The elusive ideal body: Its construction and impacts on contemporary youth

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By Chu

Many studies have been conducted on the subject of youth’s body image, as well as the causes and potential impacts on young people’s behavior aiming to alter their body. Youth’s attempts to body modification are being constantly stigmatized and pathologized in the media. Youth, in many reports and researches, are infantilized and theoretically ripped off their agency. It is only by giving their voice back to youth that we can understand how the body is perceived by them, and in which ways the body is used as either a weapon for self-empowerment and resistance, or a tool to conform to social conventions. Therefore, in this paper, I have allowed more space for individuals’ subjective experiences, including those of myself, regarding the impacts of the ideal body image. Continue reading

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Out of the closet: Gay youth identity performance and resistance via fashion

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By Elli-Anne Karras

My first ethnography began with a desire to find out whether a collective style sensibility exists within the gay community. I rifled through ‘the closet’ in search of how clothing choices relate to self-expression and contribute to gay youth identity formation. Sedgwick examines the closet as a symbol of secrecy surrounding gay-self-disclosure. She calls it ‘the defining structure for gay oppression in this century’ (1991: 71). In this context, clothes can play a significant role in the process of disclosure of sexual orientation; they are indeed the first thing to ‘come out of the closet’. In addition, clothing creates a powerful mode of resistant self-expression. In this paper, I will closely examine the construction of the self through stylized identity performance. My depth-interviews with gay youth in their twenties as well as qualitative observations revealed that a collective gay subcultural style does not exist. But while each one’s personal narrative varies, their style performances do share the same specific youthful search for a stable identity in opposition to the postmodern state of a self constantly in flux. Continue reading

Two cities, one genre, countless vibes: Exploring the hip-hop community in Amsterdam and Los Angeles

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By Ariella Abrams and Andrew Frantela

Growing up in Los Angeles has provided us with the ideal environment to be avid consumers of hip-hop music. Prior to exploring Amsterdam, we had never been exposed to anything but the American version of the genre. Conducting this research while on exchange in Amsterdam, it was intriguing to see a starkly different perspective of the hip-hop genre—the Dutch perspective, or ‘Nederhop’. Furthermore, we were particularly interested in the opposing concepts of ‘underground’ hip-hop and ‘mainstream’ hip-hop. The underground scene seemed more authentic to us, not to mention the fact that underground hip-hop is just cool. We delved into research that would enlighten us about what causes the differentiation and how the players in the scene interact with the genre. Since we both have our own experiences with the underground hip-hop scene in Los Angeles, we decided to compare underground hip-hop scenes in Los Angeles and Amsterdam. While approaching our research, we were mindful not to employ any prior biased opinions on hip-hop or particular artists. We allowed for our interviewees to come to their own conclusions about the purposes of the genre and the way they feel when listening to hip-hop. This resulted in many of them having very different opinions on the subject, and not hesitating to voice them passionately. Continue reading

‘You let me know like no one else, that it’s okay to be myself’: Youth and the emo scene

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By Michelle Neleman

Inspired by the letters received over the years, the Canadian band Simple Plan decided to write a song based on the experiences of their fans. On Twitter, they posed the question: ‘Can you tell me how our music has made you feel through the years?’, which launched the responses that ultimately would make up the lyrics of This Song Saved My Life:

I want to start by letting you know this
Because of you, my life has a purpose
You helped be who I am today
I see myself in every word you say
Sometimes it feels like nobody gets me
Trapped in a world, where everyone hates me
There’s so much that I’m going through
I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you

[Chorus]
I was broken
I was choking
I was lost
This song saved my life
I was bleeding, stopped believing
Could have died
This song saved my life
I was down
I was drowning
But it came on just in time
This song saved my life

Sometimes I feel like you’ve known me forever
You always know how to make me feel better
Because of you my dad and me
Are so much closer than we used to be
You’re my escape when I’m stuck in a small town
I turn you up, whenever I feel down
You let me know like no one else
That it’s okay to be myself

[Chorus]

You’ll never know what it means to me
That I’m not alone
That I’ll never have to be

I decided to open this paper with these lyrics, because many of the lines describe the responses of my interviewees spot on. Furthermore, the method of creating the song resembles the aim of my paper. Based on ethnographic research, this paper reveals the meaning of the emo scene as given by those who are part of it. Specifically, it will show how the scene contributes to the identity formation of the young participants, by examining the values the emo culture represents, the common features the emo youth share, and the meanings they attribute to the scene’s distinctive (music and fashion) style. Continue reading

Double binds and double edges: Wij Zijn Hier and refugees’ struggle for agency in the Dutch migration system

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By Moses Hubbard

Abstract: The Netherlands receives approximately 13,000 applicants for political asylum each year, only a fraction of which are accepted. The rest find themselves caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of a national asylum policy which is in many ways oppositional to itself – on one hand they can’t be deported to their home countries or apply for asylum elsewhere, while on the other they are refused any legitimate means to survive within the Netherlands. In July 2012, a group of these denied refugees banded together with activists in Amsterdam to form ‘Wij Zijn Hier,’ a movement aimed at combating this paralytic system. This article describes the double binds faced by refugees in the Netherlands, and explores the double edged response strategies they have developed in an attempt to combat them. Continue reading