerdine, 1997; Walkerdine et al., 2001). Next to liberal-humanist accounts of youth, a large majority of work in girls’ studies today is an investigation of girls’ own life worlds. More recently, however, inquiries into the specific world of girls and their own unique cultural productions coexist alongside, and often as an extension of feminist post-structuralist theory. In the second section I will pay particular attention to scholars who have integrated a class analysis with the study of girls’ subject formation. This will provide the backdrop for a more precise theorization of class and the mediations by which it structures the historically specific creation of the ‘girl’ as well as claims to universal ‘girl-ness,’ as an ideological construct. Girls as Cultural Producers Beginning with the discursive deconstruction of the category girl itself, scholars informed by feminist critical and/or cultural theories in the late eighties and nineties, shifted the emphasis on the girl once again to a focus on girls’ own lifestyles and perspectives: their life worlds (Griffin, 1993). Girls were no longer seen as victims of culture, but as active agents whose actions and points of view emerged in response to real social forces (van Duin, Poel, & de Waal, 1993). A cultural approach, however, has yet to 30 replace or sufficiently challenge the liberal humanist frame in the field, with the latter continuing its depiction of more empirical and scientific phenomena as opposed to investigations into the cultural artifacts and activities of the girl (Mazzarella, 2007; Mazzarella & Pecora-Odom, 1999). The emergence of the study of youth culture is attributed to British sociologists and their work during the 1970s at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS). The decisive collective work to come out of the Centre, Resistance through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-war Britain (Hall & Jefferson, 1976), detailed post-Second World War II British working-class youth. The studies described British youth subcultures that were commonly viewed as deviant—the Teddy Boys, Mods, and Skinheads—as spaces of resistance within working-class culture. Drawing from Gramsci’s theory of hegemony, the researchers revealed how the youth were resisting dominant hegemonic culture by reappropriating and resignifying mass-produced cultural forms. Class was central to this analysis. Extending the cultural Marxism of Althusser, youth in subcultures were positioned between the hegemonic dominant culture and a subordinate working class ‘sub’-culture (Cohen, 1999). This work spawned youth subcultural study as a field within the disciplinary sociology of youth. Post-CCCS researchers like Paul Willis (1977, 2003), Phil Cohen (1980, 1999), and Angela McRobbie (1980, 1991, 2004) created work that has been highly influential in the field of youth studies and solidified youth culture as an area of analysis. Since its inception, youth subcultural theory has been heavily critiqued. One of the main objections to this work has been its theoretical formalism. The primary interpretation of subculture membership as an act of ‘resistance’ against the hegemonic culture(s) may have been an overly optimistic interpretation of the youth’s actions by the researchers (Bennett & Kahn-Harris, 2004). Also, since subcultural theory set out to explain the attempted resolutions of the social contradictions of class (in)subordination, there was an inherent assumption that members of subcultures were predominately working-class, a claim that was not always supported with empirical evidence (Blackman, 2005). This last appraisal is an extension of a more general criticism levied against the CCCS for using a deterministic model of base and superstructure (economic determinism), privileging class location above other sociocultural markers of difference. Race, gender, and geographic bias were also present: this early work also 31 retains a universal tone that reproduces a notion of an essentialized youth that has traditionally resided in the sociology of childhood. Lastly, the CCCS researchers were seen as failing to account for the specificity of girls’ involvement in subcultural activity. This last oversight was initially taken up by feminist scholars McRobbie and Garber (1976) as they described how the sphere of female subcultural activity was affiliated with the private realm of the home as opposed to the public sphere of the street where the initial CCCS research had taken place (McRobbie, 1980). More contemporary inquiries that fall under the category of girls’ culture or life worlds include work that considers girls as cultural producers (Harris, 1999, 2003, 2004; Kearney, 2006, 2007) and young women’s consumptive practices/stylistic displays as instantiations of the multiple selves of girlhood (Driscoll, 1999, 2002; Harris & Fine, 2004; Jiwani, Steenbergen, & Mitchell, 2006; Maira, & Soep, 2005). In her book, Girls: Feminine Adolescence in Popular Culture (2002), Driscoll discusses the significance of girlhood and the emergence of girls as cultural producers (the study of elements of popular culture produced by girls) during late modernity. What is significant about her work is that as she assumes a cultural studies perspective, she maps out not a historical discovery of the girl but instead reveals how girls themselves experience their own subject positions in relation to a particular historical time period that allows the girl to emerge. Kearney’s research (2006, 2007) also highlights girls as active participants in constructing their own image. In her 2007 study she extends the groundbreaking work of McRobbie and Garber (1976) on girls’ leisure practices. She too looks at how gender influences youth culture by investigating the media-making practices of girls. However, she critiques the idea of media consumption as central to girls’ leisure activities by instead stressing their own cultural productivity. Highlighting the agentic authority of girls is an important contribution to the field of girls’ studies and youth studies more broadly. Work like this firmly places girlhood in a position of importance in its own right and renders it as something qualitatively and politically distinct both from their male youth counterparts and from their future potential as adult women. Contemporary girls’ studies research, theoretically, is largely composed of an eclectic fusion of methodologies: the interventions of post-structuralist feminism (as described above); work on girls and individualization (Harris, 2003, 2004); and analyses of girls’ cultural productions and everyday practices 32 (Mazzarella & Pecora-Odom, 1999), particularly questions around femininity, style, and gender performances (Frazer, 1989; Garrison, 2000; Pomerantz, 2005). So while deconstructing the subject position ‘girl’ as a coherent ‘identity’ goes a long way towards challenging the ideological foundations of developmental psychological discourse and associated pedagogies and clinical applications, I wish to argue that some current applications of cultural analyses of the ‘girl’ fail to extend the idea of gender as a social construction into a more concrete and explanatory inquiry into how the very term ‘girlhood’ is manufactured. When both contemporary and inherited ideological formations frame and reproduce a particular conception of childhood that disparages the girl, I believe it is time to revisit and review the most fundamental assumptions structuring the field with fresh lenses. Assuming a ludic postmodern 6 perspective, particularly as defined by Ebert (1993, 1996) and Zavarzadeh and Morton (1991), one might argue that some contemporary girls’ studies research is focused on a descriptive account of youth practices, as opposed to some sociological explanations behind their production. Ludic postmodernism, as I use it here, refers to the dominant theoretical positions within post-structuralist theory that understand post-modernity as a problem of representation within culture (Ebert, 1993). In the ludic conception of post-al theory, the political economy of the sign has replaced functionalist conceptions of production, which, in turn, gives consumption a leading role in capitalism (Zavarzadeh, 1995). It is through texts and signifying practices within the culture, then, that subjectivities are produced. Post-structuralism, like all theories, is articulated in a historical context and so it too has shifted with these changes over the decades. Still, the ludic logic which is at the center of classical poststructuralist theory remains central to nearly all post-structuralist girls’ studies; as a result we see that consuming and individual ‘choice’ become privileged over human ‘needs.’ The earlier and more radical political project of emancipation is now viewed as totalizing and is replaced instead by a heavy emphasis upon consumption as a contemporary girl practice. Consequently, the political battle of the postmodern 6 Ludic postmodernism in cultural studies tends to focus on pleasure—pleasure in textuality, the local, the popular, the body—in and of itself as a form of resistance. See: Ross, A. (1989). No Respect: Intellectuals and Popular Culture. New York: Routledge. 33 age (within ludic postmodernism) is to challenge or re-signify the dominant ideological discourses. In this case, this amounts to little more than a discursive ‘resignification’ (Butler, 1993) of the girl. Given this situation, it is important to be vigilant about the myriad ways in which attention is often diverted away from analyses of ‘structures’ and ‘causes’ (material relations and conflicts that produce social meanings) for a focus instead on the ‘how:’ the processes by which taken-for-granted meanings are circulated and re-circulated across cultural and social boundaries (Ebert, 1993). As Skeggs (1997) argues, subjectivities are constructed across a range of sites. It is important, therefore, to inquire into subjectivity not just in its textual/discursive dimensions but in all the institutions7 that shape and limit the material realities of girl’s lives (Althusser, 1971). Without a rigorous accounting of the historical and material institutional conditions that produce the androcentric, racialized young woman, a challenge to hegemonic youth constructions will remain, by definition partial and incomplete. This risks allowing the dominant oppressive girl culture to gain new legitimacy by gaining a façade of openness to (partial) critiques, critiques that do not raise the logic of the system as a whole. The ludic imaginary that governs much of the post-structuralism underlying girls’ cultural studies has led scholars working in this vein towards changing the dominant discourse surrounding girls through resignifying the hegemonic image of young women. Such analyses highlight young women’s consumptive practices and stylistic displays as opposed to what drives them: the structured relations of production that articulate who speaks and who is silent, who is seen and who is not seen. I now move forward to highlight examples of this work to showcase some of the challenges and obstacles that remain within girls’ studies conducted from a ludic postmodern epistemological frame. One primary concern that has been explored elsewhere (Ramazanoglu & Holland, 2000b), is that some girls’ cultural studies research emanating from this perspective undermines or under-theorizes the concept of ‘agency.’ This connection between power and access or accessibility for girls often gets missed in girls’ studies work conducted from a ludic postmodern frame. This oversight can be seen in some of the 7 Althusser (1971), writing from a Marxist frame, refers to institutions that advance the State as Repressive State Apparatuses (RSAs) and Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs). According to Althusser, RSAs belong in the public domain and ultimately function by violence (i.e. Government, Army, Police, Prisons, etc.). The ISA’s are partially of the private domain and function by ideology (i.e. Religion, Education, Family, Legal, Cultural, etc.). 34 work of Anita Harris (1999, 2003, 2004) who is a prominent voice in contemporary girls’ cultural studies. In her book, gURL Scenes and Grrrl Zines: The regulation and resistance of girls in late modernity (2003), she looks at ‘grrrl zine’ culture as a site for the possibilities of deconstructing prevailing girlhood representations. This work suggests that the young women who are creating these spaces are resisting the public/private split in girls’ culture, and utilizing the expanse of the zine to speak to other youth in a nonadult, mediated form. Harris’s observations work to challenge the centrality of adults in the lives of young people as she demonstrates the purposeful creation of ‘girl only’ spaces. However, she puts forth the claim that the production of zines is an act of resistance on the part of the zine-makers to the dominant, gendered media representations of young people. She fails, however, to tell her readers that participation in zine culture is only an option for those select girls who have the time and the financial resources to contribute to zine making. This same omission can be seen in other girls’ life world scholarship, due to the predominance of local, specific descriptions of girls’ cultural activities (see Harris & Fine, 2004 for examples). Any specific extracurricular endeavor is not going to include all girls (which is not the point of engaging in a cultural analysis), but such scholarship should include a clear indication of which girls can and can not participate in the cultural practice. Of course, participation is not a matter of personal choice, but an over determined articulation of how personal interest is mediated by multiple social conditions. This type of analytical approach reveals the constraints to any universalizing conception of gender agency. A second problem with girls’ studies conducted from a ludic postmodern cultural frame is that the multiple selves that constitute the postmodern girl often result in an unproductive ‘un-naming’ of one’s identity since the self is said to be un-fixed. Girls represent or temporarily embody difference (different ethnicities, sexualities, lifestyles, etc.). Utilizing the temporality of identity to expand the discursive possibilities for girls through highlighting multiple forms of subjectivity, constitutes a large body of scholarship within girls’ cultural studies (Raby, 2002; Rattansi & Phoenix, 2005; Tomlinson, 1998). Wanting to avoid the totalizing narratives of the modernist tradition, such work focuses on detailed, local subcultural activity. A specificity of the local is called for as youth studies has had a history of making grand assumptions about the experience of all youth; yet, defining difference in this way, as local and 35 specific, removes the connection between identity and economic and political relationships (McLaren, 2005). Class and race become descriptive badges that people choose to put on to signify their identity at that particular moment. In a politics of representation, ‘difference’ may therefore be unhinged from the structural relations of power and exploitation that creates difference and masks or obfuscates a wider knowledge of these very power relations. A third substantial objection is that, primarily out of a fear of essentializing girl’s experience, difference is defined discursively in ludic postmodern cultural studies. Where liberal perspectives in girls’ studies dichotomized the white, middle-class girl against all ‘other’ girls, work falling under a ludic postmodern approach denies any fixed self at all. This move is a new form of essentialism that essentializes anti-essentialism. By avoiding external labels that name a youth’s identity, some descriptions of girls clear the way for what continues to operate as the unspoken norm, which is white, middle-class, and Western (Jiwani et al., 2006; Ward & Benjamin, 2004). This perhaps familiar polarization between ludic postmodern cultural studies/discourse analysis (rooted in the local play of signs and desire) and political economy (which, as I do, calls for a materialist structural analysis) goes far beyond girls’ studies and has spread across a wide range of fields, from feminism to race studies. Judith Butler’s essay ‘Merely Cultural’ (1997) outlines some of the main terms of this debate. While articulating Butler’s affiliations and views towards this polarization, this text usefully reveals some of the limitations of ludic philosophy and politics for girls’ studies. I’d like to focus on one of Butler’s claims that pertains to my arguments above. Butler attempts to frame the issue, in a common manner of ludic philosophy, as a matter of social movements imposing outmoded ‘universals’ that undermine the acknowledgement of the proliferation of ‘differences’ (race, gender, sexual identities). Yet to speak of structures rather than ‘universals’ and to analyze those precise structural differences which make other differences possible, is to root one’s analysis in a structure that is historically and materially limited, not universal. This kind of analysis can contribute to a girls’ studies committed to contesting existing social conditions for the purpose of transformation and change. In summary, some of the conceptions of girls that draw upon a ludic postmodern perspective within post-structural girls’ studies may perhaps inadvertently, perpetuate many of the problems inherent 36 to structural and liberal accounts of youth. Both bracket historical concerns off from the subject at hand in the name of local descriptions of self and identity. Further, by applying the postmodern conception of difference-as-discursive, and not wanting to totalize youth experience, by not naming young people’s identity, there is the tendency for identity to be contained within a set of normative dominant significations. Finally, the postmodern emphasis on describing youth without an explanation for why they are in the situation they are in to begin with may be inadvertently impacting or historically foreshortening the possibilities for transformative social change. Thus, some girls’ studies research conducted from a ludic postmodern perspective may be ill-prepared to offer a truly transformative paradigm which seeks to problematize the hegemonic construction of the girl and girlhood. There is other work in girls’ studies that is influenced by the discursive possibilities of poststructuralism but considers the everyday material realities of girls, for example, work that presents alternative forms of girlhood taken up through various contemporary girl cultural ‘movements’ or ‘lifestyles’ (Miles, 2000). Such work seeks to unsettle established gendered meanings of identity and girlhood by uncovering the discursive practices which reproduce hegemonic forms of girlhood. Driscoll (1999), for example, presents riot grrl and cybergirl movements that are reliant on mass media but that also express objections to global capitalism. Other authors present punk girls (Leblanc, 1999), zine makers (Harris, 2003, 2004; Schilt, 2003), girls in cyberspace (Reid-Walsh & Mitchell, 2004), gym and sport girls (Sassatelli, 1999), or ravers (Wilson & Atkinson, 2005) as alternative girlhoods highlighting the agency involved in resisting and transforming emphasized femininity. These writers attempt to register the staking out of alternative subject positions that are created for girls through their everyday cultural practices and seek to showcase the value they accrue in performing these practices. Rather than being a victim to the normative position of ‘girl-as-oppressed,’ girls in these movements reclaim a uniquely girl-defined girlhood for themselves through everyday practices. Such projects are useful for highlighting how girls in these movements are undermining the dominant expectations placed on them by subverting or challenging the discourses through which their very selves are constituted. Still, in my estimation this work remains limited in its potential for transforming dominant meanings of femininity and for discovering non-hegemonic (let alone counter37 hegemonic) subject positions for girls. Even if one could bottle up the alternative girlhood of punk girl discourse and present this articulation as an alternate subjectivity for girls, we still would run into the problem of the persistence of dominant gender narratives. The question is not the availability of alternative girl subject positions, but the transformation of the prevailing subject positions from ones that are seen as exclusive and livable and thus chosen for girls into ones that are ‘unlivable,’ which is to say historically arbitrary and obsolete. To put it another way, as Davies (1989; Davies & Banks, 1992) made clear almost two decades ago, girls are less likely to take up alternative subject positions because the dominant locations are embedded in sets of meanings which define what constitutes ordinary, “…[young people] actively take up as their own the discourses through which they are shaped” (Davies & Banks, 1992, p. 3). The girl who assumes an alternative subjectivity will always exist against that which is defined as ‘normal.’ Moreover, she will continue to suffer as a result of the latter: they cannot coexist. Some girls must ‘lose’ the power associated with their privilege in order that others may ‘gain’ power over their own identities and histories. Clearly authors like Driscoll (1999, 2002) and Harris (2003) are not talking about packaging resistant forms of femininity and presenting it back to girls. Their objective seems to be to challenge dominant constructions of the girl as submissive, powerless, and self-degrading by revealing different ways of performing one’s girlhood. Still, one is left with the impression that to resist dominant femininity girls and their feminist allies should take up unconventional feminine performances. The punk girl, zine makers, or cyber girls are all alternative discourses identified through the feminist post-structuralist act of de-centering the subject and highlighting the cultural and social activities of female subcultures. Herein lies the problem: the ‘alternatives,’ rather than being seen as a response to class or gender or other systemic forms of oppression, are presented as unorthodox ‘lifestyles,’ available for purchase by any girl with the material and social capital to recognize the rewards that can come with declaring her individuality and uniqueness from the ‘norm.’ What is key, I believe, in theorizing the assumption of any subject position, alternative or mainstream, is the understanding that subjectivities are never solely grounded in the affective context of personal desire. How girls are socially positioned in their social spaces, from nation to city to ethnicity influences the subjectivities available to them and dictates the 38 sanctions or rewards that come with assuming various locations (Jones, 1993). In short, marking or ‘making available’ multiple subjectivities does not, by itself, change the social dynamics that privilege particular hegemonic frames to begin with. Girls and Class Subjectivities As I have sought to highlight above, with the booming theory market in post-structural girls’ studies we have witnessed the erasures and silences linked to material inequalities that are obscured when social class distinctions are formulated as fragmented, localized, individualized narratives. The poststructuralist position of hybrid identities (Hall, 1989), the multiplicity of selves (Sandavol, 2000), and a rejection of any sort of grand theory that privileges social class can be read as depoliticizing and disguising structural inequality. As Archer and Leathwood (2003) note: …theoretical and political discussions of social class have become unfashionable in the ‘new times’ of an increasingly individualized society. ‘Depoliticized’ neo-liberal Third Way discourses disguise structural inequalities in favour of a vision of a meritocratic society in which it is assumed that anyone who has the ‘right’ attitudes and motivation can take up the opportunities and refashion themselves to achieve their full potential (p. 228). To redress this silence, an emerging body of literature from post-structuralist feminists has appeared in the last decade exploring youth, gender, and class subjectivities (Ali, 2003; Archer, Halsall, & Hollingworth, 2007; Archer, Hollingworth, and Halsall, 2007; Bettie, 2003; Lucey, et. al., 2003; Reay, 2004, 2007; Reay & Lucey, 2000; Walkerdine, 1997; Walkerdine et al., 2001). Drawing heavily from the work of Bourdieu to show how class positions are generated and reproduced through structured social relationships, the work of these feminist scholars constitutes a crucial starting point for ‘bringing back’ class analysis to the study of female youth subject formation. While starting on a productive trajectory of restoring class analysis to cultural studies, much of this work ultimately rewrites class as a personal and experiential matter of the life world. Arguably then, class may still get reduced to the signifers of taste, knowledge, and aesthetics which constitute the classed subject (Lawler, 2005b). Archer, Hollingworth and Halsall (2007), for example, demonstrate how working-class young Londoners displayed their style (in this case Nike sportswear) as a means of both generating value for themselves collectively as working class youth, and negotiating from a position of social disadvantage. 39 Drawing from Bourdieu’s (1977) concept of habitus8, an acquired system of generative schemes that can in part explain class differences, the authors point out how this practice (and working-class youth style performances in general) represents a component of the habitus. Style becomes fixed on the body, reinscribed and reinforced through inherited oppressive social hierarchies. A similar point is made about class performances and habitus in Julie Bettie’s much acclaimed publication, Women Without Class (2003). The book is the culmination of an ethnographic study of identity among working- and middle-class Mexican-American and white girls as they broker their lives and their identities in a U.S. high school. Bettie maintains that girls negotiate the intersections of identity through performance. In the case of class identity she states: “…class subjects are the effects of the social structure of class inequality, caught in unconscious displays of cultural capital that are a consequence of class origin or habitus” (p. 52). With this work, Bettie’s goal was to re-think class without privileging race, gender, sexuality or class as the most salient identity characteristic of the study participants. Thus, she analyzes gender and race performances as they are intersected and shaped by class. Drawing from the work of Bourdieu, as well as Butler and Hall, she foregrounds the material basis for subjective formations while also emphasizing the production of identity via discursive frameworks. As she writes, “I can have it both ways because, indeed, it is both ways” (p. 54). Bettie’s work is a rare example of addressing the dialectics of structure and agency in relation to classed subjectivities. Ali (2003) is another researcher who has attempted to address the multiplicities of identities in the production of girlhood. Drawing on ethnographic data with 8–11 year old children, the author highlights the limits of restricting ourselves to the plane of the discursive alone. She demonstrates how the girls in her study managed their identity-performances by making cross-cultural identifications and drawing upon a range of cultural resources. The role of class (and culture as class) became most pertinent in the production of femininity for the girls in her study. 8 ‘Habitus’ is part of the conceptual apparatus of habitus, social field, and capital used by the social theorist Pierre Bourdieu to understand individual action and social effect. It can be understood as a set of acquired patterns of thoughts, behaviors, and tastes that are the result of one’s lived objective experience (Bourdieu, 1977; Calhoun, 1992). 40 Still, all of this work reminds us that contemporary notions of class continue to be understood as embedded (meaning ‘inherently’ there rather than placed there historically) in the subjectivities of social actors (Hey, 2003). Even when agency is present, working-class girls’ attempts to ‘change’ their class performances and achieve ‘success’ (defined as class mobility) are extremely challenging. Lucey, Melody, and Walkerdine (2003) show how ‘making it’ in educational contexts is never unproblematic or without costs. Working-class young women who do well in school and manage to enter higher education pay an enormous psychic price as they remake themselves psychologically and physically in order to transition into a different kind of subject, namely the successful, well-rounded student (see also Walkerdine, 1990, 1997; Walkerdine et al., 2001). Archer, Halsall, and Hollingworth, (2007) also trouble the limits to agency that young workingclass women experience. They show how displays of femininity by working-class girls labeled ‘at risk’ in London high schools often countered dominant discourses of normative, middle-class girlhood in ways that fostered agency. However, the girls’ displays of resistance or transgression (often expressed as verbal assertiveness) were met with consternation by school officials, resulting in feelings of shame and regret on the part of the girls. Any social capital they may have gained for themselves among their peer group was lost and could therefore not be translated into legitimized symbolic capital (Skeggs, 1997). These observations provide another layer to studies of class as culture and/or performance: in these cases, the researchers highlight the power of one’s history and one’s ‘habitus’ in actively mediating the process of identity formation. Studies theorizing class in relation to other forms of girls’ identification clearly reveal a struggle for recognition and value at play as processes of authority and surveillance intersect to construct (and more specifically to contain) the female working class subject. Walkerdine (1997; 2003), Reay (2005) and Walkerdine et. al. (2001) argue for a psycho-social approach as a way to understand the interrelation of inequalities in the production of women and girls as classed subjects. Stressing that class is more than an economic category Walkerdine (2003) demonstrates how the discursive meanings and narratives about class produce, “modes of subjectification and subjectivity” (p. 239) that work most efficiently through technologies of self-management and self-control. In the current post-industrial era of flexible 41 subjectivity, choice, and individualism, a limited degree of class mobility is ubiquitous—the rule rather than the exception—as inherited social location is said to be of little predictive significance. In such a political climate if working-class girls don’t ‘achieve success’ it is publicly read as a reflection of their own laziness and stagnation. The discourse of flexibility masks “… the regulation of identities which severely limits the apparent freedom to become whomever you want to be” (Walkerdine et. al., 2001, p. 32). In short, ‘choice’ continues to be a fiction of power, even in New Times. In their analysis of how class is gendered and gender is classed, the authors referenced above tend to emphasize class as identity, as taste, and as pleasure, as a discrete phenomenon mediated by concrete desires and the impulses of the body. Desire and performance emerge as central. As Lawler (2005b) points out, consumption patterns and cultural tastes are equally as significant to understanding class as production or pain. “[A] good leftist will willingly share the pains of working people, willingly redistribute the wealth, but will she share in their pleasures” (p. 40)? In the current neo-liberal moment understanding class as culture and performance will be interpreted by some as a move to make economics synonymous with choice—one chooses what identity to perform—thus obscuring economic inequalities as class is reconstructed as matter of personal self-assertion (or lack thereof). This sort of (de)theorizing of class comes dangerously close to the individualization thesis and the ‘end of class’ discourse purported by the new pundits of late modernity (Beck, 1992; Pakulski & Waters, 1996). As Reay (1998) reminds us, discourses of classlessness do not displace class, rather, “…they act in the interests of the privileged in society by denying their social advantage” (p. 261). Those materialists who treat the cultural aspects of class more critically, exploring their limitations as well as their scope, open up a space for exploring the realities of class. This is not to say that the theorists described above aren’t considering how the cultural and symbolic elements of class are woven together with women and girl’s lived experiences; indeed, they are. Rather, Gagnier (2000) reminds us that the introduction of the idea of consumption as a stand in for class in contemporary neoliberal economic theory really points to the continuing significance of class objectivity, distinguishing one’s position in the labor process: A view [of class] not based in methodological individualism would argue that, in order for there to be individuals who assert their class by asserting their tastes in their 42 consumption patterns, there have to be social processes whereby surplus labour, including women’s unpaid labour, is performed, appropriated, distributed and received (p. 43). The gendered division of labor that Gagnier (2000) speaks to is not the only form of objective imposition in the constitution and structuring of identity. But it does remind us that one’s identity and subjectivity may stand in an ambivalent relation to one’s class, as class performance is constrained by material limits. In summation, studies theorizing class in relation to other forms of girls’ identification clearly reveal a struggle for recognition and value that is at play as processes of authority and surveillance intersect to construct (and more specifically to contain) the female working-class subject. It is important, thus, to link one’s subjective class position with one’s objective position in such a way that class does not become a strictly discursive performance, as this may undermine our ability to understand the material processes involved in the very making of the ‘girl.’ This is particularly necessary for girls’ studies when addressing the issue of class as traditional liberal accounts of individual choice in subject formation fail to explain not only class formation in general, but the formation of the ‘abject girl’ or ‘problem girl’ in particular. In the neo-liberal moment, the abject and marginalized youth have become the new ‘classed’ subjects. ‘Girl,’ as in the normative signification, refers to the non-classed subject. This is also what ‘middle class’ itself has come to signify in popular political discourse: it is the naming of a form of social class without class. What is, therefore, needed is a multi-conceptual and layered understanding of class to help us understand the making of the abject girl. Moving Forward From Contemporary (Postmodern) Girls’ Cultural Studies The epistemological issues within girls’ studies that I have addressed above may appear to have only theoretical implications which are best addressed through the expansion of theoretical territory in the field. While this work is certainly necessary, I also would like to maintain that these impasses within girls’ studies have perhaps led to misunderstandings or misapprehensions of how the category of ‘difference’ is manufactured. Specifically, the functions of categorization are to manufacture forms of difference that maintain a hegemonic meaning of the girl. This kind of problematic elides the posing of particular questions and the analysis of particular ‘types’ of girls within youth cultural studies. Even as sociological and educational research abounds with instances of the experiences of working-class girls, the exclusion and expulsion of classed female bodies and the impact of the various forms of social disgust 43 that circulate in popular culture are not adequately considered in studies on working-class female subjecthood. Girls who utilize social services, for example, represent one such group that is negatively inscribed in this way, but whose circumstances and experiences could be more substantially elucidated in social science research. The focus in girls’ studies on describing difference as multiple-identifiers-of-the-self means that discussion of dissimilarity generally does not extend to those young people who are viewed as a problem and therefore need to be ‘fixed’ to be considered for inclusion within the category ‘girl.’ The decentering of the subject within girls’ studies, therefore, may sometimes fail to assist us in understanding how the subjectivity of the ‘other’ girl emerges. Nor can the mere consideration of gender, class, or racial inequality in-and-of-themselves explain this development. The process is about the categorization by symbolic positioning within a structure of pre-existing material disparities in which class plays a central role. As Beverly Skeggs (1997) remarks, “positioning by categorizations influences access to economic and cultural resources” (p. 12). As I seek to argue here it is imperative to consider ‘value’ in relation to classed subjectivities. Value is an important component in understanding the intersection of class relations and the making of the girl. Correspondingly, one objective of this study is to understand how the processes of inscription—the process of marking the worth of specific bodies through regulating mechanisms (Deleuze & Guattari, 1977)—simultaneously limits, contains, and frees young women in their attempts to be seen as ‘legitimate’ or ‘valued.’ Further, in discussing working class (adult) women, Skeggs (2004) remarks how they occupy a position of symbolic void in academic and popular representations of their own lives. Reay (2004) also calls for working class understandings of locality and place within academia to challenge the hegemony of middle-class approaches. Such an argument applies with an even higher degree of urgency in the case of the study of youth. When girls who are socially excluded and/or facing life challenges are studied, it is most often with a directive towards change: changing the deviant behavior or changing the environment in which the deviant behavior occurred (Ward & Benjamin, 2004). What often remains intact, however, is academic (i.e., middle class) definitions of what comprises deviant behavior. This thesis represents an attempt to challenge what constitutes good and bad youth subjectivities by focusing on youth who are 44 negatively stigmatized. I wish to turn the gaze away from a simple description of their lives and towards explaining why binary constructions of normal and deviant are generated in the first place. The goal is to therefore develop some understanding of the structural organization of apparently ‘problem girl’ subjectivities. Finally, it is significant that studies on gender and subjectivity related to working-class girls often focus initially on the institution of schooling (Bettie, 2004; Hey, 1997; Lutrell, 2003). Working class status in this body of work is frequently established through noting a given youth’s attendance at, or geographical affiliation with, one or more ‘working-class’ schools. This is puzzling since these authors are most often defining class as performative, attempting to move away from socio-economic location as a measure for class; yet, that is precisely the starting point for their analyses. Attention to any one particular institutional setting may unwittingly prioritize the significance of that space in the construction of class subjectivities. A robust understanding of female subject formation would ideally observe youth as they travel in and through multiple spaces (Connolly & Healy, 2004). This is particularly true for girls who are negatively stigmatized and who may not attend or at least have a precarious relationship to formalized schooling. Reaching this population necessitates traveling to alternative sites and domains, like social service agencies, that are charged with containing, constraining, and constructing the working-class subject where school has fallen short (or failed altogether). I have, therefore, attempted to address these gaps in this research by focusing on working-class girls who utilize social services and do not attend a traditional school setting. Reading the Spatial Landscapes of 21st Century Girl Culture: Theoretical Concepts In consideration of the gaps I have identified in contemporary girls’ studies scholarship, I seek to expand, in a generous sense, the theoretical terrain of the field by employing the concept of spatial materialism together with a cultural studies approach which embraces the concept of class as an expression of value. Specifically, I bring together theories of social class and spatial theories of urban culture from human geography. I seek to argue that these two bodies of literature in particular can help create the foundations for an expansive dialogue through which to conceptualize girls and the representation of youth difference. Together they can assist us to construct a picture of how value, space, 45 and class operate in the lives of a group of urban working class girls who visit and maintain an ongoing relationship to a neighborhood drop-in social service center. The Hidden Dynamics of Class As socio-economic class continues to quietly diminish in importance as a subject of inquiry within social science research, the significance of class positioning and structured inequality in the lives of young people in ‘New Times’ is expanding. Over the past two decades, feminist critiques of social class as an organizing principle in one’s life centered on the problem of economic reductionism, a focus in traditional Marxist economic theories that centered on the economic realm as the primary organizing concept in society (Nicholson, 1987). Beginning in the 1970s the labor market, in the theorization of class, was seen by feminists as privileging male occupational status as the measurement of household class position noted for its contribution to the neglect of any consideration of the role of gender in economic inequality (Reay, 1998). Given these critiques and with the rise of post-structuralism and postmodernism throughout the 1970s and 1980s, a view of social life emphasizing culture and consumption that separated socio-economic class from specific cultural formations was favored among some post-structuralist feminists (Lovell, 2004). As I have argued and attempted to provide evidence of in my literature review, many feminist theorists abandoned social class, both as a relation and a process of social division. A reinstatement of the significance and relevance of class within feminism has been taken up in recent years primarily by British post-structuralist feminists as they explore the contemporary relevance of social class in relationship to other systems of inequality (Hey, 2003; Mahony & Zmroczek, 1997; Reay, 1998, 2004; Skeggs, 1997). These accounts consider the critiques levied against traditional structural approaches to class and resist the male-dominated emphasis on the family household as the central unit for analysis. Instead, this work considers the interplay of multiple categorizations, including gender, ethnicity, and social class, as well as factors that mediate one’s access to economic resources. Drawing on analyses of women’s/girl’s lives, their embodied and affective experiences, and their own accounts of ‘mobility’ and acceptance, this work strives to present a view of class linked with gender which seeks to consider women’s sense of class and how it is enacted and performed as a social process. 46 Moving beyond the boundaries of the labor market, class is considered as it is enacted in daily interactions and lived out relationally (in general) and individually (in particular). Class is forged through taste, value, and affect, experienced moment-to-moment in short term effects (Lawler, 2005b)—a return to the notion that class is deeply subjective, fragmented, and contingent. In short, class is both culture and ‘a happening’ (Williams, 1977). Class, which includes embodied subjective traits punctuates much of the recent work on youth subjectivities (Ali, 2003; Archer, Halsall, & Hollingworth, 2007; Archer, Hollingworth, & Halsall, 2007; Bettie, 2003; Lucey et al., 2003; Reay, 2004, 2007; Reay & Lucey, 2000; Walkerdine, 1997; Walkerdine et al., 2001). Connected to this affective framing of class is the idea of class-as-performance, which reflects the Butlerian (1993) influenced act of signifying or displaying the markers of a discursively constructed social position (Fraser, 1999; Gagnier, 2000). The enactment of identity performances is an identifiable theme that connects the projects of these authors who research the interplay of youth, gender, and class. In forging a productive meaning of class in relation to girls in ‘New Times,’ as I detailed above, I believe it is critical to link a subjective position on class with an objective position so that class does not become a strictly discursive performance. This would entail exploring the objectivity of one’s class position as it moves through symbolic and cultural forms in the production of subjectivities. Such a dual conceptualization of class is termed by Stephanie Lawler (2005b) as ‘dynamic:’ “… a system of inequality which is continually being remade in the large—and small—scale processes of social life…” (p. 797). In this way, class can be conceived as a dialectical unfolding between a structure and modalities of agency (Bettie, 2003). Class, then, designates the large processes of global economic change and the small-scale dynamics of social interaction. Together, these conceptions of class, to use Nancy Fraser’s (1997) terms, necessitate claims for redistribution as well as claims for recognition. This dynamic position on class is what I seek to utilize in this study, taking specific direction from the work of Beverly Skeggs (1997, 2004a). She maintains an unyielding stand on the centrality of class but also bridges the gap between concrete identities and global structures by theorizing class as a production of value. The production, inscription, and distribution of value are really the questions that 47 take us to the ‘root’ of social class. Accordingly, then, class is not to be determined only by what happens in the work place (Marx, 1867), in the domestic sphere (as materialist feminists tell us), or in purely consumptive practices (Bourdieu. 1977). With Skeggs’ contributions we are empowered to see that class is all three of these. Taken together, these theoretical concepts are important for moving beyond notions of girls as purely ‘choice making’ entities. This is a necessary intervention in order to account for the production of ideas circulating about the ‘abject’ or ‘problem girl’ within and beyond girls’ studies discourse. In the neo-liberal moment, the abject and marginalized youth are the ‘classed’ subjects. ‘Youth,’ as in the normative signification, refers to the non-classed, that is, a middle-class hegemonic disposition and identity. Skeggs’ multi-conceptual or dynamic position on class can help us understand the formation and regulation of the under-valued or abject girl. Use Value – Rewriting the value narrative on girls. Skeggs takes the position that class is not reducible purely to an economic system (2004a). Class, as culture, is produced in a way that mobilizes and ‘frees’ some and inhibits and ‘limits’ the movement of others. Skeggs’ research therefore offers important insight into how class functions at the level of the symbolic to the disservice of those who are ‘classed’ (the working class) and simultaneously to the benefit of those in whose interest class hierarchies are created (Skeggs, 2004b, 2004c, 2005). This process reveals the significance of classification systems (like gender, race, sexuality, and class) functioning at a symbolic level in forming one’s sense of self and in determining one’s position within a dominant system of inequality (Bourdieu, 1984; Deleuze & Guattari, 1977). The other significant feature of Skegg’s work for the present research is her incorporation of value into market processes. Skeggs details the language of class as it is spoken through different dimensions of everyday life and how categories within classifications can be labeled positive or negative as a form of value. The process of exchange in the marketplace, that is, turning ‘things’ into commodities that are then exchangeable, is one such mechanism. 48 Traditional capitalist political economy in the West from the time of Adam Smith9 up to the early 1800s was based on exchange value; value was derived through the relationship of objects to other objects. Marx turned attention away from the traditional understanding of exchange (exchange-value of the commodity – the ratio by which one set of goods is exchanged for another set of goods) to one focused on production (the exchange of labor – surplus labor – embodied in the commodities in question). He showed how the commodity was able to eradicate its own production, its labor, in order to generate value that related only to other things, a process called commodity fetishism (Marx, 1867, p. 163). Ultimately for Marx in a system of fetishized commodities, value appears to be established only through the act of exchange. Following his qualification that the exchange of the person’s labor, not the person, is the foremost exchange object, it is then the relationship of exchange (and the conditions that make exchange possible) that counts and that realizes the profit. In this model, use-value (the personal or social value attributed to objects) is collapsed into exchange-value (how much something is worth in relation to other commodities). It is this collapsing of the boundary between use-value and exchangevalue that Skeggs takes issue with. It is the relationships that emerge between the exchange and which make such an exchange possible that is the crucial factor for Skeggs. In response to this inadequacy of traditional exchange theory coupled with the feminist critiques of economic reductionism or ‘labor reductionism’ (as I outlined previously) Skeggs draws on a model of exchange from the arguments of British anthropologist Marilyn Strathern (1992). Here, exchange is based on the capacity for people to extract from others items that then become the object of their relationship. People as both entities and dispositions can be seen as part of this relationship. This model takes use-value out of exchange-value permitting the recognition of people’s characteristics, culture, and artifacts as imbued with value (if these items are useful to them). Significantly these are also qualities which may never be part of market exchange. Skeggs (2004a) maintains that this is a preferable approach as it accentuates the relationships that are crucial for the formation of exchange to take place, thus, exposing how they are produced through conflict. In this way, Skeggs shifts attention away from the object being 9 Adam Smith was a Scottish economist and philosopher from the 18th Century. His 1776 publication, The Wealth of Nations is a classic account of economics at the start of the industrial revolution in Britain. In it he argues for free market economics. 49 exchanged and consequently permits an exploration of the power between groups and how value is assigned to those relationships that makes exchange possible. The focus on use-value explores an element in the exchange process that is systematically elided in the traditional capitalist economic model. This is most relevant when trying to understand how class, as a classification system, works in the interests of some and not others. Skeggs’s (2004a, 2004c) work is also useful for understanding the significance of value in relation to class, gender, and space in girl’s subject formation primarily because it enables an understanding that obtaining and possessing value is the beginning of the process towards selfhood. This is because one has to have an identity recognized as worthy to even be seen as capable of possessing, let alone accruing, value. A process of exchange based on ‘exchange-value’ dictates in part those who can use their identity as a resource and those who cannot. Operating at the level of the symbolic, classifications work to encode or inscribe particular bodies. Drawing from the work of Deleuze and Guattari (1977), we know that inscription is the process of regulation and control that interrupts the flow of desire in the body. Classifications (and hence society itself which exists as a system of classifications) then are a product of inscription, which are established through marking the value or worth of bodies through various hierarchical and regulating mechanisms. Through the process of categorizing certain people as-a-problem (‘at-risk’ youth for example) their bodies are marked and then inscribed as valueless, which restricts their movement away from the label both symbolically and materially thus limiting one’s ability to gain social, cultural, and economic capital. In this context, cultural characteristics related to class which have been designated as ‘abnormal’ are reinforced, re-inscribed, and normalized through the inscription mechanism. It is this process of conversion of symbols into significant structures of meaning (or categories) that is central to understanding how power operates in the making of class. Class, in this way, functions as culture through forms of bodily and material inscriptions which also play some part in the very making of classifications. A conception of class that separates use-value from exchange-value makes room for those who have been deemed valueless to reclaim a sense of worth and to subvert the dominant symbolic order. A recognition that some bodies are negatively marked, 50 separate from and beyond their own identificatory positions, directs discursive action for change. As Skeggs (2004a) states, “…value comes from re-valuing that which is seen as unvalued” (p. 25). Privileging use-value is also an important theoretical move in reanalyzing exchange-value as exchange coding. Adding the concept of value complements a theory of social class as culture and taste mediated and reproduced through material processes and allows the connection of class and subjectivity. Positioning by classification, then, is central to understanding how social class operates in the reproduction of the hegemonic ‘girl.’ In short, following the work of Skeggs, in this study I understand class as a dynamic process operating both culturally and as a discursive framework which enables the possibility for material inequalities which are highly complex and multilayered. This approach will be used to reveal how female youth subjectivities are generated and explain an issue that I hope will be of interest to a wide range of youth studies scholars: how is the marginalized, working class girl who is marked as abject constructed in the contemporary, urban Canadian context? Theories of Space and the Making of the Urban Girl There are three elements from spatial theory that are useful for understanding how and why hegemonic meanings of the ‘girl’ are circulated and that connect the operation of space to the concepts of value, class, and female subjectivity. The first is an understanding of the spatialization of youth culture as it relates to one’s social position in the state. Second, the concepts space and place and their relationship to identity shed light on constructed meanings of ‘girl.’ The last element is the idea of difference and social/spatial exclusion. I’ll briefly touch on each of these areas and then outline the specific theory of spatiality (spatialized materialism) that has been utilized in this study. Beginning with a global/local dichotomy and youth agency, knowledge of and research into the particularity of young people’s geographies plays an important role in understanding the material effects of much larger socioeconomic processes and transformations (Aitken, 2001). As I have argued, the trend within post-structuralist influenced girls’ studies to focus on the local, specific activities of particular girls precludes a robust framing of how girls can create change in light of the broader global forces impinging on their lives. Youth exclusion is contextualized in global economic space as it plays out in the spaces and 51 places through and within which youth move and have access at a local level (Massey, 1998). A geographical framing of the girls in this study, thus, is significant in terms of extending agency beyond the local and exposing the fallacy of a dichotomous global/local distinction (Katz, 1994; Maira & Soep, 2005). Second, the spatial and spatialization—the social and political imaginaries that bounds a given space10 —are deeply connected to youth identity construction (Aitken, 2001; Reay, 2004; Sibley, 1995). How the physical environment is signified, re-signified, or de-signified plays a forceful role in how one perceives their ‘place’ in the world. It frames young people’s sense of attachment to or disgust towards the places they come from, move in, and even move towards (Reay, 2007; Reay & Lucey, 2000). For example, Nayak (2003) and Sibley (1995) have demonstrated the strong association to ‘place’ among youth subgroup members and their claiming of ‘space’ to distinguish their group identity. Such associations are particularly strong for young people living in urban domains (Katz, 1998). Correspondingly, place (designating our relation to the world, social or natural) and space (an index of our relation to the ‘other’ within this world) (Massey, 1999) affects how we view others. Stigmatized places are seen as containers or sites for the housing or warehousing of stigmatized people (Sibley, 1995), with young people (particularly teenagers) most often representing the pinnacle of the negative representation of the space. For teenage girls residing in the city, the association linked to this space depicts a girl who is sexually promiscuous, poor, uneducated, delinquent, and likely pregnant or parenting (Fine, 1995; Males, 1996). Human geography is useful as a way to contest this misleading impression. One of the benefits to utilizing spatial theories is the emphasis on the situatedness of competing subject positions along with cultural and historical contextualization of those relationships. A spatially informed subjectivity necessitates a locatable subject, even if temporarily, and produces a historical record that marks the process through which subjectivities are formed, hence making them contestable and changeable (Massey, 1999). This type of framing of subjectivity resists the postmodern conception of difference as discursive, resulting in an absolutist form of anti-essentialism. In this way, 10 I draw from Rob Shields (1991) understanding to define the concept of spatialization. 52 using space to challenge the unspoken, hegemonic norm inherent in a ‘girl’ subjectivity while also naming her variations changes the course of how we might think about the making and production of the girl. Finally, human geography provides the tools to understand the processes of exclusion that produce, re-circulate, and sometimes limit our categorizations of the ‘other.’ This mode of inquiry goes a long way in answering questions as to how and why social difference is made in particular micro-spatial contexts. In this case, how is it that the working class girl who is marked as abject comes to be seen as ‘other’? To speak of human ‘difference’ immediately references categories, thus, distinguishing one’s position within social relations of power. Traditionally difference is viewed as a corollary of identity and identity is produced out of binaries such as, for example, feminine/masculine, good/bad, smart/dumb (Massey, Allen, & Sarre, 1999). Such binaries necessitate the existence of their opposite (spatially expressed as closeness), yet the relational aspect between the two is often concealed (distance). Difference not only ‘locates’ subjects in geographical and metaphorical space, but the act of differing conceals the social constructedness inherent to subjectivity itself (the difference ‘within’ that founds the relation of self-other as opposed to the difference ‘between’ that separates one identity from another identity.) This spatial process, as it frames the cultural and civic order, functions largely at the level of intuition (Lefebvre, 1991a). The manifest result being that differences between people, even as they are socially reproduced, lead to social exclusions which are then spatially enforced (Sibley, 1995). A spatial analysis is needed, therefore, to expose the social and spatial categories of difference that appear ‘natural’ and as a result, unchangeable (Sibley, 1995). Spatial arrangements, consequently, are central to capitalist hegemony because of their seeming naturalness. The point to stress is that as we organize our lives around spatial routines, ideas about space do not reflect an actual permanent spatial arrangement because space is socially produced and reproduced (Massey, 2005). It is this gap between ‘absolute’ space (Harvey, 2006) and ‘relational’ space (Massey, 1999) where the moment for thinking space differently—and correspondingly changing social relations— rests. To bring about such change requires investigating the processes of spatialization, and reading spaces by examining the assumptions about inclusion/exclusion and normal/marginal inherent to the design and designation of space. Finally, and most critically, to counter hegemonic constructions and representations 53 we need accounts of spaces from those who are spatially and socially marginalized and excluded (Rathzel, 2000; Sibley, 1995). To carry out these objectives, I will next explore in more detail the specific spatial theory that will be utilized in this study. Spatializing the dialectics. Understanding space in relation to youth difference can be accomplished through a reconstitution of the meaning of the spaces through which youth live, work, and play. A theory of space outlined by the French philosopher Henri Lefebvre (1991b) provides a compelling and provocative premise with which to begin such a project. The goal here is to discern the role of space in the construction of classed subjectivities. At this point I should clarify my use of the concepts ‘space’ and ‘place’ and how I will be using them in this study. I borrow the definition of these terms as laid out by Doreen Massey (1995, 1999) where space is conceived of as ‘relational’ while place represents more stable, local meanings of a space. Relational space is constructed out of the interactions between social phenomena. Rather than space being fixed in time (the modernist view of space), space is the “meeting up of multiple trajectories” (Massey, 1999, p. 127). In this way, the social is spatially constituted—all social phenomena have a spatial location, and the spatial is socially constituted. Social relations create space (Massey, 1999). Since space is the production of social relations ‘space’ is “full of power and symbolism, domination and subordination” (Massey, 1992, p. 5). Massey’s separation of space from place permits recognition of a subject in space and unites the old dichotomy of time (history) and space. A spatially produced subjectivity could account for the de-centering of the subject prominent in post-modern girls’ studies as spatialization permits an understanding of urban female youth identities as, at least in part, constructed through strategies of spatial organization that are historically produced. This view of space and place is in line with Lefebvre’s definitions of the same terms, where he moves away from the Enlightenment treatments of space, to propose a space that is socially produced and organized. Originating from a Hegelian or Western Marxist position, Lefebvre was interested in challenging the Western reductionist view of space predominant at the time – the 1960s – that reduced space to relations between objects (Merrifield, 2002). Space was conceived as that which could be seen or visually presented or what might be seen as a realist approach to understanding space. According to 54 Lefebvre (1991b) this, “…conceals the fragmentation of the elements of spatialization. A divorce between representation and practices in the interests of control” (p. 55). Space, he proclaimed, is a dialectic made up of land (private property) combined with everyday activities (labor, production) and human interactions. Space internalizes the contradictions of capitalism. “Social space as a form is a concrete abstraction of its contents and its production by a society” (Lefebvre, 1991b, p. 128). The dialectic is the union of the social relations of its production: “…the social relations of production have a social existence to the extent that they have a spatial existence; they project themselves into a space…and in the process producing that space itself. Failing this, these relations would remain in the realm of ‘pure’ abstraction…” (Lefebvre, 1991b, p. 129). Lefebvre’s theory of space suggests that it is necessary to view the concept of the dialectic of labor set forth in the writings of Marx and Engels as something that can be understood spatially. And in so doing, one can place the seemingly disparate parts of the social relations of the production of space back together. The three parts of the dialectic include: (1) Spatial practices which refer to the lived elements of space or perceived space; (2) representations of space which are the hidden ideological content of space (this is the space created by city planners, government officials, or the capitalist conceived space); and (3) spaces of representation which refer to the abstract space of the social imaginary and space as it is socially lived in daily practice (Lefebvre, 1991b; Shields, 1999). The spatialized dialectic provides a comprehensive study of the identities, activities, and images associated with any given place. It is the third nexus, spaces of representation, that offers transformative possibilities for challenging the construction of space and the exclusionary practices which are in operation in particular places. The intrigue of Lefebvre’s social theory of space is the third term of the dialectic which he refers to as spaces of representation. This transforms simple dualisms of difference (like good girl/bad girl, rich/poor, valuable/un-valuable), opening up possibilities (or making space) for representations of the ‘other’ that counter dominant understandings. What I therefore wish to argue is that a spatialized dialectic provides a structured alternative for thinking about girls and moves away from an ungrounded or decontextualized postmodern fluidity and hybridity in order to concretize differences between girls as the result of relationships of power. Further, the historically generated practices which reproduce spatial and 55 social exclusion are exposed in a more concrete and everyday way, thus discerning how hegemonic meanings of the girl come to be. I use Lefebvre’s theory of spatialized dialectics as part of a formula of spatialized materialism. I use this term to refer to a comprehensive analysis of the spatial ‘dialectics’11 (the opposing forces of every process that leads to gradual change) of identities, of activities, and of images associated with any given place or space. The term, spatialized materialism, refers to the socio-spatial imaginary that girls move in and through constituting their culture(s). Applying this form of spatial materialism to understand the totality of girls’ subjectivity—not just daily life but the unity of the subjective and objective aspects of subjectivity—will open up a space to provide a contrasting dialogue through which to conceptualize girls and the representation of youth difference. Objectives Going Forward In consideration of the limitations identified above in contemporary girls’ studies scholarship, I wish to argue for the expansion of theoretical territory in girls’ studies research. In this chapter, I’ve provided an overview of three areas of social theory that when taken together can be a starting point for politically active social theorists to expand the field of girls’ studies in a different direction beyond its embrace of post-structural multiplicity, hybridity, and flexible (girl’s) subjectivity. The first concept is the idea of class as culture and as taste mediated through material processes (Skeggs, 2004a). Bringing class back into the analysis of the study of girls, both theoretically and empirically, and not as an identity marker one chooses to display at will can help explain why hegemonic meanings of the girl predominate. This conception of class privileges the concept of use-value and provides a way to understand the significance of stigma in the lives of young women who have been labeled ‘at-risk,’ or ‘problematic,’ or simply ‘poor.’ The formation of subjectivity is more complex—meaning it entails more layers and levels of mediations—than simply the adoption of discursive options. Classification through inscription bounds, 11 Following Lefebvre, I use dialectics as in the Hegelian tradition. This is the idea that the material world is reflected by the human mind and translated into forms of thought (Shields, 1999). 56 limits, and restricts one’s opportunity for assuming, enacting and/or reproducing any particular subject position. This works well for those who are able to deploy the inscriptions available to them as a resource, but does not prove as positive or as straightforward for those who are fixed by the marking, that is, working-class girls. Positioning by classification, then, is central to understanding how social class operates in the reproduction of a ‘problem girl’ or ‘future girl’ subjectivity (Harris, 2004; Skourtes, 2008). Finally, a conception of space as relational and that considers how places/spaces are formed out of the traces of multiple historical, socio-political events provides some of the tools for conceiving of space as difference. A materialist girls’ studies approach that attends to spatiality may further contribute to a de-centering and superceding of the subject in girls’ studies. It is my objective through this ethnography to apply these theoretical interventions towards the study of a group of working-class girls who frequent a social service center. The intent is not only to attempt to widen the field of girls’ studies, but to contribute to the emergent and to be disclosed nexus of projects that can build a society out of a collective space that organizes our differences—and specifically youth differences—without regard to race, gender, class, age, sexuality, or ability. The stories that fill the following pages will reveal how social difference about a particular group of girls is made, solidified, and reproduced while also offering a sincere account of the desires, loves, fears, and hopes of a group of girls typically viewed by the public as a ‘problem.’ In the next chapter I begin this narrative by exploring the epistemological concerns that are inherent to ethnographic research, and discuss the methodological resolutions I employed for use in this study. Such reflexivity is intended to reveal the constructed nature of the story being presented. 57 Chapter Three The Methodological Politics of Power and Representation My Entry Into The Research To begin this chapter on the epistemological and methodological framing of the research, I want to attempt to answer the questions ‘who am I?’ and/or ‘who I am meant to represent?’ in this work. I also outline the tasks I undertook in this endeavor to engage with the stories of working-class girls living ‘on the fringe’12. Two particularly poignant thoughts extracted from field notes do, in part, point to my position in this context. The first entry dates back to month three into my fieldwork: Ok, this is getting ridiculous. I understand that this population is ‘transient’ to use Steven’s 13 term (a youth worker at The Center), but even when I go to the person’s house?! I just went to Angel’s house for an interview. Scheduled for 10:30 am. Too early for sure but she said she would be there. No answer, drapes closed. Sleeping? Slept somewhere else? I am in a strange position of acting like someone’s social worker. I am now the person who calls them all the time and tries to find them. Why is this so hard??! And what am I doing wrong? (March 13, 2009). This entry emerged after three girls who had agreed to participate in the study dropped out before we had even begun, and after numerous cancellations from girls who had agreed to be interviewed. The entry below was recorded a few weeks after the conclusion of data collection: I have moved from outsider to insider! Nothing more clearly exemplifies this than the phone call I received today from Tanya (a staff person) asking that I leave girls’ group. Apparently there was confusion among the staff as to whether or not I was a participant in the group (one of the girls) or a facilitator… (June 18, 2010). Taken together, these passages are emblematic of my experience throughout the research. I have always stood out - to the girls, to the staff, to someone - which made building rapport with the community and slipping into the woodwork initially quite challenging (more on this later). My approach to recruiting participants in the first few weeks of the study was to approach girls who were ‘hanging out’ in The Center, explain the research and invite them to participate. One of a handful of responses usually ensued: nothing, silence, a grimace of discomfort, or a very slight inquisitive interest. Occasionally a girl would enthusiastically express her desire to participate. I, of course, jumped on these rare opportunities that 12 I borrow this term from Dillabough and Kennelly (2010) where they describe the ‘urban fringe’ as working-class and immigrant neighborhoods located on the edge of the inner city but not representative of it. As urban centers regenerate in a global context, low cost housing is replaced by high-end housing, which pushes poor communities to the ‘fringe.’ 13 Names of all research participants, both the young people and adults, have been changed to protect anonymity. 58 served to fuel my confidence. If someone did say ‘yes’ we planned a future (big mistake) date for us to meet where I would explain the study in more detail, and give them a consent form and a disposable camera to take home: the first step in the research process. After five girls made no further contact with me, I realized having a lapse of time between the ‘yes’ and the start of research was not really working. I will describe my ‘Plan B’ towards the end of this chapter but for now I want to get back to the question of why it is that I stood out and why it was so challenging to find people willing to talk to me in the early stages of the research. Because I had been coming to The Center for a year-and-a-half as a volunteer before beginning the research, I knew many of the young people and many members of the staff. Therefore, I had assumed that transitioning from volunteer to researcher would be a seamless exercise. Blending in, of course, should not be the goal of ethnographic research, and the true ‘messiness’ (Luttrell, 2003) of fieldwork became starkly apparent. As the research instrument in an ethnographic project, my presence not only shaped the research relationship, but also the outcomes that emerged (Britzman, 1995a). Thus, it is necessary to continue to explore the reasons for my discomfort and, at times, the extreme challenges – resistance, dismissal, anger, frustration – I encountered in doing this work. Insider vs. Outsider In her discussion of ethnography, feminist sociologist Judith Stacey (1991) argues that “fieldwork is always unequal and potentially treacherous… [and] …the researcher remains powerful as author of the research text, and this includes the power to expose research subjects to harm” (Ramazanoglu & Holland, 2004b, p. 114). As I am a white, middle-class and highly educated woman, it seems clear that I am distinctly ‘different’ from the young people I am studying; these are young women who are economically and socially marginalized and marked by a history of racialization. Yet, to say that I am an ‘outsider’ to the young women in this research is to provide far too simplistic an account, and perhaps too binary of an explanation for what is, after all, a rather routine and to-be-expected level of researcher discomfort. Issues of difference become a problem in ‘outsider’ research when the historical relationships of domination and subordination that come with particular group affiliations are not acknowledged, and when dominant group bias (or researcher bias in general) is not considered in the design, analysis, and representation of 59 research (Cannon et al., 1988). Furthermore, the idea that insider status is somehow ‘better’ just as problematically relies on the idea of an inherent authenticity to group membership (i.e., “all women are alike” or “all First Nations people think this way”), which feminist reflexivity was intended to address (Merriam & Johnson-Bailey, 2001). As indicated in my field note entries above, my transformation from the-person-to-avoid outsider to one-of-us insider (even though nothing about my social location actually changed) indicates the inaccuracy of these distinctions. Simply cataloging or stating ‘identity’ characteristics as the explanation for suspicion among the researched towards the researcher does little to solve the problem of the insider-outsider dilemma. A researcher (even if she is from a middle-class background and talking to middle-class youth) is doing ‘strange’ things in ‘foreign’ (not her everyday environment) places. In an era of identity politics where group membership is supposed to provide the ‘cure’ for human alienation, can we be surprised when those who are seemingly like ‘us’ (like the researcher) still don’t want to talk to us? More than simply being an outsider, the discomfort and challenges I encountered serve as an indication of the effects of class stratification within reflexive identity politics. Class, as one of many social markers that organize our daily routines, conceptions of time, and social priorities produces different reactions to the idea of talking to an adult about your life (Lawler, 2005b). This is why two girls, both working class and in an after-school photography program at The Center, and expecting to graduate from high school at the end of the year, jumped at the chance to be involved in a university research project: they connected it to a class imaginary of upward mobility through the use of popular and academic parlance. “Oh, that sounds like Girl Power,” remarked one girl. “Do we come to the University?” asked another. Certainly the divergence of my history from that of the girls in The Center, including our histories of ethnicity and generation as well as of class, factored into their suspicions about me. Thus, in order to remove these suspicions I had to be ‘real’ for the girls. What I mean by ‘real’ here is the aesthetic sense and comfort of fitting into their schema or habitus (Bourdieu, 1989) of a trustworthy adult. This was particularly challenging in a social service setting where young people are subjected daily to the symbolic violence of surveillance and confession as disciplining practices. A particularly important moment of trust building that changed my relationship with the girls occurred when I brought my four-month-old baby to 60 The Center. The mother role in this particular setting turned out to be something that these young women could understand and trust. Ultimately, my discomfort resulting from the position of privilege that I do occupy ensured, I believe, a commitment to presenting the partial and multiple truths that I lay out in this writing. It also provided a constant reminder as to my purpose in doing this work – to expose the constructs of power – given that my presence meant continually reexamining and being aware of my differently located position of power. As will be articulated more thoroughly below, what is most important to consider when researching ‘difference’ are the dynamics of power operating throughout the research relationship and the political responsibilities that compel the researcher to act reflexively, ethically, and morally. This is a good place in my writing to explore the ‘why’ of this research. Why am I researching working-class girls who are negatively stigmatized and what is it that I want to say about, or on behalf of, these particular young women? Concerns Relating to Epistemology The Politics of Representing the ‘Other’ Talmidge Wright (1997), in his ethnography on homelessness, engages with the issue of speaking for others, especially when the ‘other’ is a member of an oppressed minority. Drawing from Alcoff (1991), he presents two primary dilemmas resulting from the unbridled effect of positivist science. First, the place where one speaks ‘from’ (their social location) undoubtedly affects any truth claims about what is said. Second, the practice of privileged persons “…speaking for or on behalf of less privileged persons” can be discursively dangerous (Alcoff, 1991, p. 7). These issues certainly apply to studying economically and socially marginalized girls where speaking for the ‘other’ can, and has, increased the oppression experienced by this group (Lesko, 1996). My argument here is that reflexivity14, however important it may be, does not change the unequal power dynamics present in the adult/youth research relationship, and if speaking for marginalized youth is disempowering and potentially increases the subordination of this group, then arguably speaking on 14 I refer to reflexivity as a source and a process for examining power relations and overcoming limits of understanding in the research endeavor, and as a way to hold the researcher accountable for the production of knowledge (Foley, 2002; Ramazanoglu & Holland, 2004b). 61 behalf of, or with, marginalized youth is problematic as well. Given the stratification of social interaction in Western society in terms of race, class, religion, and most intensely, perhaps, the constraints of age, young people may not always be in a position to advocate for themselves without adult intervention or permission (Corsaro, 2005). Thus, speaking for or with those who are marked as ‘other’ also poses epistemological challenges as well as containing its own unique power dynamics. Wright (1997), in wrestling with the politics of representation, reminds us of the political and ‘ethical’ responsibilities of the privileged researcher as a way out of this conundrum; he writes, “…invoking an inability to ‘speak for’ can also be a concealment of one’s privileged location and unwillingness to act politically when confronted with deprivation” (p. 32). Considering the political dimension of the research relationship and the political imperative of research concerned with historically oppressed groups moves the discussion away from how best to ‘represent’ identities to the question of the best way to reveal power formations which underlie the making of identity or even the making of stigmatization. Maintaining this intention begins to address the epistemological and ontological questions regarding speaking for, and on behalf of, the ‘other.’ The knowledge sought has the possibility to extend beyond the ‘subjects’ of the research if the potentially politically transformative objectives of the project are kept in mind. Thus, as James Clifford (1986) discussed in a key contribution to debates on ethnographic representation of ‘the other’ the issue becomes not ‘who’ is the focus of inquiry or whether the researcher is an insider or an outsider, but for what purpose the marginalized group has become a subject of investigation to begin with. What are the representational practices through which knowledge about the ‘other’ is being constructed? Research conducted in this fashion should invoke and remark upon shared political interests with the research participants. Further, as I discussed in the previous chapter, challenging hegemonic forms of power that construct a distinct image of the girl cannot take place without empirical footing in the material dynamics of a particular girlhood. This is the impetus and the motivation for the present research given that many of the discussions, arguments, and critiques that have led up to, and that now frame, the study of the girl can best be summarized as bound up with the 62 problematics (epistemological concerns) and the politics (concerns of social transformation) of representation. To adequately redress these issues a critique is needed that can reveal the damage committed by relying solely on descriptive representations of girls (both academic and popular). Since ‘critique’ itself is the subject of ideological misrepresentation in dominant feminist discourses, where it is portrayed as masculinist intellectualizing or as personal ‘trashing’ (see Skourtes, 2008 for a review), one could argue that it is necessary to resuscitate critique itself here. “Critique is a practice through which the subject develops historical knowledge of the social totality: …in other words, an understanding of how the existing social institutions have in fact come about and how they can be changed” (Ebert, 1993, p. 9). The ‘what next’? after critique is both an epistemological and a methodological question. How, through the research process, can subjectivity and agency be maintained in a way that resists the hegemonic cultural arrangements that construct a normative girl image, while new resistant subject positions are arrived at? In short, we (researchers, theorists, activists) need new ways of constructing knowledge of, about, and for girls. Correspondingly, as the present research seeks to resist the dominant narratives of girlhood through critique, this necessitates research methodologies that serve to counter—in part—the typical post-positivist youth research. It is for these reasons that I have employed critical feminist ethnography (Foley, 2002; McCorkel & Myers, 2003; Ramazanoglu & Holland, 2004a) combined with visual ethnographic methods (Harper, 2002; Noblit, 2004; Pink, 2007a, 2007b) in this study. An ethnographic approach utilizing critical cultural studies (critical feminist ethnography) and visual methods is best suited to address structural power in its various forms—not the least of which is the social-scientific research relationship itself— and to legitimize the knowledge produced through the voices and the practices of working-class girls. The value of these methods, given the political objectives I have for this research, becomes even more apparent in light of certain epistemological issues related to studying girls. In the next section I will describe these concerns and highlight the utility of combining visual sociology and visual ethnographic methods with critical ethnography. 63 Representation and the Ethics of Appropriation As alluded to above, issues of representation and knowledge production are intricately related to the power dynamics present in the research relationship. Youth studies scholars have been particularly conscientious on this issue and have developed a variety of research strategies in an attempt to value cultural and social specificity. Reporting back findings to participants (O’Reilly, 2006) or acknowledging that interpretation constructs meaning rather than represents meaning (Harding, 2004b) are two such examples. When researching girls, ‘giving voice’ to youth has been a popular technique in an attempt to execute a reflexive representational practice (Baxter, 1999; Chesney-Lind & Irwin, 2004; Mazzarella & Pecora-Odom, 1999; Pipher, 1994; Samuels, 2007), as has the production of films or videos (Kearney, 2006; Sweeney, 2005) and the implementation of participatory action research (Garcia, Kilgore, Rodriguez & Thomas, 1995; Lewis, 2004; McIntyre, 2000). However, some scholars have been critical of attempts to ‘represent’ or ‘give voice’ to un-seen ‘others’ (Ellsworth, 1992; Gore, 1992; Packard, 2008) and I too regard this technique with a significant degree of suspicion. The ‘giving’ moment in these techniques is temporary and any empowerment is not sustained: unequal power relationships still remain. Furthermore, the researcher is not required to examine his or her own implications in the continuation of oppression. One can also recall the effects of liberal, second wave, feminist girls’ studies where empowerment through the discovery or recuperation of one’s ‘voice’ was, and still is, the goal (Greeno & Maccoby, 1986). Individually, young people may experience temporary moments of liberation, but structural emancipation from an oppressive and/or exploitative system does not occur. Hearing, seeing, or reading the voices of those who are habitually spoken for (literally or metaphorically through media representations) becomes an oppositional—if not emancipatory—political activity if the social conditions that conceal their voices are revealed. Another problem within the standard reflexive practices of feminist ethnographies is an issue that I wish to call the ‘ethics of appropriation.’ Who benefits from such research and in what ways? Perhaps most importantly one must ask: where does the researcher draw the line when using their informant’s voices, experiences, and lives for personal purposes (and careers) as authors and academics? This, too, is an issue of representation. I take the stance that my participation within an academic field that historically 64 and in the present benefits from defining and establishing who is ‘unusual’ and ‘different’ needs to be acknowledged and repeatedly inscribed within the writing of my research. One important objective in this research is to make visible the experiences of one group of working-class girls. However, as I am utilizing a feminist, post-positivist epistemology my goal is not simply to ‘give voice’ to the girls, but rather to reframe the traditional modernist view of childhood by exposing the institutional practices that have constructed working-class girls as ‘other.’ It is on these last two points—the representation of marginalized populations and the ethics of appropriation—that the use of visual ethnographic methods can be particularly useful as an augmentation to the constructive insights of critical feminist ethnography. This is a strategic place in my writing to turn to an accounting of how these theoretical approaches ultimately came to be integrated into my methodological concerns in this study. Theoretical Perspectives on Ethnography Critical Feminist Ethnography Critical feminist ethnography is an incorporation of interpretivist movements in sociology combined with neo-Marxist and feminist theory (Noblit, 2004; Ramazanoglu & Holland, 2004a). The central position in this view is that social life is constructed in the context of power and that, “[a]ll cultural groups produce an intersubjective reality which is both ‘inherited’ and continually constructed and reconstructed as it is lived or practiced” (Foley, 2002, p. 478). Critical feminist ethnography seeks to account for the dialectical relationship between social structural constraints and social agency (Weis, 1990). This approach is appropriate for the present research as a way to allow for an understanding of how young people exercise some agentic authority and as a means of highlighting how their forms of accommodation and resistance have developed in response to the larger social struggles and political limitations imposed upon them. My objective is to develop a picture of the link between structural and micro-level processes that play some part in the production and marking of urban female youth identities. Another strength of using a critical feminist, ethnographic approach is the particular concern for materially marginalized populations that results from the overt consideration of class as a structural entity functioning culturally in the lives of young people (Foley, 2002). Utilizing a feminist and cultural Marxist 65 frame, the objective, by and large, is to generate the value-laden knowledges necessary to challenge hegemonic forms of power (Harding, 2004b), hence making room for a shared engagement of political interests between the researcher, the research, and the subjects of inquiry. Finally, critical feminist ethnography utilizes reflexivity as a resource for examining power relations in the field, taking as its premise the limits to our understanding and the inherent researcher biases that may unwittingly reiterate perceptions of ‘otherness’ (McCorkel & Myers, 2003; Ramazanoglu & Holland, 2004b). The purpose of reflexivity for me is not simply to highlight my own subjectivity but also to expose my partiality and involvement in a politically treacherous and, at times, historically destructive academic enterprise. I aim to privilege a collaborative relationship between myself (as the researcher) and my informants that produces an analytically-based, experiential and ‘negotiated version’ (Pink, 2007a) of reality. The intention behind my reflexivity, correspondingly, is a commitment to partial and multiple truths and a demonstration of the constructs of power within the research relationship that historically (and continually) frame the ‘girl’ as a hegemonic, white, heterosexual, middle-class figure. Visual Ethnographic Methods Working visually within the social sciences is one way through which knowledge can be produced in field work and then, in turn, represented as a component of ethnographic research (Pink, 2001). The requirements involved in using visual methods mean that one advantage in the use of a visual form is the exploration of the link between practice and theory generation. As Halford & Knowles (2005) state, “Working visually is a way of pursuing a more dynamic and performative sociology, grounded in everyday experience” (p. 1.3). Visual work permits the uncovering of practices of daily life at a level that cannot be reduced to words, or to put this differently, at a level that words alone cannot represent. It is said that cultural meanings have become increasingly embedded within visuality (the cultural construction of what is seen and how it is seen) as Western societies have moved from modernity to late modernity (Mirzoeff, 1998; Rose, 2006). And while the centrality of the visual in Western society, or occularcentrism, is disputed15, few would refute the significance of the visual in the cultural construction 15 See Harway (1991) and Sturken & Cartwright (2001) for compelling arguments critiquing the significance of the visual within contemporary social life. 66 of contemporary social life in the West. Visual methods acknowledge and utilize, as well as contribute to, the visuality of social life. The specific form of visual ethnography I have utilized draws from both visual sociology and visual ethnography. Within the broad category of visual methods (and within visual sociology in particular) there are two modes for utilizing the visual: the interpretation of visual culture and the creation of visual images (Pink, 2007a). The latter mode involves either the researcher or research-participants producing visual pieces (photographs, film, video, drawings, paintings, drama, etc.) for the specific purposes of the study at hand (Rose, 2006). This is the approach I introduced as part of my research process. Visual sociology, at least in part, has been built upon the rise of documentary photography, which was thought to offer an objective portrait of reality16. Visual sociology, as a blossoming field that had begun growing in strength by the late 1980s, had to grapple with its history of fact-based, objectifying, ‘good intentions’ (Harper, 1998). The field is thus rightfully positioned to contend with the issues of representation that I addressed above: namely, how the creation of visual images can be useful in attending to the problems of studying the ‘other;’ how the work of visual images can challenge in part the appropriation of marginalized research informants; and how a wider remit in the forms of reflexivity in the research endeavor can be encouraged. What some have termed the ‘cultural turn’ of the 1970s (Jordan & Weedon, 1994) led to a reassessment of the meaning of truth in the pictorial representation in its relationship to observation, to power, and to subjectivity (Pink, 2007a). Scholars engaging with various visual ethnographic forms now accept that the visual image is not a representation of a single ‘reality,’ but rather a multifarious entity with numerous meanings and interpretations (Sturken & Cartwright, 2001). Photographic and video imagery are now positioned to offer transformative potential regarding how knowledge is produced in the ethnographic process; this sheds light on what we know and how we come to understand individuals, cultures, and societies (Prosser, 2007). 16 This ‘realist tale’ as it is termed by visual sociologist Douglas Harper (1998), who is drawing from categories put forward by John Van Maanen (1988), is in line with positivist epistemology and the assurance of the objectivity of the researcher/photographer in capturing a preexisting truth. 67 Working in this mode, visual ethnographer and anthropologist Sarah Pink (2007b) no longer sees relevance in drawing a distinction between ethnography and visual ethnography. Rather, she highlights the complexity of the process, the multi-modal nature of the endeavor, and the expression of the researcher’s consciousness in the representational products that are produced. She defines ethnography as follows: a process of creating and representing knowledge that is based on ethnographers’ own experiences. It does not claim to produce an objective account of reality, but should aim to offer versions that are as loyal as possible to the context and intersubjectivities through which the knowledge was created. It should account for the observable, but also for objects, visual images, the immaterial and the sensory nature of human experience. Finally, it should engage with issues of representation that question the right of the researcher to represent other people…. (p. 22). I took Pink’s fundamental definition as an instructive base upon which to initiate my own ethnographic project. In retrospect, I also found it to be a useful characterization to highlight how visual ethnographic methods can be used to address the problems of representation inherent to traditional ethnography and incorporated into the development of reflexive methodologies used in the study of youth and girls. A Reflexive, Pragmatic Epistemology I’d now like to return to the previously mentioned three dominant issues in traditional ethnography’s study of youth and especially girls: unequal power dynamics in the research relationship; issues of representation; and appropriation of the ‘other.’ I’d like to suggest here that each of these can be most effectively accounted for through a reflexive, pragmatic epistemological position. According to visual sociologist Gregory Stanczak (2007) a pragmatic epistemology in relation to the visual, “provides variation in assumptions but steers clear from holding the realism of the image as a unifying constant across projects” (p. 9). This position considers the intersubjective process of knowledge construction between the participant and the researcher, rejecting the objectivity of an image, while, at the same time, maintaining a commitment to the materiality expressed through a visual creation. Visual methods, in light of the above, should not be simply about gathering data or visual representations in the service of the same (old) kinds of knowledge. Rather, their emphasis should be on narrating something new, as well as attempting to disrupt and reconfigure the ‘old.’ In my role as researcher the aim was to elucidate the power relations that fix girls in metaphorical and physical space, and by doing so uncover places and spaces of representation that open up possibilities for ‘other’ 68 representations of the ‘other:’ these are representations that counter dominant understandings of what it means to be a girl. In a similar manner to the way feminist geographer Doreen Massey (2005) understands ‘space’—as the accumulated collection of stories thus far—visual methods can collect and present the accumulated stories that emerge in the research moment. This, to my mind, is what is meant by a physical (or visual) manifestation of a theoretical position, a position I will name as critical spatialized dialectical materialism. Toward these ends, at the start of my research I envisioned a form of visual depiction that would move away from a literal account of the visual, especially in the form of the portrait (along with the landscape and the still life, two of the most conventional genres of painterly representation). Working collaboratively with two young, female photographers who were the same age as my research participants and from East Vancouver, I created a non-representational photo-documentary exhibit as part of the final representation of the research. Crawford (1992) reports that ethnographic representations, whether visual or textual, produce a stable signifier that is, an indicator of the ‘other’ which is taken as an expression of ‘reality.’ As traditional documentary and ethnographic film focuses on specific events, hiding the structural interconnectedness of social processes (Harper, 1998), an alternative photographic representation such as what we co-created consciously considers ways of symbolizing (and thus revealing for public inspection) existing social constraints. Taking this even further, an alternative, transformative visual representation conducive to transformative political praxis has to re-position the subject so as not to become reified as the object of ‘the gaze’17. A photo display about girls, for example, that does not feature girls constitutes such a visual representation. Accordingly, instead of presenting girls’ voices through pictures of them, we created images that reveal the girls’ view of the audience and the subject ‘behind’ the gaze. This creates a 17 The concept of the gaze stems from feminist screen theory in the 1970s (Mulvey, 1988). Drawing from psychoanalysis and post-structuralism, these theorists challenged the common feminist idea that the meaning of a film is transparent and obvious based on the ‘truth’ of the visual images, by exposing the ‘gaze,’—the taken-forgranted patriarchal codes upon which cinema depended (Cook & Johnston, 1988). Other film theorists have spoken of a ‘colonial gaze’ or ‘class gaze’ in mainstream media representations (Kaplan, 1997). Working in the same fashion as the male gaze, the believability of the images is achieved for the audience (the visual representation appears natural) because the images are a reproduction of hegemonic ideologies about the colonized, racialized, or classed ‘other.’ 69 reversal of the gaze so that it is turned back against the audience: a display of the world as viewed from these particular girls’ perspective. This photographic process began with a list of words that I presented to the photographers that were representative of my research findings (like friendship, power, social exclusion). We then thought of how we could visually represent each idea through a photographic image. Some of the photographs we staged like scenes for a movie, and others we found by going on ‘photography fieldtrips’ around the city. The entire process took over six months. The final images that we selected (I maintained the final editorial decision) showcase, symbolically, the socio-spatial imaginary that working-class girls move in, through, and against in constituting their culture(s). The images became part of a traveling photo-documentary exhibit for the general public titled, Ab/Ob-jection: Encountering Youth and The City. One space for this exhibition was a traditional art gallery; the second space was a café in the same neighborhood where the research took place; and the third space was a hallway within a social service agency. One objective behind placing this work in public spaces was to present back to the public the institutional and spatial practices that tie working-class girls to a particular space and place. Also, the public art exhibit format allowed for immediate dialogue among the viewers regarding what is a social process of abject making. As the photographs represent themes from the research, I have included them in this dissertation at the end of each data chapter that corresponds with the representative themes in the photograph. This representation begins in Chapter Four. Methodological Framing In light of the epistemological concerns regarding reflexivity, power, appropriation, and representation of the ‘other’ that I discussed above, I have utilized a reflexive, pragmatic epistemological position to develop a multi-modal methodology that draws heavily from visual ethnographic traditions. I spent 18 months in the research setting, which included The Center as well as the surrounding neighborhoods where the girls who use The Center live, work, and recreate. Observation and the taking of field notes were heavily utilized in this study as the classic technique of critical ethnography when the fieldwork is exploratory in nature (Fetterman, 1998). In the early stages of the work, I spoke with many 70 young people, boys and girls alike, and came to know many of them quite well. In order to address the intersubjective process of knowledge construction and to move away from a purely discursive construction of girls and towards an articulation of materially grounded youth discourses, I engaged in more in-depth activities with a smaller number of girls. I recruited twenty-one girls from the research site to participate in more focused research activities (see Appendix A). The four primary methods that I used in addition to participant observation were the following: auto-driven photo elicitation; open-ended in-depth interviews; guided walking tours called ‘go alongs;’ and various visual methods (Clark-Ibanez, 2007; Harper, 2002; Knowles & Sweetman, 2004). These methods occurred reflexively and concurrently. For example, I would conduct an interview with one girl and then give her a disposable camera to take pictures of her daily life (Marquez-Zeknov, 2007; Prosser, 2007). I would schedule and conduct a second interview only after I developed her pictures. This might then be followed by an invitation to her home and then a later meeting at The Center where we might, to take a typical example, discuss a movie that had just been shown. Of course throughout all of this I’d be taking field notes. For ease of description, I’ll recount how I used each method as it unfolded during fieldwork, beginning with the practice of photo elicitation and interviews (Marquez-Zeknov, 2007; Pink, 2001; Rose, 2006). Auto-driven Photo-elicitation A wide range of techniques have been used by researchers employing visual images in an attempt to be collaborative with their participants (Harper, 2002; Rose, 2006). Auto-driven photo-elicitation has become a popular method for use with young people, where informants are given cameras to create their own pictures for discussion during an interview (Clark-Ibanez, 2007; Marquez-Zeknov, 2007; Prosser, 2007; Samuels, 2007; Wagner, 2004). The objective with this method is to allow the participant to initially establish the research content and contribute a greater sense of meaning-making by indicating for themselves the parameters that define their world. This type of visually-based data produced by young people can provide an account of alternative ways of visualizing and making sense of particular kinds of questions in research, and often garners insights that can not be obtained through traditional language based techniques (Clark, 1999; Collier & Collier, 1986; Margolis, 2004). 71 I employed this technique by giving disposable cameras to the twenty-one girls I recruited for focused research activities. I then asked them to create visual diaries of their daily life (see MarquezZeknov, 2007 and Pink, 2001). The participants were instructed to take a couple of weeks to take their pictures and then I would develop the film and we’d have an interview wherein they would describe to me each picture and why they took it. Usually, I would give each participant a camera as soon as she agreed to join in the research after we went through the consent form. Presenting a camera early in the relationship served as a token of an agreed partnership and mutual accountability. This usually worked, but still, girls and their cameras would frequently disappear. Or I’d see a girl a week later and the conversation would begin with something to the effect of: “Stephanie, Stephanie I lost my camera. My purse was stolen from a club and my camera was in it.” Or someone would leave it on the bus, or it would fall out of a moving car. The depths (and sincerity!) of apology were quite revealing and each time I tried to reassure participants that they weren’t in trouble and simply handed over another camera. In addition to allowing the young women to establish the direction of the interviews based on the content of their photos, another advantage to youth-generated photography is the immediate and tangible products that quickly result during the research process. In this instance, the girls were given the photos to keep following the photo-elicitation interview. This is one gesture in an attempt to ‘give back’ to the research participants, an objective that has been a crucial component to many feminist, post-ethnographic research projects (Khan, 2005). The photos themselves were received as valued and concrete materials that the girls were quite excited to obtain, particularly as most of them did not have cameras of their own and few had many photographs of themselves. Permitting the girls to keep their pictures also helped build rapport prior to the start of the formal interviews. Analytically, the photos were useful for understanding the meaning-making that went on at an ideological level as the girls navigated their way through the city. I was able to remark on what was not in the photos and also question the cultural signs present in the images. Furthermore, a visual record of the girls’ daily experiences helped reveal the cultural resources and strategies that they drew upon as they made their way through the metropolis (Harper, 2002). 72 Examples of the photographs the girls took are included in this text throughout the various chapters. I have placed photos near relevant written content. However, since I did not use the photos as ‘data’ (I did not analyze the photos themselves) my placement of them in this text is not to be interpreted as visual evidence. In-depth Interviews Consistent with the auto-driven photo-elicitation technique described by Banks (2001) and Clark-Ibanez (2007), the photos served as the content for open-ended, phenomenologically driven, indepth interviews that allowed participants to situate their own ideas and descriptions of the spaces through which they move, their understandings of exclusion and inclusion, and their cultural practices (MarquezZeknov, 2007; Rose, 2006). I utilized a cultural phenomenological approach in conducting the interviews (Connor, 2000). Cultural phenomenology considers the embodied experience of individuals, but veers away from traditional phenomenology by adding an analysis of the “shared conditions of making,” (Connor, 2000, p. 4) to that which might otherwise be left to pass as “direct experience” (p. 4). As Connor (2000) describes: The word ‘cultural’ in ‘cultural phenomenology’ would suggest the importance of acknowledging that the ways in which the world presents itself for and is grasped by consciousness is an intersubjective way. To say that something is cultural is to say simultaneously that it is shared and that it is made (p. 2). This perspective allowed for an inquiry into the individual patterns of thinking and feeling that occurred in the young women’s everyday lives that were collaboratively constructed and simultaneously shared. In some cases I conducted two in-depth interviews with the girls with the first interview following the development of their photos and the second interview being conducted at a later time (see Appendix A). Some of the girls, however, participated only in an interview without photo-elicitation as they chose not to take pictures. In the case of three girls, they had lost two cameras and so we decided to go ahead and have an interview without the photos. In total, I conducted 32 in-depth interviews with the girls. I also conducted 10 semi-structured in-depth interviews with staff at The Center and other adults who were employed or affiliated with The Center in a professional capacity (see Appendix C). The ‘Go-Along’ Another method I employed with many of my research participants in the recruited group of girls 73 was the ‘go-along’ (Anderson & Jones, 2009; Kusenbach, 2003). The ‘go-along’ is a qualitative research technique that consists of a guided walking tour with a participant through a familiar space or common outing in their daily routine. Some have called it a hybrid of participant observation and interviewing. However one defines the particulars, it is a valuable method for exploring the ‘everyday’ of lived experience which has been a primary objective of this research (Anderson, 2004). Through observing, posing questions, and listening the researcher is able to explore the research participant’s meaning-making and spatially informed interpretive practices as they move through their social and physical environments. In this way, the method effectively complements the phenomenological approach I used for the interviews as this ‘walking and talking’ attends to the “sensorial elements of human experience and place-making” (Pink, 2007b, p. 245). What made the go-along method unique in the present work is that I was at times able to observe the participants’ spatial practices in situ while simultaneously accessing their interpretations. To conduct a go-along I would meet a participant at her home or at a coffee shop at a scheduled time and ask her to give me a walking tour of her neighborhood or take me on a familiar route in her daily routine. Sometimes the girls didn’t quite know what I meant by this as they thought there was nothing particularly interesting about the area around their home. I’d reassure them that it may seem commonplace to them but as I was interested in the spaces in the city where girls hang out, I would find it interesting. The tour worked best for the few girls who lived at home with their families. They had lived in the same house or at least the same neighborhood since they were young, and thus had a place-specific history that they could retell. For the youth who lived on their own or with friends, which, for most, meant they had been homeless at some point in the past, a tour of ‘home’ did not make much sense in relation to their own experiences. Some girls didn’t have a ‘daily routine’ to show me as their everyday activities were constantly changing. Thus, the intention reported in the go-along literature of experiencing informants in their ‘natural’ environment (Kusenbach, 2003) needs to be questioned when the participants are young people living on the fringe. Still, these kinds of temporal and spatial encounters within the environment acquired empirical strength when they occurred during the go-along activity. An informant could tell me that she had no set routine, but when I was able to observe what that meant in practice and 74 how that informed her interpretation of local, spatial practices it created a sense of something very particular and aesthetically meaningful. Thoughts and observations from the ‘go-along’ I recorded as field notes for inclusion in analysis. Multiple Visual Methods At various times throughout my fieldwork, I employed diverse visual methods to understand how the girls described and performed ‘girl culture,’ which helped me to assess what their relationship was to dominant female youth discourse. One technique was to view a mainstream film directed towards young women and then ask them for a written or pictorial review of the movie. I did this with the films Confessions of a Shopaholic (Bruckheimer, 2009) and Mean Girls (Michaels, 2004). This provided a good opportunity to discuss girl culture in a depersonalized manner (i.e., they didn’t have to talk about themselves 18). This same sort of review and evaluation occurred with other forms of popular media like magazines and news headlines that I would bring in to The Center or, in the case of music, I would build on things they were already listening to. A second technique that was used to indirectly address research questions was the interpretation, by me, of the photographs that that girls took as part of the photo-elicitation interviews for their depiction of mainstream female or dominant youth expressions. While I did not do a content analysis of the pictures, I did look for the symbols of culture that the girls used as resources to position themselves and to think about their futures. For example, I noticed that most of the girls took pictures of their everyday possessions, like a TV, hairdryer, posters on the wall, or shoes. (See examples below.) 18 Researchers who study young people have remarked that it is challenging for youth to be reflective about their participation and experience with youth culture (Bottrell, 2007; Harper, 2002). Viewing pieces of popular culture with youth can be useful towards this end as it provides an intermediary between the young person and their perceptions. 75 A third visual method that I used was to build a discussion around individual narrative drawing (Gauntlett & Holzwarth, 2006). I suggested that the girls think of a past personal dilemma or encounter with authority and then draw a picture of the incident. This activity was very effective in helping the girls recall and then articulate their struggles with power and domination as racialized and gendered young people. All of these various visual methods were conducted at The Center either at a prearranged time with my research participants, or as part of an existing group activity at The Center. Information gleaned from these activities was recorded in my field notes. Participant Observation Although I have this method listed as the final activity I would like to reemphasize what I stated at the outset: these methods, aside from the ‘multiple visual methods,’ came into play concurrently and in conjunction with one another. This method of participating with and observing my research participants happened throughout the research process. As I revealed in the introduction to this chapter, ‘observing’ was often quite challenging at the beginning of fieldwork as my presence in The Center was questioned, pondered, and occasionally challenged, both by the girls and by figures of authority. Still, it is The Center where I began the fieldwork and where I recruited participants for the more focused research activities. Upon entering The Center a key place of interest was the ‘resource room.’ This is a large, open space with cushy chairs, public computers, and a snack food table off in one corner. This is the most public space in The Center and young people could always be found hanging out and chatting amongst themselves. During my visits this main room was a ‘youth’ driven space. Adult (staff) interaction consisted of either being ‘on the floor’ monitoring the room (hence, chit-chatting with the young people there), or in other job-related capacities. In the resource room one could find at any given time a mix of social work practicum students, staff from other youth agencies, or the occasional provincially-sponsored 76 researcher gathering information on youth drug use or something of the sort. Adult volunteers, such as I had previously been, were not as visible because they typically work on a particular program and were thus usually in one of the back rooms or in the kitchen. This meant that even though many people recognized me from my previous year-and-a-half of volunteering, being that I was an adult but not a staff person, there was not an easy or accessible route for youth to talk with me in the resource room when I first began the research. To navigate this situation I became involved with more specific programs so there was at least the semblance of a reason for youth to interact with me. I continued my volunteer work with the group ‘Music Matters’ (formed for the discussion of popular culture topics) and volunteered in the weekly ‘Clean-Up-the-Neighborhood’ activity. I would stay late on Thursday nights for a group dinner and helped out with as many one-time events as I could. This is also where having a newborn baby became, surprisingly, very useful in redefining my accessibility in The Center. When I began as a volunteer I came to The Center once a week, but as a research I was there three or four days a week and would often bring my baby with me. We would just sit in the resource room and play with his toys. He was like a people magnet. Everyone would come up to us and comment. An observation from my field notes showcases the power of the role of a parent in the role of researcher: Matteo [my son] is great for building rapport with the girls I have to admit. I was hanging out for weeks and no one would talk to me and then I brought him in one day and was flooded with attention. One of the girls from the ABE program who was quite stand off-ish talked to me at the bus stop last Tuesday when they were on their way to a snowboarding trip. She said, “Oh, is that your baby? He’s cute,” and “Nice stroller.” Alyssa and Beth, too, really opened up to me when they met Matteo. This was after a year-and-a-half of seeing Alyssa at Music Matters (March 10, 2009). Then, after two months in the field, Sam, a young mother of an eight-month-old who had frequently approached me about my son, invited me to join a parenting group that had recently formed, saying: “You could give the older parent’s perspective … Because we’re young and not supposed to have kids yet.” I hadn’t really considered myself an ‘older’ parent but was quite pleased by her warm and friendly invitation. For a time I became known as ‘the lady with a baby.’ I worried that this would alienate me from the non-parenting girls and so confined the presence of my baby to the once-a-week parenting group. However, after the young people, and more importantly staff, got used to having me in the 77 parenting group I was allowed to join the ‘Girls’ Group.’ My participation in this group was beneficial in building rapport with girls as most of those who frequented The Center also attended the Girls’ Group. Prior to beginning this research I thought my participant observation would include more doing, which is to say, more moving and traveling with groups of girls. However, most of my time was spent ‘hanging out’ with girls and talking informally in one-on-one conversations. In her 2003 publication Women Without Class, Julie Bettie describes this activity as “girl talk” (p. 28) and suggests it was an integral part of her ethnographic methodology. I, too, spent a lot of time engaging in ‘girl talk’ and hanging out. I often found myself in unusual places doing random activities that didn’t really feel like ‘work,’ such as a spur of the moment swim outside on a very hot summer day, or a trip to the play zone at Science World with our babies. Other popular destinations were the grocery store, the shopping mall, playgrounds, coffee shops, and Subway restaurants. Through it all I kept observing, writing, and thinking, always wondering if I was actually ‘doing’ research or at the very least if I was ‘discovering’ anything. Famed anthropologist Clifford Geertz (1995) voices this dilemma of fieldwork by raising perplexing questions for the ethnographer, “[questions about] the sheer possibility of anyone, insider or outsider, grasping so vast a thing as an entire way of life and finding the words to describe it” (pp. 42-43). I, too, wrestled with this issue. How was I going to make sense of it all? Additionally, as the research was largely exploratory I encountered the common problem within ethnography of what exactly it was that I was looking for (Hammersley & Atkinson, 1995). At the very least I was gathering information that could be explored further and corroborated through other methods. And thus began the next stage of research: discovering, through my data, what it was that I could say and write about this group of young women. The Phenomenologies of Speaking For/With/Of Marginalized Young People Strategies of Knowledge Construction As I reflect on the process of coming up with something to say about the girls in my research, I recognize that while it was sometimes messy and convoluted, there were also moments of clarity and straightforwardness. What has become most apparent, however, is the constructed nature of knowledge creation in the very writing of this work (Luttrell, 1999). I am the primary narrator, and I have arranged 78 the plot in a particular way, but I also see the moments where the girls’ voices were guiding my analysis and decisions about which stories and events to showcase here. Perhaps this might be the appropriate place to highlight the use of ‘I’ in this text. As Sipe and Ghiso (2004) remind us, it is all too common to read ethnographic accounts where the overt pronouncement of the researcher’s presence disappears from the text to be replaced by the passive, seemingly less subjective, third person voice. This, of course, represents an inaccurate attempt at researcher objectivity as if the text is an unmediated depiction of fact. I utilized a reflexive methodology to reveal my own subjectivity as a central element to the creation of knowledge, interpretation, and representation. As Wagner (2004) maintains, “…the choice is not between truth and invention, [or empirical versus experiential] but between inventions that lead towards truths and those that lead away from them. This ties the soundness of empirical inquiry not only to techniques and methods, but also to the ethics and integrity of the investigator” (p. 13). The trouble with truth claims, therefore, stems not from declaring something about the material existence of those who are the subject of the research, but in hiding the constructed act of the process of knowledge creation. Reflexive accounts should express the subjective voice as always mediated by material and technical limits, dissipating, in turn, the objective/subjective dichotomy. What came as a surprise to me through my analyses is how this collaboration was informed by the affective connection I had made with the girls. Wendy Luttrell (2003) writes of the emotional participation of ethnography as one part of ethnographic knowing: “I needed to have analytic distance, and to be present, able to acknowledge powerful emotions” (p. 162). This feeling part of ethnography is what went into the ‘gut feeling’ element that is a necessary part of making sense of ethnographic data (Lareau, 1989) and for me the emotional connection came in large part from the common experience of motherhood that I shared with many girls. Not all of the young people were parents, but the experience of having a baby at the beginning of the research connected me to all of the girls and made me appear familiar and approachable, perhaps even ‘safe.’ I believe this held true for many of the boys as well, for whom ‘mother’ was a female role they understood. Sam, one of the young mothers I came to know well, encapsulated this when she remarked, “who’s going to mess with a girl with a kid?” And when four of the 79 young women in my research had babies right before or right after I did, there emerged a collective sense that we were all in it together. Being a mother not only indicated safety to the girls but also seemed like some kind of indication to them that I was a ‘normal’ woman. Having spent many years working with, creating for, and advocating on behalf of working-class young women who were similarly marked as ‘abject’—not unlike the girls in my study—I was familiar with the acceptance, everydayness, and enjoyment of children in such communities. As a childless, young woman in many previous social service settings I was often seen as suspect and as just plain ‘odd’ for not having children. “What? You’re 26, no kids, and you’re not married?!,” a 16-year-old mother of one said to me during the making of a documentary about teen mothers that I directed (Skourtes, 2003). But now I did have a child and having given birth right before I began fieldwork served to diminish my ‘researcher significance’ in the eyes of the girls and lessen some of the stark contrasts of power between us. I, too, was now in a vulnerable position, and for young people who had grown up with lots of children around them, they had something to teach me: they identified me as the novice, a scared, ‘old’ mother. This isn’t to say that all working-class young women like children or are more open to them. Rather, in working-class spaces like The Center, the norms for separation by age are more relaxed and ‘mothering’ is extended beyond the biological definition (Naples, 1992). This stands in contrast to middle-class spaces like the school, the office, or the place of work where the presence of one’s children is frowned upon. Still, as my new role of mother served to unite us, my privileged position clearly shaped our experiences of motherhood and brought in to focus how class histories operate in the present. The immediate needs of an infant are similar across categories of difference (feeding, sleeping, diapering, loving), but economic deprivation or excess informs how these needs are met, which played out daily in our mothering practices. All of this is to say that having a baby gave me ‘in-between-er’ status. To say I became an insider is to ignore all of the ways I am privileged and our very different histories, but at the same time I was no longer strictly an outsider. Being an in-between-er put me into an emotional proximity to the girls, which in turn enabled me to be ‘collaborative’ in my interpretation of their stories. Without an emotional or empathetic understanding, ethnography runs the risk of reinforcing objective positivist 80 science claims (Luttrell, 2003). I began my analysis with this consciousness of the dynamic relationship between the sensing and the seeing in ethnography, while always maintaining a commitment to reveal where the emotions came from—in history, in space, in time. This, I hope, will provide a negotiated story of the normative, everyday, gendered, youth culture of a group of Canadian working-class girls. Techniques of Interpretation As I set out to understand the value-making processes of the girls through the lens of one social service agency, I drew from Michael Burawoy’s (1998) extended case method which provides a platform for looking at ethnographic data intersubjectively. Burawoy explains his method in the following terms: The extended case method applies reflexive science to ethnography in order to extract the general from the unique, to move from the “micro” to the “macro,” and to connect the present to the past in anticipation of the future, all by building on preexisting theory (p. 5). The appeal of this method for interpreting ethnographic data is its imperative to ‘extend out’ from the data. What this means is that external factors like structured inequality, colonialism, empire, and subjective influences are considered when locating the lived experience of the research informants. Keeping this objective in mind, I utilized inductive content analysis as the analytic strategy to interpret the data as described by Berg (1995), as well as by Miles and Huberman (1994). This is the application of a coding strategy (a process for developing codes) towards the development of themes from documents, and in this case from written field notes and transcribed interviews, and from the research participants and other informants. All text data was entered into the HyperRESEARCH qualitative data management program. The unit of analysis was thematically organized as a simple sentence or string of words. Analyzing at the unit of the theme the process included both manifest content (elements that are physically present in the transcribed interviews in the form of verbatim) as well as latent content (interpretive reading of the symbolism or meaning underlying all of the data sources (Berg, 1995). Open coding. The analytic coding strategy began with open coding of the data as described by Berg (1995) and started with the reading through of the typed, transcribed interviews and field notes. The purpose of open coding is to open up the inquiry upon initial review of the data to see what the information reveals and is the first step towards categorizing the data and developing a coding scheme. During this stage, I recalled the original objectives of the study while also remaining open to multiple or 81 unanticipated results that could emerge from my interpretations of the data. Following this process, all field notes and transcribed interviews were read through one time and analyzed minutely at the level of ‘theme’ and loosely coded while I kept theoretical memos and notes on the data. Open coding the data in this manner and creating preliminary codes allowed for the emergence of unanticipated results and ensured that the extensive theoretical coverage that occurred later was securely grounded (Bogdan & Bilken, 1992). Across and within-case level analyses. Within-case analyses provided the best means of preserving the individual narratives of the girls (Miles & Huberman, 1994), which was important here as one of the primary purposes of this study is to bring value to those who have historically been unvalued— working-class, socially marginalized girls. The first step in this process was to create a coherent narrative of each girl or ‘case’ (Miles & Huberman, 1994); accordingly, I wrote a summary or narrative for each girl that included the major emergent themes related to the research questions. This type of analysis permitted a thorough examination of each girl’s narratives for commonalities with, and differences from, dominant female youth discourses. It also provided for comparison of narratives across cases, during which I discovered some similarities in narratives as well as substantive and important differences. By contrast, across-case analysis proved to be more useful as a technique to identify themes across cases. These could then be used to develop codes for those cases (Miles & Huberman, 1994). I proceeded with analysis by reading through the transcripts and field notes while writing comments on the content, using keywords to summarize apparent answers to research questions, highlighting key phrases, and keeping theoretical notes. The materials were then reread in order to generate preliminary coding categories. New categories were constantly created in an attempt to prevent forcing information into a category. Major codes were created first, and then material within each code was broken down to create sub-codes. Starting with the major codes and sub-codes, I grouped the codes into four themes based on my research questions and, more importantly, my theoretical framework. The four themes were the following: (1) Space/Spatial Imaginary, which referred to my use of spatial theory; (2) Inscription/Exchange, which referred to one of the primary research questions in this study; (3) Self/UseValue/History, which relates directly to the theory of social-class that I utilized in this study (Skeggs, 82 2004a) and the re-valuing of those who have been unvalued; (4) Popular Culture/Gender, which referenced the research questions. In the end I had twelve major code categories and a total of 78 subcodes (see Appendix B). Some authors recommend limiting the number of codes to 30-50 (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992); however, for me, it was easier to make sense of the data with more codes. I then read through the transcripts and field notes numerous times assigning codes to specific units of data until all of the data was coded. Analytic strategies. As I read through the data materials I developed conclusive categories by asking questions of the data. Cuadraz and Uttal (1999) suggest asking questions of the narrative accounts underlying interview data – reading close up or between the lines – as a way to begin to uncover intersecting processes of race, class, and gender operating within the narrative. I found this approach quite useful and asked myself questions such as the following: What characterized the girls’ personal troubles? How are individual experiences shaped by one’s social location? How does the history of working class disgust, economic deprivation, and ethnic stratification explain the girls’ troubles (or not)? These sorts of questions were a nice complement to Burawoy’s (1998) extended case method and what he describes as “a second dialogue between local processes and extralocal forces” (p. 6). I attempted, above all, to connect the girls’ immediate life experiences to historical-political factors. A second analytic method that complements Burawoy’s (1998) approach is ‘theoretical refinement’ as described by Snow, Morrill, and Anderson (2003). This is an approach to theory development that refines or modifies existing perspectives through the extension or the application of new fieldwork material. I interpreted this approach as generating theoretical summaries or conclusions by placing and comparing the data against my theoretical framework. Thus, I have not created new theory, necessarily, but have instead sought to distill, confirm or challenge, at least in part, the existing theories related to class, girls, space, and value. A final approach that I used to make sense of the material and to form a base for writing the ethnography was the creation of a visual model which I entitled the ‘Cycle of Inscription / Process of Abjection.’ The four themes within which I grouped the codes served as the basis for constructing the visual model. The model highlights the relationship between the girls’ subjectivity, their cultural 83 practices, and spatial processes as they relate to Strathern’s (1992) theory of ‘use-value’ which is modified by Skeggs (2004) and which I apply to the present study. The model suggests the manner in which the girls are inscribed through social and cultural practices as well as showcasing the ways in which inscription is inherited. The key elements, which are of significance here, revolve around the notion that experiencing abjection and the social processes that make such experiences possible are deeply connected to the politics of morality and youth and the ways in which value is accorded to different young Cycle of Inscription / Process of Abjection Traditional model of Exchange Strathern’s Use Value Abject - No Value Locked in Space No Exchange Value Daily activities inscribing Culture / Gender / Ethnicity May be Use Value Spaces of representation Their interpretation of daily activities. people differently across space and time. This model was useful for me in thinking about how abjection circulates as a historical process, and helped me see the categories and subjects that should and should not be the focus of the written ethnography. Methods of Representation In this chapter, I have sought to bring my epistemological and methodological claims into the foreground in order to reveal the constructed process of the story being presented. A final element of the ethnographic method to underscore here is the issue of representation as it relates to the outcomes of research. If reflexivity is, in part, about the subjectivity of the researcher, then reflexivity’s corollary is the representation of the ‘other’ or, to put it differently, the (mis)appropriation of the informant. Both visual and traditional ethnographies about youth and girls gesture towards an intersubjective analytic through 84 their enthusiastic embrace of hybridity and difference, but ultimately what I am most concerned about is how they may sometimes fail to consider the situatedness of those differences in material structural constraints as well as ignoring or obscuring the articulation of that difference through the representation of ethnographic content. Ultimately, the end product of an ethnographic study, to my mind, should be a visual and physical manifestation of critical, spatialized dialectical materialism and cultural phenomenology. This is what I have attempted to do in both the writing of this ethnography and in the alternative, visual ethnographic depiction in the form of the photo-documentary exhibit. Representations of young people—and particularly youth marginalized because of gender, race, class, or behavior—have historically been mobilized as the raw material of liberal trauma narratives (McLeod & Wright, 2009). Such stories are aimed at garnering individual resources, public sympathy, and local reformist changes. Making use of youth-generated imagery in the research process can embolden young people to stake a claim on the validity of their own perspective, and confront the legitimacy of what has come to be seen (and accepted) as their (youth) culture. The creation of visual alternatives to traditional media depictions of young people connects research to new cultural representations that challenge the taken-for-granted, ascendant, hegemonic depictions of youth. This is an exciting prospect and a necessary endeavor if girls’ studies is to be part of a wider project of transformative social change. In this way, it is my hope that this ethnography positively contributes to legitimating the knowledge produced through the everyday practices of the girls in this study and consequently serves as a resource and handbook for challenging the hegemonic norms of power they (and we) confront. 85 Chapter Four Resisting Risk and Individualization: Girls Doing Divergent Femme(s) in Space and Place One of my objectives with this research is to explore how female youth subjectivity takes shape for girls who are symbolically and socially excluded from aesthetic self-making, which is one of the promised rewards of contemporary, middle class girlhood. The subjectivities of the ‘future girl’ and the ‘problem girl’ that I detailed in the previous chapters exist as dichotomous fictions, while the former requires the construction of the latter for her existence. This chapter begins the process of disassembling this dichotomy and identifying the misconceptions that arise when individualized narratives replace structural explanations like social class to account for inequality (Gillies, 2005). Here, I respond to the question: what does gendered subjectivity look like in the urban Canadian context? In asking this question I wish to argue that more than just a micro description of girls’ daily lives is needed. In order to understand the construction of new youth configurations in a shifting global context, we must acquire a spatially informed and culturally specific account of how youth live out their everyday lives. Thus, I begin this chapter with a brief discussion of spatial theory and its relevance to the production of transformative dialogues with which to conceptualize girls. This will be followed by a description of the global/local milieu of the research site. The chapter concludes with the beginning of a re-writing of the hegemonic girl narrative through a presentation of two youth spatial practices that challenge traditional, gendered youth behavior. The first considers the girls’ friendship and peer interactions at The Center, while the second looks at the space of The Center itself as a transformative site that brings value to youth living ‘on the fringe.’ Urban Canadian Landscapes and its Global Manifestations Spacing and Placing Before I describe the city, neighborhoods, and buildings where the research took place, a distinction between context, space, and place needs to be made (Massey, 1992; 1999). Context references the circumstances and geographic places that form a setting for events to occur. For this research that would include Vancouver, the streets and neighborhoods where the girls traveled and lived, the social service center where the bulk of the research took place, and the girls’ leisure and work spaces. Context, 86 thus, operates as a ‘free zone,’ an empty container to be filled in much the same way that ‘space’ as an empty gap was considered part of the modernist project (Berquist, 2002). Space in this instance— borrowing from the critical sociological term used by urban geographers—is however, part of a generative process of classification, identity construction, and power. ‘Space’ emphasizes the political relations inherent to the representation and foregrounds collective understandings (Massey, Allen, & Sarre, 1999; Massey, 1992). In this way, space is ‘relational’ and constructed out of the interactions between social phenomena (Massey, 1995; 1999). Thus, as described by the human geographer Doreen Massey (1999), all social phenomena have a spatial location, and social relations create space. Continuing with Massey’s definition, ‘place’ represents more stable, local meanings of a space. I consider context, then, to mean the ‘place’ elements of the spaces within and through which the research occurred. The social phenomena of ‘girlhood,’ for example, is produced or rather played out in space(s) just as the ‘space’ of the City or particular neighborhoods are realized, metaphorically and physically, through social occurrences. Lastly, space operates as the platform for power relations. Thus, a consideration of spatiality—the combination of conditions and practices of individual and social life that are linked and that exercise a determining role upon daily life (Pumain, 2006)—is key to providing an empirically grounded cultural and material account of the ethnography to follow. In the next section I apply these spatial definitions to explore the global context of this research and its local arrangements. Vancouver: New Global City Vancouver, British Columbia is the urban backdrop for this study. As a “global city” (Sassen, 2001) Vancouver manifests the effects of global economic and socio-political practices. According to Saskia Sassen (2001), ‘global cities,’ “…function as command points in the organization of the world economy. A ‘global city’ emerges as a transnational location for investment, as key locations for leading industries and specialized services for these firms” (p. 3). The processes that underlie globalization and its corresponding economic restructuring of social and political life—de-industrialization, mobile production centers, social retrenchment, flexible labor flows (Pilkington & Johnson, 2003) – are in effect in Vancouver. These are also stories about place and about the multiple connections between people, places, and spaces that emerge and are transformed in global ‘New Times.’ As I will demonstrate in the 87 Vancouver case, urban development projects initiated by processes of globalization have most intensely transformed those spaces in the city where poor and working class people reside, while at the same time transforming local youth’s relationship to urban space (Boyd, 2008; Derksen & Smith, 2002). Vancouver has grown rapidly since its incorporation in 1886 when logging, mining, and fishing were the city’s primary industries. These industries flourished through the early 1900s, and forestry still remains one of the city’s largest industries next to mining (Vogel & Wyse, 1993). Never a base of much manufacturing for Canada, the city is seen to have easily transitioned from industrial to post-industrial status. This includes a shift to new information technologies as Vancouver has become a center for the U.S. and Canadian West Coast economic zones in the high technology and software development sectors (Olds, 1995), exemplifying a rise in producer services like engineering, accounting, and resource management (City-of-Vancouver, 2008), an increase in the share of wages put into consumer goods, and a ‘feminization’ and ‘ethnicization’ of the workforce (Davis & Hutton, 1994). These last two factors are, in part, the result of multiple changes to immigration policy over the past two decades that have made it easier for Asian and South East Asian, low-skilled service workers and domestic laborers to immigrate to Canada19. Vancouver’s location on the Pacific Coast, positioned at the shortest distance to Asia of any major North American city, has made it a major player in global trade and export production and an economic center for Canada in Pacific Rim trade agreements. The Port of Vancouver is Canada's largest, doing more than $75 billion annually in trade with over 160 different economies (Vancouver-Port-Authority, 2009). These factors, along with the city’s location at the western terminus of the cross-Canada railway, position Vancouver as a key nodal point in the global economic system, qualifying it as a ‘global city.’ In addition to having a tangible effect on economic global affairs, being a ‘global city’ requires specific cultural characteristics such as international name recognition, taking a role as a key site for arts and 19 Canada’s live-in domestic care program is one immigration policy that has increased the number of women from economically depressed countries (i.e., the Philippines, Mexico) living and working in Canada (England, 2010). 88 media production, and the ability and experience to host mega-cultural and -sporting events (like a World’s Fair and Olympic Games 20) (Sassen, 2001). Vancouver meets each of these criteria. The structural shift necessary for Vancouver to move from an industrial to post-industrial economy along with its embrace of the neo-liberal government policies needed to create a ‘global city’ have meant a long term, decisive movement of industrial land in the city center towards residential and commercial uses. The effect of this conversion has meant increased land values in the inner city, which have drastically reduced and eliminated low-cost housing stock (Olds, 2005). Through the use of contemporary neo-liberal discourse over the past decade, it has been easy for government officials to attempt to blame ‘natural’ market processes for astronomical real estate prices and the shift of the changing urban landscape towards affluent interests. Quite to the contrary, however, development projects tied to economic restructuring and driven by specific global market processes (most visibly policies under the North American Free Trade Agreement 21) underlie the transformation of Vancouver into a ‘global city’ (Jones, 1991). Beginning in the 1980s, the provincial government of British Columbia focused on refashioning the city into a competitive global force, enacting vigorous development projects in Vancouver and implementing a central plan to further develop the downtown core (Vogel & Wyse, 1993). Much of this development was funded internationally, with major foreign investment coming from Japan and China. By the 1990s the scope of private investment into BC’s economy from these two nations would reach $6 billion. The largest of these development projects are today called Pacific Place and Coal Harbour and are located along the north and east shores, respectively, of False Creek (the site of a former rail yard and industrial wasteland) (Olds, 1995). Hong Kong development companies purchased these sites, which, to date constitute the largest real estate development projects in North America. Following these mega projects, the last remaining undeveloped waterfront land near downtown, Southeast False Creek, was developed by Millennium Properties as the site of the Olympic Village for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games held in Vancouver. The City of Vancouver provided $1 billion in funding to bail out the 20 Vancouver hosted a World Exposition in 1986 titled Expo ‘86 and the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is an international trade agreement between Canada, Mexico, and the United States that created a trilateral trade bloc. NAFTA was enacted on January 1, 1994. 21 89 developers and with the hope of ensuring the project’s completion before the start of the games (CBC News, 2010). With land no longer available in the downtown core for new development projects, more recent efforts have shifted to the Downtown East Side (Boyd, 2008). This is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city and is notorious for its high incidence of poverty, drug use, and sex trade activity. Large mixed-use, high-end condos plus commercial space have sprung up in what is referred to as, “Canada’s poorest postal code,” and as the impact of the 2008 North American recession comes to full fruition, it is predicted that the city will increase market-rate development projects in the area as part of an economic recovery plan (Crompton, 2010). The result of unbridled development, urban retrenchment, de-investment, and devaluation of major industries (like forestry) has meant the systematic displacement of low income persons from the city center accompanied by an overwhelming threefold surge in homelessness over the past decade (HRSDC, 1998). Poverty rates increased in Vancouver throughout the 1990s (CCSD, 2000b) along with an intensification of class stratification (the concentration of poor families confined to particular neighborhoods) (HRSDC, 1998). All of these factors mean that qualitatively there are large groups of economically marginalized urban residents in metropolitan Vancouver who live on the edge of the urban core due to the unavailability of affordable housing (Stats-Canada, 2006). Linking economic development and city planning reveals how globalization impacts urban space and can produce deleterious outcomes for economically marginalized residents, with youth specifically generally being the most affected (MacDonald & Marsh, 2004; Sibley, 1995). Economic transformations, coupled with the marketization of schooling across Canada (decentralizing state responsibility of schools in favor of privatization) (Dillabough, Wang & Kennelly, 2005), are representative of neo-liberal social and economic policies and have contributed to diminished entry-level employment opportunities and difficult school-to-work transitions for working class youth in the city (CCSD, 2000a). The unemployment rate in British Columbia for youth aged 15 – 24 in 2009 was 8.1%, a 58% increase from the previous year and the highest rate in 11 years (CBC News, 2009). Moreover, even as the rate of poverty in the city has leveled off in the past three years (HRSDC, 2008), the number of children living 90 below the poverty line in British Columbia at the time I began this research in 2008 was 20.9 percent, the highest in Canada (First-Call, 2007). Female youth in particular are experiencing heightened forms of social exclusion in urban centers worldwide and Vancouver is no exception (MacDonald & Shildrick, 2007). With a scarcity of entry-level jobs in the city (First-Call, 2007) and the lowest minimum wage of any province in the country at $8.00 an hour22, female youth from low income families living in Vancouver face a dire economic future. This reality, combined with their increased susceptibility to familial sexual abuse and male violence, means that female youth are particularly vulnerable to poverty, which can lead in turn to homelessness and prostitution as a means for survival (Taefi & Czapska, 2007). Additionally, the intersections of poverty, racism, homophobia, and colonization exacerbate the disparities girls already experience because of age and gender, making minority ethnic and Aboriginal girls the most vulnerable to exclusionary practices brought on by global economic policies in urban centers. It is this very population of young women who frequent the social service agency where the research took place. As study, work, and housing opportunities have decreased in Vancouver for economically disadvantaged young women, their requirements for social services have increased. Yet, the combination of the recession of 2008 and neoliberal economic policies favoring corporate growth in the province of B.C. have meant a cut in funding to the Ministry of Child and Family Services in the 2007-2008 budgets (ELCCR, 2007). As I’ve attempted to demonstrate above, Vancouver is representative of North American cities that have experienced increased stratification over the past two decades due to economic transformations indicated by the term ‘New Times’ (Hall, 1996). The development of new urban spaces, as both a contribution and response to the formation of the ‘global city,’ is strongly linked to contemporary globalization processes. It is within this context that economically marginalized young people are working to find their place in the city. As so often happens in the urban environment, the practice of attempting to find space is narrowed to particular regions of the city on the fringe of the urban core where working class and poor youth have been pushed. These are the exact neighborhoods where my/our ethnography 22 On May 1, 2011 the BC Ministry of Labour raised the minimum wage to $8.75 per hour. In addition, the first job wage that was applied primarily to teenagers, also known as the ‘training wage,’ was repealed (B.C. Gov, 2011). 91 occurred and they are the topic to which I now turn: a contextual and spatial exploration of the local setting. The Local Scene In the Neighborhood(s) What constitutes a ‘neighborhood’ is a highly contested and controversial notion within the social sciences (Galster, 2001; Kearns & Parkinson, 2001). Scholars undertaking urban research have grappled with defining neighborhood as a ‘community’ of individuals with similar lifestyle choices (Forrest & Kearns, 2001; Park, Burgess, & McKenzie, 1967) or as government-designated, census tract distinctions formed from a typology of particular characteristics of people and environments (Galster, 1986; Olson, 1982). I tend towards the former description and add to it a spatial dimension, drawing from Martin’s (2003) definition which emphasizes the ‘space and place’ element of neighborhood. “[A] neighborhood” she posits, “is a type of place, and, as such, should be studied as a contingent, flexible space that nonetheless has material, experiential salience for people’s lives” (p. 361). The neighborhoods where this ethnography took place are located in the region of the city called the ‘East Side.’ Officially the East Side is composed of seven distinct neighborhoods (City-of-Vancouver, 2005) but the majority of the research took place in just two neighborhoods, Grandview-Woodland and Mount Pleasant. I never heard any youth use these terms, however, as the most common name for the East Side both colloquially and as stated by the youth in particular is ‘East Van’23. Some of the young people who visit The Center where the research took place used to live in East Van but have since moved to outlying suburbs. They come in to the city just for the purpose of going to The Center. In these situations, such youth would identify themselves with the East Side. Since this is where The Center is located and these are the streets and neighborhoods that I visited and observed along with the youth, ‘East Van’ is what I will call the neighborhood in this study. It is East Van as an experiential, collective space (Massey, 1999) that I go on to describe next. 23 I will use the term ‘East Van’ to refer to the neighborhoods of Grandview-Woodland and Mount Pleasant and ‘East Side’ to reference the broader east side of Vancouver. 92 East Van Photos by Megan Low, 2010 Demographically, East Van is the most ethnically diverse area of the city, having served as the first home for immigrant groups since the 1880s. Low-cost housing and close proximity to the Vancouver core were attractive features up to the past two decades. Distinct Italian, East Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Filipino communities remain (Stats-Canada, 2006) and most of the city’s Aboriginal population is located in this area. In the 1990s, sixty percent of all Indigenous Vancouverites lived on the Eastside and one in six households in East Van were First Nations families (Tupechka, Martin, & Graham, 1997). The most noticeable difference today, as evidenced from immigrant groups settling in the neighborhoods of East Van since the 1970s, is the rise in numbers of Asian immigrants, and more recently, South Asian immigrants, beginning in the early 1990s. According to 2006 Census data, persons with Chinese as a first language made up 14% of residents in the area, Vietnamese people made up 4.2% 93 of the area’s population, and the number of Tagalog-speaking Filipino residents increased from previous counts, moving up to 7% of the neighborhood’s population. In contrast, the number of Italian speaking residents declined from 12.7% in 1971 to 2.3% in 2006 despite a remaining Italian cultural presence specifically in the Grandview-Woodland neighborhood (Stats-Canada, 2006). The intersection of nationality, ethnicity, and class impact the socio-economic status of the area. The East Side is home to many working class and poor communities, and, notably, the majority of the city’s social housing is located here. The two neighborhoods, Grandview-Woodland and Mount Pleasant, together have a median household income that is well below the city’s median at $35,000, with 35% of the population of the area considered ‘low income’ (City-of-Vancouver, 2005). These figures make this area the second poorest in Vancouver, surpassed only by the adjacent East Side neighborhoods of Strathcona, which includes the city’s Chinatown—one of the largest in North America—and the Downtown East Side (DTES), which represents the highest rate of concentrated poverty in Canada (Roe, 2009). In addition to immigrant and working class communities, East Van has, for the latter half of the 20th century, been attracted and become home to the traditional roster of gentrifiers such as artists, political activists, students, and small businesses (Tupechka, et al., 1997). This type of gentrification became common across North American cities from the 1950s through the1970s under the guise of urban renewal projects that sought to galvanize urban economies. The look and feel of the East Side is changing, however, as a new form of gentrification tied to privately-funded redevelopment projects has rapidly increased over the past two decades, replacing renters with middle-class home buyers (Crompton, 2010). Local residents and social activists report that city planners are attempting to transform the East Side from a working class, highly diverse, culturally rich, urban community into an extension of Vancouver envisioned as a refuge for the middle class (Boyd, 2008; Crompton, 2010). Several authors attribute this alteration to a changing, market-driven form of gentrification that is now increasingly being used as a form of global urban policy within neo-liberalism (Shier, 2002; Sommers & Blomley, 2002). The traditional form of gentrification was highly regulated as it was dependent on public financing (Smith, 2002). In the new form, as is evidenced in Vancouver, private development corporations receive 94 public subsidies, creating planned, corporate-driven gentrification. Rapid development of the DTES specifically has also meant innovative and proliferating modes of containment and regulation of ‘social undesirables’ (homeless people, particular youth subcultures, youth of color). This means that people marked as ‘dangerous’ are pushed even further east on the East Side, which contributes to the public image of East Van as a place for marginalized urban youth; a view that inadvertently contributes to the defense of gentrification (Boyd, 2008). One of the main hubs of East Van where the urban fringe can be seen on ‘display’ is Commercial Drive, or ‘The Drive’ for short. Seen as the business and entertainment center for East Van, The Drive is a 12-block strip of the street that still resembles its former days as a ‘Little Italy’ and reflects what emerged fifty years ago as a multi-ethnic and bohemian mélange. Older Italian men can be found sipping espresso in outdoor cafés squabbling about the news of the day or watching a soccer game on large screen TVs. Small shops, natural food grocers, and ethnic restaurants line the street, with buskers performing and sidewalk salesmen selling their wares. The Drive has the reputation as a haven for hippy and alternative crowds, and on any given day young people of all stripes can be seen parading up and down the street. Youth homelessness is very evident here and the ‘illegal’ drug trade flourishes. East Van, as an urban space, signifies the ‘outlaw’ or ‘fallen’ neighborhood of Vancouver. Negative public perceptions of East Van bolstered, in large part, through media accounts are part of the common understanding of the city; they are deeply ingrained in collective consciousness, and reproduced in daily activity. A shared social consciousness and memory regarding space, an ‘imagined community’ (Anderson, 1991) that has tangible existence despite its members never having encountered one another, is the beginning of the creation of the physical environment. This process can be understood through the concept of spatialization, which I employ here drawing upon Shields’ (1991) definition: “the ongoing social construction of the spatial at the level of collective imagination and physical intervention into the environment” (p. 31). Travel blogs and tourist websites about Vancouver neighborhoods caution visitors against going to the East Side, which is usually grouped with the DTES. Here are two residents’ accounts 95 of the neighborhood from the travel website24 Virtual Tourist posted under the heading, “Vancouver Warnings and Dangers: the East Side.” I live in the immediate area and I often have problems with the street animals, but I'm used to it and have learned to live with it by developing ‘Street Smarts.’ Yes, the Downtown Eastside is hell… (posted date: August 22, 2010) I was warned to avoid this area by hotel reception. I was in Gastown [close to the DTES] and needed an ATM at one point and stumbled into the edge of this area by mistake. If you imagine a mixture of something like ‘Zombies: dawn of the dead,’ ‘Thriller’ and ‘V the visitors’ then you'll get the picture. Sad but who said life was perfect? (posted date: August 30, 2008) It is actually difficult to find documented opinions about East Van as distinct from the DTES. This is due in part to the close proximity of the DTES to the main business and tourist districts of the city, whereas East Van, being primarily residential, doesn’t attract the same official and public condemnation. All of the neighborhoods in Vancouver described on private and government-sponsored tourist web sites, in fact, are located on the West Side and Downtown except for the occasional mention of Commercial Drive. The seemingly innocuous veneer of a contained grittiness on The Drive permits the city to use this one region as evidence of Vancouver’s public international image of progressive hipness and counterculture acceptance. It is fitting that East Van doesn’t appear in official public advertisements about the city, as it truly is ‘on the fringe’ of the public representation of Vancouver as a cosmopolitan yet easy-going scenic “outdoor playground” (Frommer’s, 2005). The defacing of East Van occurs through more covert measures as well. Media accounts of the East Side make a not-so-indirect link between the place and violence, as reporting on the area disproportionately foregrounds negative incidents and possibilities. During the summer of 2010, an informal two-month review of newspaper articles in The Province and The Vancouver Sun, using the search term ‘East Van,’ brought up headlines like, “Boy, 13, charged for allegedly stabbing another boy in East Van Park,” “Two young men plead guilty to manslaughter in stabbing death in East Van,” “Parents and students rally to save East Van school,” “ Police identify man found murdered in East Van home.” Searching the same sources using ‘Westside’ or ‘Kitsilano’ (an affluent neighborhood on the west side of Vancouver) brought up few crime-related stories and instead 24 I utilized this travel website to ascertain public perceptions of Vancouver in line with the qualitative research technique that uses internet sources for data gathering (see Branthwaite & Patterson, 2011; Denzin & Lincoln; Lichtman, 2010). 96 featured more headlines about families, housing, and public interest articles. Media reports about crime in one area and not another do not mean that crime doesn’t happen on the West Side, but function to build up the public perception of the East Side as a place of immorality, violence, and risk. In this way, a false dichotomy between the West Side—a place of affluence and safety—and the East Side—a place of poverty and fear—is constructed. When places are stigmatized they become seen as containers or attractors for stigmatized people (Sibley, 1995), with ‘wayward’ young people (particularly teenagers) most often representing the pinnacle of the negative representation of the space25. Attempts to territorialize space are one way to enforce dominance and to control others, as strategies for spatial organization are deeply connected with the social construction of identities (Massey, 1998). This process of spatialization works in multiple ways: it contributes to the formation and the reinforcement of one’s perception of a place, of who populates a given space—East Van as home to poor, dangerous youth and people of color—and of the corollary identities connected to place. Especially for young people in urban domains, there is a strong identification to the ‘place’ that one is from and the ‘spaces’ that one’s group claims as their own (Sibley, 1995). For the youth in this study, East Van was their space. This is where they would hang out and the area they identified as their own. Being a home to youth on the fringe is what attracts them to the area even if some people don’t actually reside in East Side neighborhoods. The following exchange illustrates this point: Stephanie: Where do you hang out with your friends? What kind of places? Ramona: Skytrain stations and parks. Stephanie: What parks? Ramona: Every park in Vancouver. Stephanie: Do you go to Kitsilano or downtown? Ramona: No. Only on fireworks, people do. Stephanie: So places on the east side? Ramona: Yea. This exchange with Ramona, an Aboriginal girl from The Center, reveals a common sentiment I heard: place was expressed as East Van. This is where they hang out, what they know, where they live, and the spaces they explore. Whenever I would ask girls about the West Side, did they go there or what did they 25 The riots in Vancouver in the summer of 2011 following the Vancouver Canucks’ loss at the Stanley Cup finals, point to a local example of this. It was ‘youth’ as a group who were blamed for the melee. 97 think of it, the response was either a disparaging comment about that area or, more frequently, no reaction at all stemming from little first-hand knowledge of the place. “Do you ever go to the West Side, like Kitsilano?” “No.” Some youth, however, held up this area as emblematic of a symbolic, spatial escape, a semi-utopia where they would go if they could get out of their current situation. Bianca: I like the West End, I like downtown. Stephanie: Do you ever go to Kitsilano? Bianca: Yeah, I like it there, it’s peaceful.... In the summer I would go to the beach. Statements like these demonstrate that the young people who invoke East Van as ‘their’ place understand the spatializations of the city. Their adoption of an East Side spatial imaginary (Aitken, 2001) was even more evident when they talked about the areas of the city to be avoided. Here is how Krista, a white girl, described the DTES: “Crackville, Crack Town. Yeah, I try to avoid that area, just because it's dirty and gross. My friend died there too.” “I don't like going to East Hastings” [the main street in the DTES]. Or this quote from Veronica, an Aboriginal youth: “Yeah. That's not a safe place, [Hastings] I don't like going there. We used to have to catch the bus there all the time, and there's scary people.” Yet, later on in the conversation she talks about her own neighborhood in East Van positively, saying “Yeah, [I live] right off Commercial, but I think Commercial is a pretty safe place. It's easy to get to, like I usually just walk up and down, instead of taking the bus.” This dual spatialization of identity and place points to how local spaces bear upon one’s selfperception and one’s insertion into a social community. Yet, as place and identity are closely linked, the connection often leads to exclusion (Massey, 1998). The youth here understand the outside meanings attributed to their space, and, when they can, assume the position offered by the dominant spatial imaginary. But they also resist this imaginary when their own experience of place and ‘home’ conflicts with the prevailing perception. I’ll speak more to this at the end of this chapter when I provide one example of how the youth re-represent their space. First, however, I’ll describe that space, the social service center that was the home base for this research. The Center In East Van, in a historically working class neighborhood that is now the site of one of the key sex-worker corridors in the city (Farley & Lynne, 2007), is the drop-in youth social service center where I 98 began to conduct my research and which I have referred to as ‘The Center.’ It opened in 1999 and according to its public mandate is designed on an integrated multi-service continuum of care model to “provide a wide range of social, health, education, employment and life skills services to homeless and atrisk youth between the ages of 12 and 24” (The Center web site). It is located on a main thoroughfare next to other small businesses, most of which are ethnic eating establishments or convenience stores. There is a large identifying sign out front, above the doors, along with a hand-painted mural depicting young people and outdoor scenes that youth from The Center created as part of the Youth Arts and Media program. The Center operates as a storefront, meaning anyone can freely enter or exit the space, yet its location several blocks away from The Drive in a primarily residential neighborhood means that youth have to purposefully travel to get there, something many youth do. On a typical day, between 50 and 100 youth visit The Center. Ethnically, the youth represent a microcosm of the demographics of the city, with Chinese, Vietnamese, South Asian, Latina, and White youth frequenting the space. The Center does not keep data on ethnicity but un-officially declares that 60% of the youth are Aboriginal (S. Parker [pseudonym], personal communication, February 25, 2008). There is a strong Aboriginal presence in the space by way of the décor, the programming, and the staffing. Upon entering The Center it is common to find young people standing outside on the steps talking, smoking cigarettes, playing with someone’s dog, or just ‘hanging out.’ Being free to come in and out of the space as they wish is an important feature for youth who may be street-entrenched (living on the streets), homeless, or in other ways victimized by structured inequality and suspicious of adults and authority. Being ‘free’ or having a sense of control over one’s movements and personal space is a big issue for young people who come to The Center. I should note that there is another youth drop-in organization in the area created specifically for Aboriginal youth with its own distinct group of regulars. To access this space youth are required to ring a doorbell and wait to be buzzed in while being monitored by a camera. This center is located on a busy street in East Van that leads directly into the DTES. Thus, the safety of the youth and the staff may have been the rationale for the considerable amount of surveillance at this particular site. Most of the Aboriginal youth who frequent The Center, however, rarely 99 visited this other site, which they referred to as “unfriendly” and “cold.” I suspect the video-cameralocked-door scenario played a part in their assessment. Moving through the front doors of The Center brings one into the ‘resource room,’ a large open space furnished with a coffee table and cushy chairs next to a long table with folding chairs where youth could gather to write, draw, fill out applications, play games, or just talk. Through the front doors on the right is a desk where the resource room staff is stationed to respond to questions and manage the space. There is a computer on the desk and all youth entering The Center are asked to sign in on the computer the first time they enter. I was told that this practice is designed for funding purposes, to keep track of how many people utilize the space. This kind of tracking is typical for non-profit agencies that work with a transient population and I never witnessed anyone object to signing in, although they could easily use an alias. On the north wall of the resource room is a hallway with some of the staff offices and a large collection of informational brochures on topics such as how to do a housing search, and personal care information like drug information and health issues. On the south wall are two community health clinic offices where nurses meet with youth on their weekly visit to The Center. On the west wall is a row of computers that youth can sign up to use. A large sign overhead reads: “Computer Use Priority is Given to Resume Writing, Job Searches, and Housing Inquiries;” however, the computer spaces are always full and Facebook is on the screens eight times out of ten. Behind the resource room and down the hall are various staff offices and classrooms where the numerous programs offered at The Center take place. In accordance with the multi-service care portion of the mandate, several distinct agencies are located on site to provide access to: drug and alcohol counseling; mental health services; an Aboriginal youth program; a health clinic; a Vietnamese youth program; an Adult Basic Education (ABE) program delivered through a local community college for youth pursuing a General Education Diploma (GED), and; a youth-to-adult transition social skills program. The majority of the regular staff deliver this last program as certified Youth and Childcare Workers, which is a position similar to a social worker but different in two significant ways: it requires less schooling and the workers do not work directly for the Ministry of Child and Family Development. 100 Youth workers (as they refer to themselves) are assigned to specific youth by the Ministry to assist those who are in care (in foster care or another care program administered by the Province). Delivering these social services is the primary purpose of the organization. Yet, in order to attract youth to this drop-in voluntary space The Center offers a variety of special programs that address basic needs—food and companionship being the top two—along with culturally specific programming to serve and attract youth. Hunger is an ever-present undercurrent at The Center, or more particularly, hunger and what low-income people need to do in order to avoid it. One of The Center regulars, Riley, an Aboriginal youth, commented, “Yeah, we all just survive. Just come here and eat, come back and eat, get some food and go. Survive until the next day, come back, eat, leave, come back, eat.” Every morning before The Center opens a free breakfast is served. Staff and usually workers from another agency make breakfast for all the youth who have woken up early enough to come out for a hot meal—which many do. There is also a once-a-week group dinner prepared by the staff or a guest chef. In addition, food is usually available on a snack table in the resource room and food was always present at every special program. The Center’s staff create special programs in response to both young people’s interests and perceived needs. There was a Girls’ Group and Guys’ Group, a parenting group for young parents and their children, Movie Night, and Clean the Streets, where youth earned volunteer hours that could be turned into cash for picking up trash around the neighborhood. All the groups varied in popularity and attendance depending on who was facilitating and how entertaining the activity was, but it’s fair to say that all of The Center regulars participated in one or more groups at one time or another. My description of The Center serves to situate it within the local geography, constituting the ‘place’ elements of the ethnography. Vancouver, East Van, and The Center combined with global socioeconomic processes both present and past to form the context for this research. The youth in their movements through, and frequently ‘against the grain’ of, socio-geographic space, make up the final element of the ‘space’ and, when understood along with other socio-spatial phenomena, set the stage for a critical, ethnographic analysis of working-class girl culture. In the next section I’ll begin part two of this chapter where I apply these contextual features to explore the familial relationships that were formed in The Center. It will become apparent how class and 101 space interact with gender to constitute distinct gendered subjectivities that function in part to counter the dominant or hegemonic (binary) conception of the contemporary girl as either eager, ‘can do’ girl, or as problem, ‘at-risk’ girl. Making a ‘Home Space’ – Friendship and Family My introduction to The Center came through my work as a volunteer facilitating the weekly Music Matters program with a well liked youth transition worker, Steven. Theoretically, Music Matters was cultural studies in action. Either the youth or the facilitators would bring in music lyrics, music videos, film excerpts, or other popular media related to a particular topic, and over pizza and pop we’d deconstruct the meanings and codes inherent to the piece. This was a lofty example of praxis, particularly for a social service agency. The group was popular mainly because of Steven’s presence, but also because it was a chance for youth to listen to their favorite songs on YouTube. Outside the meeting I would make CDs for anyone who requested particular songs. Given that no one had a computer of their own and very few attendees had MP3 players or I-Pods, this was quite a treat. At one particular meeting the topic was ‘bad neighborhoods.’ The room was rather full that day, with mainly Aboriginal young men and about four or five young women in attendance. As the group had not yet begun, youth were ducking in and out, talking with others in the hall, running back in, grabbing food, running back out—a contained chaos of playfulness and laughter. Edward, who was an Aboriginal ‘Center regular’ and his girlfriend Beth, also Aboriginal, were taking care of a Center regular’s baby, Alex, which they frequently did while his mother, Sam, was out doing errands. Sam, a white girl was close friends with Edward and Beth, and referred to them as ‘uncle’ and ‘auntie.’ Ramona, a 23 year old Aboriginal Center regular who was almost an alumna (24 was the maximum age to attend The Center) and who self-identified as a ‘ghetto girl’ walked into the room. She saw me and asked, “Did you bring the disk?”, anxiously anticipating the mixed CD she had requested. After I gave it to her, she hugged me and sat down next to her friend Alyssa, a mixed-race 16-year-old girl, and a male friend, James. He was talking about his guy friends and what they were doing later on that day. Ramona asked him, “Do you want to all hang out tonight?” “Yea, we’re going to meet Daniel at Commercial at 7:00, ” he replied. 102 Steven, having finished setting up the portable LCD projector, settled the group and brought the meeting to order by playing a music video by one of the youth’s favorite groups, War Party a CanadianAboriginal hip-hop band. As the music stopped Steven asked, “What is a bad neighborhood in Vancouver?” Everyone responded in unison, “The Downtown Eastside.” I asked, “Who lives there?” “My mother,” Ramona exclaimed to roaring laughter. The other youth, all boys, gave thoughtful and politically astute responses, indicating their full awareness of the racial and class divisions in the city. Except for Ramona, the other girls remained silent during most of the 45-minute discussion that followed. This five-minute snapshot of one interaction at The Center is distinctly representative of the social dynamics in the space. Youth formed close bonds with particular staff members; friendships were established irrespective of race, age, or gender; and girls wanted to hang out with guys or at least not, “be like a girl.” Also, it was common for boys to do most of the talking when there were groups of boys and girls together, yet when they were just hanging out in the resource room, the girls were very vocal, loud, and present. These race and gender interactions were noticeable because they are different from gender peer groups reported by other youth ethnographers where race seems to play the same role as class in dictating friendship associations (Archer, Halsall, & Hollingworth, 2007; Bettie, 2003; Hey, 1997). In the space of The Center, the Aboriginal youth had perhaps the most presence. As a distinct cultural community, they were more represented than other cultural groups and there was a visible camaraderie among them. Everyone knew everyone and the Aboriginal girls reported that their closest friends were also Aboriginal. However, there were other criteria for bonding and friendship in addition to race: common experiences and longevity were key. I often heard comments like, “I knew her back on the streets.” or, “I’ve been coming here since I was 16. Everybody I know is from here.” or, “Yeah, we're really close … like I've known them for a long time, it's been almost 5 years now. That’s pretty good.” All of these remarks were in response to discussions I had with girls about why they go to The Center. Knowing someone for a long period of time in combination with that person staying on good behavior and good terms, without betrayal, were requirements for the designation of ‘close friend.’ One could accumulate trust more quickly by being affiliated with another already-established friend. The longevity of friendship, 103 on the other hand, was largely spatialized. Continual visits to The Center demonstrated that one was in a similar situation as the others: impoverished and socially excluded from mainstream society. This last factor was the primary requirement for friendship as it gave the new person credibility, signaling that they were ‘one of us.’ Still, the relational element of space (Massey, 1999) meant that gender interactions played out differently in The Center when compared to the girls’ everyday interactions outside The Center. The Center operated as a neutral space for gender processes. Here boys and girls, same-gender groups, and girls across style groups all interacted with one another. There remains, however, a distinctiveness to the close relationships the girls developed with one another that looks different from what has been reported previously about girls’ friendships. Their friend relationships as they are articulated through everyday spatial practices, are familial associations. The pictures on this page are representative of photos taken by the girls using their disposable cameras that represent ‘family’ or ‘friendship.’ The girl who took the picture of the barbeque said it represents friendship to her because when she looks at it she thinks of friends coming over and having a good time. The girls took many pictures of their friends and most often they were photographed in The Center. The question of how The Center, as a spatial imaginary of ‘home,’ contributed to a formation of family is where I turn to next. 104 Spaces of Representation Ramona: Looking at myself [in a photo she had a friend take of her] sitting in east Vancouver, in front of my favorite youth center [The Center] that has helped me a lot. Like, a lot, the youth center has helped me through thick and thin, like, it’s crazy. Stephanie: Does it feel like home? Ramona: Yeah. I come here every day, it’s crazy. I always get help with my things. […] Stephanie: How would you describe The Center? Riley: Kind of like a home away from home, basically. It helps me when I need it, like redoing my resume, or getting a bus ticket to go to a job thing or an interview, or getting referrals or references. There are a lot of good programs here too. There's the breakfast club, and the shower, and housing meetings, indoor picnic. The programs offered at The Center are often enticing, but this isn’t what attracts the young people to the space. Being able to spend hours on Facebook, making a phone call on the community phone, getting some food from the always stocked snack table, or picking up a note from the message bulletin board—in other words being social, feeling connected, and being in their community—is what brought the youth to The Center. The two girls quoted above are both Aboriginal and Center regulars. They had been coming to The Center for years when I first met them. Riley was quite accurate when she called The Center, a “home away from home.” For the Center regulars this is exactly what it was. Many of the regulars arrived when the doors opened at 1:00pm and stayed until closing at 7:00pm. They knew the place and how it functioned, they knew the staff intimately, and they acted with a sense of freedom and ease when they were in The Center. Twenty blocks from The Center is a SkyTrain station (public transit) which many of the youth, particularly Aboriginal youth, used as a meeting place. Many youth riding in from the suburbs also exited at this location, and so it served as a boundary space bridging the urban and suburban. My drive to The Center took me along the route from the station and I would frequently see youth hanging out there until 12:30 or 1:00pm waiting to make the trek down, not having money to spend $2.50 on a bus ticket. After I had been going to The Center for some time I would sometimes pick up regulars if I passed them along the way, and one time I picked up Beth. I knew her to be shy around adults and I had not formally interviewed her but we knew one another through Music Matters. My attempts at small talk to ease the tense three-minute drive were met with nervous, abrupt “yes/no” responses. I parked the car and Beth 105 quickly jumped out, as though she had counted the seconds until she could get away from me and her feelings of discomfort. As soon as we opened the doors of The Center, however, this awkward, quiet girl was transformed into a friendly, jovial, confident young woman. She was home. The transformation was notable and it made me realize the power The Center had to provide youth with a sense of value. Outside, they were ‘mess-ups,’ feared, shunned, and invisible, but inside, they were important. They were appreciated. They had a place of their own. What is particularly exemplary about this story is the conversion of a government-controlled space into the youths’ own place. As working-class young women and men, their options for claiming a space are very limited. Yet, by reconstituting the meanings of the spaces through which they live, work, and play (like The Center) the complexity of the social relations of space, and the innovative potential of space, are revealed. It is here that Henri Lefebvre’s (1991b) dialectic of space can be applied to understand this process. As I stated in Chapter Two, Lefebvre conceives of space as a dialectical formation dynamically made up of private property, labor, and human interactions. The three parts of this dialectic include: (1) spatial practices which refer to the lived elements of space, perceived space; (2) representations of space which refer to the hidden ideological content of space created by city planners, officials, the capitalist conceived space, and; (3) spaces of representation which refer to the abstract space of the social imaginary or lived space (Lefebvre, 1991b). Applying the dialectics of space to The Center, the ‘representations of space,’ as a provincially-funded, social service organization, meant The Center was created to attract young people whom the State had deemed ‘a problem’ for their defiance of mainstream productive citizenry; with the objective being to change them to meet the demands of a post-industrial capitalist society. Nevertheless, the youth I encountered at The Center re-coded their lived spatializations to form new representations somewhat free from the dominant, State-controlled depiction of the space. Their understanding of the space or ‘spaces of representation’ was of fun, sociability, respite, nourishment, home, and possibility. The social imaginary of The Center as ‘home’ connects to the youths’ re-definition of family in the lived space. Their friends are their family. “I have lots of siblings, so to speak, they’re not necessarily 106 my blood family, but as far as I'm concerned, blood isn't what makes family, it’s how people treat each other”: this statement came from Calli, a Center regular. As much as a survival strategy as for companionship, the youth formed strong ties with friends who were in a similar situation as their own. They lived with one another, shared resources like food and clothing, and relied on one another for support and love. These relationships were distinct and noticeably different from what has previously been reported on working-class girls’ friendship formation where shared dreaming of heterosexual romance, peppered with assertive heterosexual femininity as a response to a common disinvestment in school, dominate the female friendship landscape (Griffin, 2000; Hey, 1997; McRobbie, 1980, Wiseman, 2002). Rivalry, exclusion, rumors, and name-calling (all routines described in these studies) were reported by the girls in the present case, but the objective behind these cultural practices were different. Unlike the studies on female friendship cited above, these girls were not in school. Studies that have focused on working-class school girls describe the development of female friendships as part of a response to being positioned in the milieu of institutionalized, middle-class school. Friendships under this dynamic are relegated to a secondary status culturally and socially, and are therefore secondary to the primacy of the biological family unit (and here only the heterosexual nuclear family is legitimate). This leads to the principal difference in the friendships formed by the girls at The Center; there, their friendships assumed a primary, domestic role. It is interesting that this key source of value and social capital for the girls in some way contributes to their illegitimate social and political framing. Friendships in the eyes of the State are delegitimized as insignificant social relationships, as friends have no legal authority or rights in relation to other friends. Even after three decades of feminist commentary on the public in the domestic sphere, when it comes to youth the ideal and really only acceptable family form is still children under the care of biological parents. The lack of a parental presence in the lives of the girls in this study and their corresponding reliance on peers engenders the old ‘child saving’ rhetoric of pity and sympathy (Strange, 1995), invoking State governed parenting/policing practices. Within the space of The Center, however, the youth rebuke this ideological imposition to create their own friend-families. 107 Using the terminology of Lefebvre’s three-part dialectic, this is the third space—spaces of representation. The everyday, lived social reality of the young people residing in urban Vancouver transforms the space of The Center into a productively meaningful space of family and opportunity. Their transformation of the government-controlled space challenges the hegemony of capitalist practices that narrowly define ‘home’ as the biological center for the nurture of the worker (Engels, 1943; Sibley, 1995). Even if an element of the intended spatial practices of the space are to create a ‘feeling’ of home to attract youth to the social service center, spaces are produced dialectically through contestation and struggle (Massey, 1995); thus, the space of the Center is defined just as much by the youth’s lived use of the space as by its ‘official’ definition and publicly mandated intentions. Holding on to the ‘spaces of representation’ as I explore the lived, every day practices of the girls, signals space as always reproductive as well as transformative. What the young people in this study are able to do in particular spaces and the ways in which spatiality is experienced are each determined by the spaces of representation that the youth themselves socially construct. Considering space in this way expands the possibilities for historical representations of the ‘others’ who are excluded within current spatial relationships. In the context of the present research this means viewing working-class girls through an image that they themselves have constructed and not as troublesome misfits. Here then is one way that this text can serve as an agent for change as I attempt to dismantle the same old narratives constituting ‘us’ and ‘them,’ ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ ‘I’ and ‘other.’ Photos at the end of each chapter are from the 2011 documentary photography exhibit, Ab/Ob-jection: Encountering Youth and The City created as a visual representation of this research. Photo by: Yun Lam Li 2011 Photo by: Yun Lam Li 2011 108 Photo by: Megan Low 2011 109 Chapter Five Urban Girls’ Struggles for Symbolic Recognition: Redemption, Value, and Imagined Futures I just like the tree here because it reminds me that no matter how broken things seem, you always have the chance to grow more, and maybe even grow stronger for it. -Cali, age 19 As I sought to demonstrate in the previous chapter, the girls built a family through friendships and created a ‘home’ for themselves as tactics in their strategic struggles for recognition. These strategies are also about redemption, and, more specifically, a form of redemption that is connected to aspiration. In this chapter I consider how the girls generate ‘use-value’ for themselves through narrative expressions of redemption. Each girl has a redemptive tale to tell and it is through these stories that they claim a sense of selfhood while also providing a vision for their future. I want to argue that these tales provide some indication that those who have been deemed valueless do attempt, albeit in diverse ways, to subvert the dominant symbolic order. During one of my regular visits to The Center, I was sitting in the resource room when Alyssa, a 16 year old Center regular came storming in, visibly upset: “They won’t let me see him! They won’t let me see him, because I couldn’t get to see Robin in time because I didn’t have any way to get there. And Jason is being a *#%!& …” She was attracting a lot of attention and some of Jason’s friends (Jason was her ex-boyfriend) were coming towards her and getting riled up too. Steven, a youth worker, quickly gathered Alyssa into his office before the incident could escalate further. She was talking about her eightmonth-old son who was in foster care. She had scheduled visits with him that had been arranged by her social worker, because she herself was in care. Alyssa, a slender and stylish ‘tough’ girl of mixed ethnicity was known for being loud, impulsive, and brash. Her straightened, dark brown hair was sticking out in all directions creating a purposeful mish-mosh on top of her head, a fitting image that paralleled her impetuous yet kind personality. After 15 minutes in Steven’s office, she re-emerged more visibly relaxed and calm; she sat down on one of the cushy chairs in the middle of the resource room and started chatting with a friend. I asked Steven how he approached such incidents as he seemed to work magic to soothe tense situations. He reflected, “I try to turn something negative about the youth, like Alyssa’s outburst and lack of control, into 110 something useful. Like a lot of our kids drink [alcohol] and black out. We have to find something positive in that.” Spending a lot of time at The Center, I found that I would sometimes get caught up in the Social Work impulse towards psychologizing the space. I, too, would be struck by the intensity of the young people I encountered, by the ‘inappropriateness’ of their behaviors, and by the sheer number of problems they had to contend with. Yet Steven’s response above reminds me that what we see—the youth’s outward affective displays, such as anger, drug use, and instability—are justified reactions to the situation of being marked and under-valued. Middle class young people might express the same kind of disgust and exhibit similar behaviors, but they are not under the watchful eye of the state. The young people at The Center aren’t fragmented people; rather, they’re forced into states/experiences of fragmentation by the system. Their behavior is only a ‘problem’ because it violates accepted middle-class norms of temperance and individualism, both rooted in a secure ‘vision’ of aspirational futures. Steven was correct in his response: we have to expose the calculus of power behind the manufacturing of dominant definitions circulating about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behavior. Only then can we ask why some get valued in this process at the expense of others. Whether valuing something or someone, each of these processes has a prescriptive quality. Each invokes, compels, and directs action towards a specific subject and tells us, in turn, whom to look at, in which way, and with what intent. We are inculcated with assumptions about who needs to be contained in special programs, and who, on the contrary, needs to be affirmed, supported, and elevated. The social process of valuing not only reinforces existing relations of power but also creates a grid by which to measure and evaluate the moral worth of a person. Being unvalued is equated with low moral status, hence justifying both state intervention and scientific scrutiny. Like thieves, rapists, or liars, the immoral behavior is attached to the person and the body becomes resignified as ‘depraved.’ They become dejected, isolated, and contained, not unlike the undervalued girls in my study who are repeatedly inscribed as ‘abject.’ There is, in other words, a significance in examining how value is assigned and withheld in relation to young people: a way towards changing the relations of power requires a form of revaluing or bringing into value those who are either undervalued or not valued at all. In this way, the remaining elements of this chapter are not only analytical in the sense of offering a lens through which to describe 111 how the girls resist their inscription. It is also political to the extent that I can demonstrate how the girls acquire value for themselves. The chapter therefore, offers a contribution to the revaluing of those who have been cast aside and marked as unworthy. Reclaiming Value To begin I want to articulate the meaning of ‘use-value’ as I am using it in this study. In the conventional capitalist economic model, use-value (the personal or social value attributed to objects) is collapsed into exchange-value (how much something is worth in relation to other commodities). Following Skeggs (2004) and Strathern (1992), I am attempting to recover use-value as separate from exchange-value. This shifts attention away from the object being exchanged to the associations of authority that sanction the exchange and is particularly relevant for trying to understand how class, as a form of classification, works to bestow or deny value. For example, those whose cultural dispositions have been deemed valuable, hence exchangeable (middle class, high achieving white girls for instance), can garner resources in the service of exchange (not least of which is economic capital), while those marked as un-valuable (working-class, non-white girls who use social services) are not in a position to mobilize resources for themselves. In this model, value is generated not through the commodity, but through the power that makes particular exchanges possible. The inability of the girls to find paid work despite their struggles to sustain themselves and often children, provides an example of how ‘use-value’ becomes hidden when considering value only through the dominant lens of exchange. The situation of Riley, an Aboriginal Center regular, demonstrates this process. Her story also highlights how some of the girls’ attempts at redemption and to be seen as valuable in mainstream society (enhancing their exchange-value) ultimately failed. Riley, who is twenty-one, left high school in grade 10 and was not employed during the time I knew her. Over the past three years she had participated in numerous skill enhancement programs all of which were connected to government funding in some way. Often a certificate of completion was provided at the end of a program, but the training never materialized into an actual job: Stephanie: Have you had any jobs over the past couple years or gone to any training programs? Riley: I did the Baristas program here in March and that was pretty good. I did a couple preemployment programs with Youth Spot and Pre Anderson Circle Program, which was down at Friendship Centre, and another one through United Native Nations. I went to BCIT to get my call 112 centre training through Telus and stuff… most of them [give] certificates, I have my Super Host, my first aid, my Food Safe, and my traffic control. Stephanie: Wow, you have a lot. Riley: Yeah, it’s pretty good. Stephanie: Did any of these turn into any decent jobs? Riley: I did a telemarketing job for charities with my experience with telemarketing through BCIT. I did that for a while and then I got kind of sad because everybody kept on saying no…That is really all. Riley’s experience with work is typical of economically marginalized young women who are receiving government financial assistance (Bottrell & Armstrong, 2007; Maschi, Hatcher, Schwalbe, & Rosato, 2008). Youth who have been in the care of the BC Ministry of Children ‘age out’ or are no longer the responsibility of the State upon reaching age nineteen. To aid in the transition to independent living these, ‘Former Youth in Care’ are eligible for other assistance programs like Agreement with Young Adults (AYA)26 or the Student Assistance Program. The goal of these plans is to eventually become financially independent, either through immediate full time employment or through skill enhancement which is thought to lead to employment. Consistently pursuing employment is a requirement for receiving income assistance through the BC Ministry of Housing and Social Development. Financial eligibility is dependent on the individual, “pursuing all other sources of income or support” through seeking employment or pursing education as a means to achieve financial independence (BC-Govt, Housing, & Soc-Dev, 2007). Recipients have yearly reviews or in the case of young people, bi-monthly meetings where they have to report on their efforts to seek employment. For those young people who chose to pursue income assistance, a large portion of one’s time is tied up with work seeking activities. In terms of exchange-value, Riley possessed little: she did have certificates indicating the completion of training programs, yet, without a high school diploma, the worth of these programs (their economic value in terms of securing employment) was diminished. Riley’s story, however, produces a different outcome when use-value is considered and highlights the significance of considering use-value as separate from exchange-value when trying to understand how value is generated for, or withheld from, economically marginalized young people. Being that Riley did 26 Agreement with Young Adults, or Youth Agreement, is a legal contract between a person under age 19 with the Ministry of Children and Family. Young people under a Youth Agreement are in government care but live independently. 113 not have a job and that she was beyond high school age, she had time, and the conviction, to pursue volunteer activities (this alone is an asset with value). Over the summer she had the idea to organize a youth sports day as she wanted to do something to “help the youth” whom she observed as “not having anything to do all day” and no outlets for physical play. She had gone so far as to meet with two organizations that agreed to sponsor and host the event (she showed me letters from the agency’s directors confirming this) and had met with a local day-care and workers there implied they would be interested in participating (I have no outside confirmation of this). By summer’s end, however, the sports day never materialized. I saw this happen a lot. The girls wanted to be active, to get a job, start a career, or organize a community activity for their children but did not possess the connections or social capital to move outside of their routinized day. Looking at Riley’s situation in terms of economic value and exchange, we see that she had a potential asset of productivity. Had the asset been publicly recognized through the creation of a community project she would have acquired exchange-value and had something to put on her resume, would have gained recognition in her community, and could have met potential employers. Yet, since her idea did not materialize, she was never able to acquire exchange-value or move beyond her current social location. Considering use-value, however, we see that there is value in the activity regardless of whet
UBC Theses and Dissertations
Producing ‘out of school’ working-class girls : urban space, place & value Skourtes, Stephanie 2012
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