The structure and experience of childhood and adolescence : an anthropological approach to socialization
Becoming human is becoming social and this thesis explores the nature of the socialization process through the presentation of material derived from anthropological fieldwork with adolescents in the north-east of England. In contrast to more traditional approaches, it suggests that an adequate understanding of how socialization occurs, rather than merely what occurs, can only be achieved through focusing directly upon the experiences of those undergoing the socialization process itself and upon how they articulate these experiences. In this respect the adoption of the anthropological fieldwork technique of participant observation is shown to be critical. It allows access to the experience of socialization, rather than simply its later effects, through exploring the temporal rhythms of the socialization process made manifest in life-cycle categories. These categories, it is argued, structure the progressive awareness and understanding reached by children as they mature through providing them with the time and space for the creation of their own culture - the culture of ' doing nothing '.With the theoretical insights gained from a semantic approach to the study of social life this culture is interpreted as a conceptual context whereby children themselves conduct their own rite de passage to adulthood. Through analysis of the concepts of time and space; linguistic performance and nickname usage; the body as an expressive medium and the social construction of gender, a distinctive cultural style emerges which represents an active deconstruction and reinterpretation of adult social order by children. This pervasive style of ' doing nothing ' provides a single underlying form for a multiplicity of contents : motifs of transformation constantly reappear in different domains and provide a coherent semantic system through which children gain knowledge of their own futures. Within this approach, then, socialization is no passive imitation ; rather, it emerges as an active and creative learning process in and about the world.