- Keywords in the Cultures of Young People
The papers in this forum were presented first as part of a round table hosted by the Association for Research in Cultures of Young People (ARCYP) at the Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Ottawa on 2 June 2015.
In 1976, Denis Donoghue reviewed Raymond Williams’s Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society for the New York Times Book Review and wrote that Williams, as a teacher, loved “to show where ideas begin and end, in principle, only to emphasize that in practice their beginnings and endings are incorrigibly wayward” (2). The participants in this forum were asked to adopt Williams’s commitment to incorrigibility and to approach “keywords in cultures of young people” with an acknowledgement that language is erratic and unpredictable, with varied sets of meanings and associations, and that the ways in which language is used to make sense of particular problems are dependent on context. As times change, so too must [End Page 107] the language and the keywords we use to talk about the cultures that form and are informed by young people.
This forum is best situated alongside—and indeed would not be possible without—Bruce Burgett and Glen Hendler’s Keywords for American Cultural Studies, Philip Nel and Lissa Paul’s Keywords for Children’s Literature, and Nancy Lesko and Susan Talburt’s Keywords in Youth Studies: Tracing Affects, Movements, Knowledges. The process of choosing and defining keywords requires charting the history of a word and how it travels, its definitions, and the common-sense knowledge embedded in its everyday uses. In assembling the round table, the organizers aimed to include scholars working across the fields of cultural studies, education, literary criticism, childhood studies, critical youth studies, and history. Panellists were invited to offer critical interrogations of familiar keywords used in the study of cultures of childhood and youth while proposing and considering new and/or unexpected terms and definitions in order to capture and think through the complexities and contradictions that emerge through the study of young people’s cultures and texts. Like the contributors to Lesko and Talburt’s collection, our panellists deepened existing scholarship by creating space for those keywords that occupy “a peripheral, repressed presence in the field’s thought” (Talburt and Lesko 7).
The papers in this forum represent theoretical and methodological commitments to cultural studies, an orientation that also defines the larger goal of the Association for Research in Cultures of Young People (ARCYP), founded in 2008. The membership of ARCYP includes scholars from various disciplines as well as professionals and practitioners. As an organization, ARCYP continues to uphold two key objectives: first, “[t]o promote the study of and research in the cultures and texts of young people, in Canada and internationally, across a range of disciplines, and to build an understanding of such scholarship that defines ‘young people,’ ‘culture,’ and ‘text’ broadly”; and, second, “[t]o create interdisciplinary spaces to exchange research on the cultures and texts of young people; to create opportunities for collaborations” (“Constitution”). Following this charge, the “Keywords in the Cultures of Young People” round table was intended to create an interdisciplinary space for dialogue and collaboration and to address scholarship that engages broadly with debates surrounding the definitions of “young people,” “culture,” and “texts.” Additionally, the round table provided an opportunity for a group of interdisciplinary thinkers and practitioners to hold the language used to talk about the cultures of young people accountable to the unique economic, political, and social conditions shaping the present moment. [End Page 108]
The articles that follow are extensions of each speaker’s ten-minute round table presentation about two words of their own choosing. The first word is a familiar one used often in studies of youth, cultures, and texts that the author believes demands deeper interrogation or redefinition in order to remain conversant with contemporary scholarship and the varied experiences of young people. The second word is a less familiar term that the writer thinks crucial enough to young people’s cultures to be included in a keywords collection on the...