Place and mobility
in Being boys
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Chapter 7 enters a very different performance space, that of thestreet and the part that the ‘largely taken for granted world’ of walking played in the formation of adolescent masculinity. Working-class boys and young men enjoyed greater spatial freedoms than their female counterparts, but their occupation of street space was oft en depicted in very passive terms, as in cartoons from the late nineteenth century of scowling, slouching individuals, arms akimbo or hands in pockets, legs apart and a cigarette invariably drooping from the mouth. Assumptions of street ‘loitering’ ignored the dynamic nature of young people's relationships with neighbourhoods and how ‘hanging around’, gossiping and watching the world go by helped to construct male social identity in relation both to their peers and adult society. The role of place in mediating boys' entry into the world of adults is usually seen in terms of neighbourhood territory and gangs. This chapter explores how walking and place-based leisure routines helped to fashion the streets and districts in which working-class boys grew up into a ‘knowable’ landscape, a ‘practiced place’ whose meanings during adolescence deepened and extended into distinctive topographical identities, reinforced by habit, familiarity and the casual rhythms of daily life.

Being boys

Youth, leisure and identity in the inter-war years

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