Nilan and Feixa state in Global Youth? That they are less concerned about the official definition of the terms ‘youth’, ‘global’ and ‘culture’ but focus rather on the social construction of identity in young people or how they describe it “the distinctiveness of local youth cultures in a globalized world” (1). They characterize globalization as rapid social transformation with hybridity in its wake. Hybrid is in this context the merging of a binary system such as local as global, hegemonic and subaltern, the centre and the periphery, as well as the non-western impact on the west, which often leads to multiplicity, according to the academic perception.
Studies about youth cultures concentrate on young people living their lives in plural, fragmented worlds, whereas they themselves perceive their surroundings as one world, a highly complex but unified world. Not binary in its core, but hybrid in the truest meaning of the word.
This concept alludes beautifully to the Hip-hop culture, as it is an amalgam of breakdance, graffiti, DJ-ing and rap. It is also a sample culture, meaning it lives of sampling old records, thereby creating something new by mixing and merging old patterns. So the very essence of Hip-hop is a hybridization of different genres, art forms, and artist by quoting their music.
Nilan and Feixa “are not convinced that as far as youth culture is concerned the global eclipses the local in the end.” (3). They discuss aspects “emanating from cultural ‘cores’ that threaten to sweep away distinctive local practices and ways to think about identity” (3), which seems a little overdramatic since they state themselves that generational identities are de-localized since “cultural innovation can emerge with similar force from the centre and from the periphery” (3).
Certain aspects in youth cultures can be found globally, but that does not necessarily mean that they are a product of globalization. They might simply be the results of a phenomenon which occurs in different places, such as a distinct way to speak. These ‘sociolects’, as Söderman states, are not only a slang in a certain milieu in one culture area, but also a portion of an identity, a sign of belonging to a certain way of living, rather than a regional association. It has been said that “cross-cultural popular music forms operate as a form of distinctive youth communication” (Nilan&Feixa, 4), for example. Another global aspect about youth cultures all over the world is the common source of information, which is a global one.
‘Cultural identity’ is a concept, that is still valid in today’s globalized world, but it might have changed its meaning over the last decades. ‘Culture’ traditionally meant the habits and customs of those around you, the knowledge about truth and values you shared with your family and neighbors , as well as the traditions, which were common in the part of the world you grew up in. Social class was the most important factor and only few individuals changed their cultural identity during their lifetime. If you look back on the Scandinavian peasant society where children were brought up by everyone in the village and were raised to work. They had to identify with collective labor and that the community’s good is far more essential than the wellbeing of an individual. There was no consciousness about cultural identities whatsoever, no reflections about a youth culture, let alone “the youth culture as a barometer of future changes” (Söderman, 14.05.2014).
Global social movements and changes affect young people everywhere, so it seems natural that there are certain common character traits in various youth cultures. Examples not only conclude the collapse of the economy, the uncertainty about the future work market, the immanent breakdown of the education system in most countries and the alarming signs of global warming, but also the disrespect older people have for the younger generation. We are the ones who have to face all the environmental problems, caused by decades of denial and neglecting, we will never have job security or a guaranteed pension when we will be old and this is not due to the laziness of our generation, the rudeness or the passiveness, members of the former generations seem to accuse us of. Whenever you open the newspaper you will most certainly find an article about the rotten youth nowadays and how it used to be better in the olden days. This topic has been largely covered by the “classic ‘youth culture as resistance’ position of the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, based on Antonio Gramsci’s theory of hegemony” (Nilan & Feixa, 9).
I am not defending youth cultures per se, I simply argue for a more differentiated view on us. Conducted academic studies often treat young people as some kind of foreign species, which has to be observed, analyzed and categorized. You would not be surprised find the class ‘Youth’ with the subspecies ‘urban youth’, which then is divided further into ‘urban middle-class’ and ‘urban working-class’ and so forth until you end up with phenotypes such as “urban middle-class Islamic youth” (Nilan & Feixa, 2) and “second-generation Australian migrant youth” (Nilan & Feixa, 4), which you now can study.
Cultural identities in youth cultures appear to be a product of the outside as often as it is developed in the individual. A common theme in youth specific art forms, such as hip-hop, is ‘us against the others’, meaning adults, respectively the older generation. It may be the most uniform, global and distinct part of any youth culture to draw a line between them and the grown-up world and this might be a unifying factor for different youth groups. Each and every identity is made up and influenced by an immeasurable amount of factors, some of them global, some national, some local, and some individual. The assumption that a number of those can eclipse others is as logical as the fear that the rain could erase the ocean.
Eliezer, Ben-Rafael; Sternberg Yitzak 2002: Indetity, Culture, and Globalization. The annals of the International Institute of Sociology. New series; volume 8. Brill, Leiden-
Nilan, Pam; Feixa Charles 2006: Global Youth? Hybrid Identities, Plural Worlds. [Elektronisk resurs]. Routledge, London.
Söderman, Johan 14.05.2014: Hip hop culture from a Scandinavian perspective. Lecture for: Scandinavian Studies: Cultural and Social Perspectives. Youth and Popular Culture. Göteborg Universitet, Göteborg.