- Focusing on Youth in the Americas
The subject of youth has received renewed attention through recent books that look at issues facing young people in Argentina, Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, and the United States from the 1950s to the present. The subject is approached through investigations of dominant discourses in cultural and political history as well as countercultures. This essay provides a brief introduction to the books that will unearth their intellectual roots, place them in geographic and historical context, and review each volume’s methods and arguments.
In The Age of Youth in Argentina, historian Valeria Manzano analyzes the subject of youth in the context of the cultural climate of the twentieth century. She draws on the work of the French cultural and political historian Jean-François Sirinelli and takes particular interest in his discussion of the contribution young people have made to the reconstruction of political culture and the recreation of the principles, languages, and opinions accompanying it.1 Contesting the notion of social order in revolutionary politics introduced by American historian Lynn Hunt, who associates the balance of power and authority in the French revolution with the relationship between fathers and sons,2 Manzano argues that the youth in the Peronist movement defined themselves in opposition to familial tradition and paternal authority. [End Page 281]
Educational anthropologist Denise F. Blum conducts her research for Cuban Youth and Revolutionary Values mainly in the island’s secondary schools by observing classrooms. She considers schools as the pivotal locales for examining cultural transformation, the effects of social programming, and the legacy of the 1959 revolution. Her ethnographic study discusses the reproduction of culture in educational systems, a notion introduced by the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, which refers to education’s crucial role in the transmission of cultural values from generation to generation.3 Taking an approach firmly grounded in Brazilian cultural studies, Blum also employs the work of the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire when discussing the relationship between education and consciousness.4
Sociologist Pablo Vila and anthropologist Pablo Semán collaborate across disciplines to produce the ethnographic study Troubling Gender, which examines the sexual roles of women and men in the Argentinian public sphere. They reject the traditional view of female sexuality as defined only through its relation to the masculine and thus initiate a discussion of gender politics based on a new type of female sexual autonomy. With references to Bourdieu and the Polish sociologist Bauman, they interpret cumbia lyrics as a means by which women have succeeded in negotiating their own sexual autonomy. The British sociologist Anthony Gid-dens also appears to be influential in this study, particularly his ideas regarding plastic sexuality.5
Maria de los Angeles Torres, Irene Rizzini, and Norma del Rio combine approaches drawn from political science, sociology, and psychology in order to address the civic engagement of young people in the Americas. The influence of the Argentinian anthropologist Néstor García Canclini is clear, particularly in the notion of hybridity within big cities, where identities tend to be more diverse.6 Additionally, ideas developed by Bauman figure prominently. Specifically, the authors refer to Bauman’s claim that hybridization is more characteristic of the upper and middle classes, whose members usually have the economic ability to relocate and travel in a globalized world, whereas lower classes are more firmly attached to their local environment and as a...