Breath and the truths of youth at-risk: allegory and the social scientific imagination

Peter Kelly

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    32 Citations (Scopus)


    The ways that we have invented for knowing young people are governmentalised.This governmentalisation produces powerful incentives to conform to the rulebound and institutionalised knowledge practices that institutions, government departments, corporations, and NGOs understand as being capable of tellingtruths about young people and about risk. I argue that knowledge practices in the social sciences should trouble what counts as truth, as evidence, and the ways in which these truths can be produced. These interests will be examined through a discussion of the ways in which Tim Winton’s novel Breath can be read as an allegorical tale about the terror of being ordinary: and of the teenage years as being a time in a life in which the fear of being ordinary compels Winton’s key characters to seek out, sometimes stumble upon that which promises to make their’s a life less ordinary. Here risk is something that breathes energy and purpose into lifeworlds that are dominated by the institutionalised ordinariness of family, school, and work. As an allegorical tale told from the vantage point of hindsight, Breath unsettles what it is that the social sciences can tell us about youth (as becoming) and risk (as mitigated by prudential foresight).
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)431-447
    JournalJournal of Youth Studies
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


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