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Youth and the street corner society

First posted at 22:05GMT on 26/11/08 by katebagley

Journal articles can often feel completely removed from day-to-day practice. But sometimes, just sometimes, they turn a concept on its head and help you to understand the ordinary in a new light. That’s what a Leisure Studies Article—called ‘Street Corner Society’—did for me. It took the all too common occurrence of young people hanging around the street and put it in a new context. ‘Hanging around’ became conceptualized as a ‘leisure career’ alongside ‘school careers’ ‘work careers’ ‘family careers’ and ‘housing careers.’ ‘Leisure careers’ are the norm—in and of themselves, they are not a bad thing. In fact, quite the opposite, through informal interaction (away from parents, teachers, and formal authority figures) young people try out and rework their personal and social identities. In other words, informal interaction that occurs in informal spaces (i.e. not youth centres or youth clubs) is a critical part of the developmental process.

What’s problematic is when those spaces and interactions remain static and insular. As the authors write, “Repeatedly unemployed young men lacked the sites through which to establish new, more socially varied or geographically spread, social networks (p344).” This, for me, should be at the heart of our youth work—addressing some young people’s ‘network poverty.’ If we can come up with ways to expand young people’s informal social networks—and build more equal relationships between young people and adults—we could help ensure that young people’s leisure careers are an asset, rather than a deficit.

Article: Street Corner Society: Leisure Careers, Youth (Sub)culture and Social Exclusion by Robert MacDonald and Tracy Shildrick. In Leisure Studies; 26:3, 339-355.

Comments

Hey Sarah

This is really interesting.

I’ve re-blogged over on the developing Federation for Detached Youth Work website here: http://detached.youthworkonline.org.uk/profiles/blogs/the-street-as-a-place-to-go as I thought the detached field might have some interesting thoughts on the problem.

It does highlight to me how an understanding of social networks as an analytical frame needs to be a core part of training and professional development for those working with young people.

Having been working on digital networks - I do wonder what role they have to play here… connecting the physical space with virtual space…

Your post also made me think of this JRF report:
http://www.jrf.org.uk/knowledge/findings/housing/2148.asp

What do you see as some of the interventions or approaches which might help expand young people’s social networks and horizons?

Tim Davies, 27/11/08, 02:03GMT

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