Michelle Robin Comstock

Re-mapping the territory of ‘youth’: Youth-generated sites of rhetorical, cultural, and political practice

Michelle Robin Comstock

  • School: Purdue University (0183)
  • Degree: Ph.D.
  • Date: 1999; pp: 194
  • Advisor: Sullivan, Patricia
  • Source: DAI-A 62/06, p. 2097, Dec 2001
  • Subjects: Language, Rhetoric And Composition (0681); American Studies (0323); Women’s Studies (0453); Anthropology, Cultural (0326)
  • ProQuest Document Number:
  • ISBN: 0-493-27910-5
  • UMI Number: AAT 3017592

Abstract:

    This project examines the collective literate practices of “marginalized” youth in contemporary North American culture. Unfortunately, composition and literacy researchers have paid little attention to the literate activities of youth outside adult regulated classrooms or community centers. Composition theories and pedagogies tend to assume a generic, ageless writing student, therefore leaving generational differences and power relations underexplored. In an attempt to make these differences more visible, especially in the context of writing and writing instruction, this study investigates the ways youth are collectively working within adult-regulated institutions to compose their own culturally and politically significant identities and communities. Focusing on the newly formed communities of Internet Grrl Culture and Queer Youth Culture, I show how these sites not only challenge constructions of youth as “developing writers” and “apprentice citizens,” but broaden our conventional understandings of the very contexts and practices of literacy. In order to demonstrate the ways youth compose communities across geographical, cultural, and institutional spaces, this study draws on theories and methods associated with cultural geography (Massey, Rose, Soja), as well as composition and literacy (Gee, Heath, Sullivan and Porter, Lankshear). My premise is that collective literate practice is a space-making activity, which holds high geographical, cultural, and political stakes for traditionally marginalized groups. The design and maintenance of an emerging Internet Grrl Zine Culture, for example, is a space-making, literate activity in that it demands the ongoing appropriation of a mostly male computerized territory. In the case of Queer Youth Culture, queer-identified youth are revising traditional boundaries between the public and private spaces of citizenship and civic literacy. The protest surrounding Utah’s ban on extracurricular school groups, for example, demonstrates how the spaces of youth in classrooms, homes, cities, and neighborhoods are fiercely regulated.