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Doing consumption and sitting cars: adolescent bodies in suburban commercial spaces

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Compared to the studies of the relationship between young people and urban public space, the way middle-class youths counterparts navigate suburban landscapes is understudied. This paper focuses on different ways young people's bodies adapt, explore, negotiate, and resist the behavioral norms associated with various parts of commercial space in an American planned suburb. The analysis of the data collected through ethnographic fieldwork and focus groups shows that the middle-class teenagers use street literacy as a means of navigating public space. The findings from the study indicate that the young people view commercial space as adult-centered and regulated. Nevertheless, the study also finds two general ways in which adolescents express their identities through location and performance of their bodies; in accordance to the adult-centered norms of commercial space or against such norms. The conclusion suggests that suburban middle-class teenagers experience a unique set of constraints and opportunities, but their responses vary by their social identities and their ability to navigate the space through bodily performances.
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Keywords: adolescents; bodies; commercial space; suburbs

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Sociology, Tulane University, New Orleans, USA

Publication date: 2009-02-01

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