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Michael R. M. Ward and Thomas Thurnell-Read

Abstract

This special issue of Boyhood Studies considers how a group of international scholars have engaged with the concepts of boyhood and belonging as a complex personal and powerful process. In different ways, the authors highlight how belonging is an ongoing negotiation within one's surroundings. The international research presented here compels us to conceptualize belonging and boyhood as something that is not only infused with individuals and collective histories, but also interwoven within different conceptions of place and space. These places and spaces are experienced in multiple ways within different social contexts. We contend that this special issue is positioned at an important time in studies of boys and young men. As boys and young men experience their transition into adulthood with increased precarity, it is time we take theories of boyhood and belonging seriously. These theories can open up new spaces and provide critical insights into young lives.

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Chong-ro

A Space of Belonging for Young Gay Men in Seoul

Elias Alexander

Abstract

For young men navigating a sexual identity that lies on the periphery of culturally understood and politically acceptable discourses, places where one expresses such identities becomes necessary to foster a sense of belonging. Gay districts have existed as bastions of open self-expression, providing a sense of belonging in restrictive societal contexts. This is particularly true in South Korea. Through direct ethnographic engagement, this article analyzes the ways in which Chong-ro, one of Seoul's gay districts, reinforces identity to create a sense of belonging. Through methods of participant observations and semi-structured interviews with self-identified gay men, qualitative data was collected and analyzed. This article attempts to show how these places help formulate relationships that affirm young gay men's understanding of self, community, and belonging.

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“I Don't Want to Spend My Life under a Toilet Seat”

Aspiration, Belonging, and Responsible Masculinities in the Lives of White, Working-Class Boys in a Youth Inclusion Program at the YMCA

Ross Wignall

Abstract

Working with a cohort of boys aged 14–18 and classed as not in employment, education, or training (NEET) at the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) in the UK city of Brighton and Hove, this article follows their progress as they engage with instructors and other pupils at the YMCA, using qualitative modes of inquiry to explore their reactions, feelings, and attitudes. As I demonstrate, their aspirations and sense of emergent manhood is often predicated on new relationships generated in the YMCA spaces rooted in a culture of caring and responsible masculinity founded on implicit Christian values. Through interviews with young men and the people around them, I probe some of the tensions in this process, showing how persistent attachments to places and spaces beyond the YMCA can create feelings of ambivalence and, in some cases, a sense of alienation and marginality even as they begin to feel that they belong.

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“It's Not Being Racist, but … ”

A Youth Gang and the Creation of Belonging Based on “Othering”

Sinead Gormally

Abstract

This article explores the tacit endorsement of male youth gang members engaging in “race”-based conflict to gain localized levels of power. It examines the importance of belonging to an “in-group” for these young people via their connectedness to the broader residents, through cultural essentialism toward a Roma “out-group.” The young, male gang members, drawing on what they perceive to be their role, adopt physical and symbolic strategies to assert their control over their space and to concretize their sense of belonging with the wider community in-group. The article considers how a labeled and excluded group of male youth gang members from wider social structures find connection, commonality, and belonging in hardening their self-image through an othering process against those deemed inferior to them.

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Tiffany Pollock

Abstract

Fire dancers in Southern Thailand, almost exclusively young, intra-/international migrant men from rural Thailand and Myanmar, are paid to entertain tourists at nightly beach parties. An unacknowledged economy fueled largely by tips, fire dancing is fast becoming an iconic symbol of Thailand's young backpacker tourism sector but is not considered an acceptable form of labor or a valued artistic practice, because tourist beach spaces are perceived as sites of immorality, excessive drinking, and sexuality. Male fire dancers, then, come to be known as young social deviants who do not belong in the national imaginary and thus must maneuver around a complex politics of belonging with vast differences in social and economic power. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, this article examines how belonging is negotiated among Burmese fire dancers working in Thailand, and how experiences of belonging are shaped by spatialized gendered moralities and masculinities that operate within the fire dancing scene.

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“Most of the People My Age Tend to Move Out”

Young Men Talking about Place, Community, and Belonging in Manchester

Khawla Badwan and Samantha Wilkinson

Abstract

Universities are as a means of leaving for the city for young people living increasingly precarious and mobile lives. This article explores how male university students (aged 18–25) talk about, and belong to, the places they inhabit in Greater Manchester, England. Drawing on mixed-methods data collection from survey responses and in-depth semi-structured interviews, this article finds that while young men embrace liquid understandings of place, they express tensions between “insiders” and “outsiders.” While universities appear to be significant places for male university students, only half the participants reported feelings of belonging to university communities. Consequently, this article proposes recommendations for universities, in order to ensure male university students feel they can open up to staff, thereby enabling them to feel part of a “learning community”—a key theme of the National Student Survey.

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The Mystery of the Missing Men

How Do Young Men Experience “Belong-ing” in Higher Education?

Vicki Trowler, Robert Allan, and Rukhsana Din

Abstract

There is something of a moral panic about the relative paucity of men in higher education in many countries. Closer examination shows that it is often men from subordinate groups in their contexts, such as working-class men (in the UK context) or African men (in the South African context) who are most underrepresented. This article draws on research in Scotland, South Africa and England to examine the experiences of young men positioned as “nontraditional” in their localized HE contexts who do attend university. Our studies found their experience of “belong-ing” to be mediated by their underrepresentation, as well as constructions of masculinity at system/context or at individual/group level. Understanding the latter can help ameliorate the effects of the former.

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Resisting the Demand to Stand

Boys, Bathrooms, Hypospadias, and Interphobic Violence

Celeste E. Orr

Abstract

How sex-segregated bathrooms negatively impact trans, genderqueer, nonbinary, queer, and gender-nonconforming people has been extensively studied, yet few have considered how intersex people are subjected to bathroom violence. To begin broadening this conversation, I focus on the medical management of boys with the intersex variation hypospadias and demonstrate that anxieties around bathrooms extend beyond the bathroom walls—into surgical theaters—and are not simply a trans or queer issue. Anxieties about bathrooms and hegemonic urinary masculine behavior inform the violent medical maltreatment of intersex boys with hypospadias; they are subjected to shaming, disabling, and invasive procedures in the hope they will reinforce compulsory dyadism and able-bodiedness, as well as exhibit hegemonic heteromasculine behaviors, namely standing to urinate. Because of discriminatory, gratuitous surgical interventions, the bathroom and urination become sites of pain and trauma for these boys. In turn, these boys’ sense of masculine belonging are undermined or destroyed.

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Erica Morales, Alex Blower, Samantha White, Angelica Puzio, and Matthew Zbaracki

Ingram, Nicola. 2018. Working-Class Boys and Educational Success: Teenage Identities, Masculinities, and Urban Schooling. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Pinkett, Matt, and Mark Roberts. 2019. Boys Don't Try? Rethinking Masculinity in Schools. London: Routledge.

Agyepong, Tera Eva. 2018. The Criminalization of Black Children: Race, Gender, and Delinquency in Chicago's Juvenile Justice System, 1899–1945. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Farrell, Warren, and John Gray. 2018. The Boy Crisis. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books.

Potter, Troy. 2018. Books for Boys: Manipulating Genre in Contemporary Australian Young Adult Fiction. Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier.

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“Boys in Power”

Consent and Gendered Power Dynamics in Sex

Katrín Ólafsdottir and Jón Ingvar Kjaran

Abstract

Sexual consent determines if sex is consensual, but the concept is under-researched globally. In this article, we focus on heterosexual young men and how they negotiate sex and consent. We draw on peer group interviews to understand how young men are constituted by the dominant discourses at play in shaping their realities. We have identified two different discourses that inform consent, the discourse of consent (based on legal, educational, and grassroots discourses), and the discourse of heterosexuality (based on the heterosexual script, porn, and gender roles) resulting in conflicting messages for boys. They are supposed to take responsibility for sex to be consensual as well as being gentle partners, but at the same time, the heterosexual discourse itself produces power imbalances in sex and dating.