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Pride in the Projects

Teens Building Identities in Urban Contexts

Nancy Deutsch

Publication Year: 2008

Teens in America's inner cities grow up and construct identities amidst a landscape of relationships and violence, support and discrimination, games and gangs. In such contexts, local environments such as after-school programs may help youth to mediate between social stereotypes and daily experience, or provide space for them to consider themselves as contributing members of a community.

Based on four years of field work with both the adolescent members and staff of an inner-city youth organization in a large Midwestern city, Pride in the Projects examines the construction of identity as it occurs within this local context, emphasizing the relationships within which identities are formed. Drawing on research in psychology, sociology, education, and race and gender studies, the volume highlights the inadequacies in current identity development theories, expanding our understanding of the lives of urban teens and the ways in which interpersonal connections serve as powerful contexts for self-construction. The adolescents’ stories illuminate how they find ways to discover who they are, and who they would like to be — in positive and healthy ways — in the face of very real obstacles. The book closes with implications for practice, alerting scholars, educators, practitioners, and concerned citizens of the positive developmental possibilities inherent in youth settings when we pay attention to the voices of youth.

Published by: NYU Press


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p. v

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pp. vii-viii

Many talented scholars have been generous with their time and energy, yielding invaluable feedback throughout the process of researching and writing this book. Barton J. Hirsch has provided the intellectual support that has pushed my thinking and writing. My editors, Michelle Fine,...

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1. “There Are Birds in the Projects”: The Ecology of Adolescent Development in Urban America

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pp. 1-36

It is an early June evening in the Midwest, the kind of afternoon that suggests the end of school and the beginning of summer. The energy at the East Side Boys and Girls Club reflects this boundary land between structure and freedom, work and play. In the gym, the boys’ soft ball team...

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2. “I Give People a Lot of Respect”: The Self in Interpersonal Relationships

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pp. 37-60

If I asked you for the first five words that come to your mind when I say “teenager,” the chances are that “respectful” and “responsible” would not be among them. Adolescence in America has been characterized, at least since the turn of the 20th century, as a time of turmoil, of crossing the stormy seas from...

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3. “I Never Thought Kids Would Look Up to Someone Like Me”: Lorenzo’s Story

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pp. 61-79

Lorenzo is a 17-year-old African American male who has been coming to East Side for four years. He is dark-skinned, broad, and tall with cornrowed hair that hangs down to the bott om of his neck. Usually clad in t-shirts and loose pants or athletic clothes, Lorenzo tends to don a serious...

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4. “I Can’t Act Ghetto in the Ghetto No More”: Self, Society, and Social Categories

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pp. 80-106

When I answer the question “who am I,” I am in part providing a definition of myself as an individual, a unique psychological entity. Yet I am also describing where I exist in relation to others and within society. Knowing how I am perceived by others influences my own sense of...

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5. “I’ve Never Seen Any Dark-Skinned Girls in Videos”: Nicole’s Story

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pp. 107-128

Nicole is a 15-year-old Black female who has been coming to the club for eleven years. She has a dark complexion, curvaceous frame, and long legs that place her a head above her peers. Her smile is wide and bright, her eyes sparkling. Nicole is attractive with a serious side she is not afraid to display. She is engaging and energetic, frequently...

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6. “I Can’t Lose to No Girl, Man”: The Gendered Self

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pp. 129-155

Gender organizes our lives on multiple levels, from the individual to the institutional, in ways that are both explicit and invisible.1 The salience of gender is so ubiquitous, it’s often unnoticeable. Not only do we quickly encode and cognitively process the gender of people we...

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7. “Manly, Take Charge, the Head Man, the King”: John’s Story

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pp. 156-177

John, is a light-skinned, 17-year-old Black male who has been coming to East Side for 12 years. He is in the 11th grade and resides with his mother, younger sister, and cousin in the housing project near the club. John has two older siblings who no longer live with them. His aunt,...

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8. “If I Never Came Here I’d Be Irresponsible, Like a Little Kid”: After-School Programs as Sites of Development and Identity Construction

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pp. 178-201

In recent years, there has been considerable interest in the potential of after-school programs for providing safe and supportive places for youth to learn and grow. Particular attention has been paid to the role of such organizations in the lives of youth living in high-poverty neighborhoods. The most visible manifestation of this interest was endorsed...

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Appendix A: Methods

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pp. 203-211

During the academic years from September 1999 to June 2003 I visited East Side anywhere from one to four afternoons a week. I spent between one and four hours at the club at each visit. During most visits I spanned the aft ernoon (3–6 PM) and evening (6–9 PM) hours to ensure...

Appendix B: The Contextual Identity Interview: Protocol for Interview 1

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pp. 212-217

Appendix C: The Contextual Identity Interview: Protocol for Interview 2

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pp. 218-220

Appendix D: Photography Project

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pp. 221-222

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Appendix E: Coding Guidelines for Individuated versus Connected Self-Descriptors

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pp. 223-226

Each youth responded to the question “Give me the five words that you think describe you the best.” Each of the words that the youth provided are to be coded as either “Individual” or “Connected.” Individual words describe a trait that is an individual characteristic, independent of...


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pp. 227-244


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pp. 245-270


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pp. 271-279

About the Author

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p. 280

E-ISBN-13: 9780814785218
E-ISBN-10: 0814785212
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814719916
Print-ISBN-10: 0814719910

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 233536324
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Pride in the Projects

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Subject Headings

  • After-school programs -- United States.
  • Urban youth -- United States -- Psychology -- Case studies.
  • Identity (Psychology) in adolescence -- United States -- Case studies.
  • Youth with social disabilities -- United States -- Psychology -- Case studies.
  • Interpersonal relations -- United States -- Case studies.
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