In this article I study two American novels in order to tease out the stakes, in boyhood studies, of viewing adolescence as a transition. In Gore Vidal’s The City and the Pillar and Truman Capote’s Other Voices, Other Rooms, boy protagonists seem to suffer from arrested development or undergo a phase of sexual exploration. But such readings either define marriage and reproduction as the only way of growth, or envision a homo/hetero-identified subject who looks back on his adolescence as an experimental transition. In Vidal’s and Capote’s narratives, such a heteronormative life trajectory and homo/hetero subject do not exist. Since the narratives open the protagonists to the backward temporalities of return and the gothic, the narratives and the characters together thwart teleological or linearized notions of maturity and identity formation.
In this article, I examine how second generation South Asian Canadian girls negotiate their racialized position in peer culture, through various strategies of accommodation, denial and resistance. I use feminist post-structuralist theories of discourse and positioning with feminist and narrative methods to analyze my interviews with ten subjects about their racialized adolescence. I argue that girls use certain strategies of accommodation—'passing', wannabe-ism, and strategic Otherness—to fit in without abandoning their ethnicized identities. Strategies of denial surface through girls' internalizing of dominant discourses of racism; this leads them to rationalize racism or invoke assimilationist narratives that hold minorities responsible for their own experiences of exclusion. Girls also use strategies of resistance in which they identify hegemonic discourses of belonging, speak openly about racism or criticize aspects of white culture in the context of South Asian community and family norms.
Our longitudinal studies of boys over the past two decades have revealed that boys have and/or want intimate male friendships and that these relationships are critical for their mental health. Yet as they reach late adolescence, boys become wary of their male best friends even as they continue to want emotional intimacy with these peers. As the pressures of stereotypic manhood intensify, boys disconnect from the very relationships that support their mental health. The numerous challenges faced by boys in school and at home are in part a reflection of this disconnection.
Support for and Silencing of Queer Voice in Schools, Families, and Communities
Gilligan (1996) and other feminist relational psychologists have identified a “silencing” to which adolescent girls are vulnerable when they confront pressures to conform to patriarchal values and norms in various social contexts. As Machoian (2005) and other researchers have noted, the silencing of girls’ authentic voices at adolescence is associated with heightened risk for depression and for suicide, cutting, eating disorders, and other self-harming behaviors. This article is based on in-depth interviews that examined the ways in which lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer-identifying youth might be subject to an analogous silencing of their authentic “queer voices.” Drawing on four case studies of male youth who participated in a larger qualitative research project, the article examines how schools, families, and communities both supported and silenced the authentic expression of their voices as gay- or queer-identifying boys. Since two of the case studies are based on interviews with participants at both late adolescence and young adulthood, the article also examines the effects of supportive factors over time and how they helped contribute to a purposeful, voiced sense of queer male identity as the participants reached manhood.
The nineteenth-century dime novel was a significant component of adolescent culture. Dime novel Westerns prefigured emerging ideas of adolescence to inform cultural constructions of American boyhood. These texts articulated and responded to prevailing notions of proper and improper boyhood by imagining the frontier as a space of and for youth. Scholars have addressed many subversive elements of the dime novel, while largely ignoring how this literature interrogated hierarchies and categories of age. The present analysis explores that gap, highlighting the Western dime novel as a critical site for negotiating ideas of American boyhood in the late nineteenth century.
Close bonding in male friendship groups in adolescence (ages 12–28) provides the foundation for altruistic behavior in the group, from routine selflessness to the ultimate sacrifice of life for the others. This article draws on ethnographic evidence from two settings—troops of Boy Scouts in California and US military units living and fighting together in the Middle East. In both settings, close bonding of the male adolescents has significant homoerotic elements, which suggests that there are significant erotic elements in male adolescent altruism, including the eroticization of pain and suffering (non-pathological masochism). If these links prove true, this has policy implications for the integration of adolescent girls and young women into previously all-male organizations, such as the Boy Scouts and the military.
The representation of adolescent same-sex love in Daniel Ribeiro’s Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho (2014) and Aluizio Abranches’s Do Começo ao Fim (2009) stands out from other treatments of adolescence and homosexuality in Brazilian/LatinAmerican cinema. The movies’ setting within an urban upper-class environment allows for a conception of adolescence as a prolonged period of carefree exploration. By intertwining the experience of adolescence with the discovery of emergent sexuality, the movies develop a model of sensual, gentle masculinity and a reciprocal concept of homosexual love, thus undermining the paradigmatic juxtaposition of active masculinity and passive femininity that has dominated cinematic representations of homosexual characters and same sex-encounters in Latin-American cinema.
Negotiating, Constructing and Re-constructing Girlhood after the “Fall” in Rural Kenya
This article discusses problems of childbearing as experienced in rural Kenya by girls in their adolescence—a powerfully formative time of transition to adulthood. Findings reveal that girls face unique challenges and harsh choices when they are faced with pre-marital pregnancy such as emotional violence and abuse, early marriage, expulsion from school, unsafe abortion and poverty. Many Kenyans are calling on the government and communities to put into place policies and programs necessary for empowering girls with enough information to make a healthy and safe transition to adulthood.
Adolescence, Chivalry, and Turn-of-the-Century Youth Movements
This article traces the intellectual and cultural history of the concept of chivalry, paying particular attention to its relationship with coming-of-age narratives, boyology, and theories of adolescent development. The concept of chivalry was central to the texts surrounding turn-of-the-twentieth-century youth movements, such as the Boy Scouts and the Knights of King Arthur. Chivalry, as it was constructed in these texts, became a way to contain cultural anxieties associated with a fear of modernity and, as a code of behavior, provided a path for youths to come of age, therefore containing concerns about the newly conceived and characteristically unstable developmental stage of adolescence.
Capturing the Contradictions of Female Adolescence in the Nancy Drew Series
This article explores the construction of female adolescence in the first three texts of the Nancy Drew Mystery series: The Secret of the Old Clock (1930), The Hidden Staircase (1930), and The Bungalow Mystery (1930). It reviews, briefly, the development of the concept of adolescence and its gendered implications, particularly the association of female adolescent sexuality with delinquency. I argue that the Nancy Drew series rejects the construction of adolescence as a period of turmoil and emotional instability, as well as the prescription of constant adult supervision. The character of Nancy Drew also captures the contradictory messages of female adolescence in the 1930s when girls were represented as sexually attractive and aggressive but were denied sexual desire.