By Gregor Kanitz
Leicht überarbeiteter Vortrag am Graduiertenkolleg Topologie der Technik, TU Darmstadt vom 04.02.15
Apart from very few examples like dangerous dares connected to alcohol, little thefts etc “youth” nowadays does not seem really hazardous or risky to mid-European societies. There are discussions about young people spending hours and hours with their mobile-phones or playing computer-games over several days, but only a few would consider this as a threat to society.
This was much different until the 1960s/70s, at least since the 19th century there was a tremendous concern about “wrong” ways of growing up and especially in metropolitan regions juvenile delinquency caused daily troubles and alarms.
This project deals with youth as a history of knowledge aiming at technological and aesthetic questions. Youth has been treated over the centuries by the respective academic disciplines like pedagogy, sociology or psychiatry. At the same time juvenile practises and habits came into view generating adventure stories or certain styles like fashion or hair-cuts. Examining these styles inspired a vast range of international Cultural Studies since the 1960s.
Very roughly you can differentiate between two directions of youth research: The (seemingly older one) aims at solving the social and medical problems of youth from a grown-up academic perspective. The seemingly newer perspective looks at youth as an emancipatory force. But it is necessary to look at both strains as a history of knowledge, combining the popular and “low” cultural forces with the academic “high” discourses, because the one does not work without the other.
There are three eras, which need to be observed in this transdisciplinary way. Chronologically inverted it starts with the post-war period of the 1950s/60s, goes back to 1900 and will end in the 18th century, when Rousseau inspired the first discussions on this liminal life phase of youth.
The first paper deals with the fictional and scientific imaginations of the German “Halbstarke”. For German authorities their riots were inspired by American movies showing the dangerous effects of cars and motorcycles. The paper examines the affective and technological dimensions of these juvenile practises focussing on the 1950s. Popular aesthetics interfere professionals caring about “youth protection” confronted with juvenile “wild” behaviour.