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Tiffany Pollock

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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Michael R. M. Ward and Thomas Thurnell-Read

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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Conditional Freedom

A Portrait of Young Men's Sense of Belonging to the Street in Maputo, Mozambique

Andrea Moreira

young men navigate the spaces of urban life in the context of economic and social exclusion is the focus of this article. It is centered on the experiences of a group of young men who spent their days in a marketplace in Maputo, the capital city of

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Martin Woodside

space of “perennial rebirth,” where savage meets civilized to form the “dominating American character” (1894: 2). Assessing this mythic rebirth, Richard Hofstadter borrows D.H. Lawrence’s description of James Fenimore Cooper’s novel series The

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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

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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Rural Failures

Representations of (Im)mobile Young Masculinities and Place in the Swedish Countryside

Susanna Areschoug

Critical boyhood scholars have consistently problematized the moral panic directed at boys’ educational achievements, for instance, by illustrating how the issue is intersected by power hierarchies such class and race, but have not been as attentive to the spatialized dimensions of this discourse. In the Swedish debate, boys in (post)industrial towns in rural regions—affected by decades of deindustrialization—are often pointed out as at risk of becoming unemployed societal liabilities. Documenting the lives, aspirations, and future trajectories of young and rural working-class boys, the television series The School Boys (Skolpojkarna) analyzed in this article reproduces this trope and connects anxieties regarding “redundant” masculinities with rural spaces. Using feminist and post-structural approaches to gender and space, I show how this media production, supplied for educational purposes, mediates normative understandings of young rural masculinity.

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Educational Persistence in the Face of Violence

Narratives of Resilient Latino Male Youth

Adrian H. Huerta

Latino boys and young men often carry the debt of violence into different spaces. This invisible trauma manifests into disruptive behaviors in schools. It is well documented that violence in urban communities and schools has received significant attention from researchers, but little attention has been paid to Latino male youth as individuals and the various forms of violence they have experienced, and how that impacts educational persistence. This qualitative study focuses on 26 Latino male middle and high school students who are attending two continuation schools to understand the types of violence they have experienced and their educational aspirations after high school.

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Michael Atkinson and Michael Kehler

There has been a dramatic rise in public, and particularly the media, attention directed at concerns regarding childhood obesity, and body shape/contents/images more broadly. Yet amidst the torrential call for increased attention on so-called “body epidemics” amongst youth in Canada and elsewhere, links between youth masculinities and bodily health (or simply, appearance) are largely unquestioned. Whilst there is a well-established literature on the relationship between, for example, body image and marginalized femininities, qualitative studies regarding boys and their body images (and how they are influenced within school settings) remain few and far between. In this paper, we offer insight into the dangerous and unsettled spaces of high school locker-rooms and other “gym zones” as contexts in which particular boys face ritual (and indeed, systematic) bullying and humiliation because their bodies (and their male selves) simply do not “measure up.” We draw on education, masculinities, health, and the sociology of bodies literature to examine how masculinity is policed by boys within gym settings as part of formal/informal institutional regimes of biopedagogy. Here, Foucault’s (1967) notion of heterotopia is drawn heavily upon in order to contextualize physical education class as a negotiated and resisted liminal zone for young boys on the fringes of accepted masculinities in school spaces.

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Janet McDonald

In elite boys’ schools there is a level of anxiety about the perceived place of the curricular subject drama and how it might interact or interfere with the ironclad essentialist and homogenous masculinity promoted by elite all-boys’ schools. The feminization of the drama and the suspicion of males who “do drama” create a duplicitous tension for boys who take the subject as they walk the gendered tightrope between the expected public display of the “muscular Christian” and the tantalizing “drama faggot.” This paper offers some reflections about observations on and interviews with boys who “do drama” inside the male-only worlds of the Great Public School (GPS) of Brisbane, Australia. In these schools I observed masculinities were constantly disrupted (perhaps uniquely) in the drama classroom and explored by male drama teachers who provided a space in which to playfully interrogate the “muscular Christian ideal” of a boys’ school.

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"It's Not Being Racist, but ... "

A Youth Gang and the Creation of Belonging Based on "Othering"

Sinead Gormally

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.