Fine Arts, Design & Creative Technology

ANTH 290 – Style and Identity in Youth Cultures

This course focuses on young people’s engagements with commercially provided culture and their implications for identity formation. We begin in the postwar United States, when producers of symbolic goods, such as movies, music, and clothes, began aggressively tailoring products for young people; over the rest of the 20th century and into the 21st, new youth-oriented cultural commodities and sites of consumption have been used by young people in diverse ways to define themselves in relationships to adult society and to other young people. We will examine young people’s intensifying involvement with the cultural market, with attention to both the diversity of youth-cultural formations that have emerged within the United States and to the global circulation of Euro-American youth culture. Using case studies, we will consider the ways in which young people’s consumption practices have both reinforced and transgressed intersecting boundaries of class, race, gender, and nationality. An overarching concern in the course will be to assess whether or to what extent particular cultural practices may help prepare young people for positions of privilege, reconcile them to structural disadvantages, or provide them with resources to challenge the dominant society.

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