Coming of Age in U.S. High Schools

Economic, Kinship, Religious, and Political Crosscurrents

By Annette B. Hemmings

© 2004 – Routledge

232 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9780805846676
pub: 2004-02-01
US Dollars$47.95
Hardback: 9780805846669
pub: 2004-02-23
US Dollars$120.00

e–Inspection Copy

About the Book

Coming of Age in U.S. High Schools: Economic, Kinship, Religious, and Political Crosscurrents takes readers into the lives of urban and suburban adolescents for a close-up look at how they navigate the conflicting discourses and disciplinary practices of American cultural crosscurrents that flow through economic, kinship, religious, and political domains of American life. The book is distinctive in how it combines classic anthropological theory and contemporary post-anthropological perspectives into an innovative framework for understanding adolescent coming of age processes in U.S. public high schools. Coming of age is conceived as a dual process of community integration and identity formation.

In this expansive multi-site ethnography of high school students representing diverse racial, ethnic, social class, gender, and sexual backgrounds, coming of age is described and analyzed as it unfolded in the classrooms and corridors of three high schools: a racially desegregated urban school; a suburban school serving middle class students; and a school with a majority of Black youth living in impoverished inner-city neighborhoods. The study goes well beyond issues of academic achievement to recognize and explore the function of U.S. high schools in smoothing adolescent transitions into the multiple domains of American life. Graduating seniors in the final analyses are heralded as absorbers of traditions, barometers of trends, and harbingers of change.

Of interest to a broad range of researchers, teachers, and educational policymakers, this book is particularly relevant for scholars, faculty, and graduate students in social foundations of education, educational anthropology, secondary teacher education, qualitative educational research, and related fields.


"In this carefully nuanced and richly textured qualitative study, Hemmings follows the voices of a diverse array of high school students as they navigate their way through the crosscurrents of economics, politics, religion, and family life in contemporary America….Highly recommended."


"There are altogether too few texts on the market that provide the detailed, reasoned account of American adolescence and schooling that Coming of Age in U.S. High Schools offers. This book attends to adolescence, it complicates popular but oversimplified notions about adolescents, and it documents how schools impact both individuals' and societal development."

Reba Page

University of California at Riverside

"After reading this book…I am left with an increased appreciation of the nuanced ways that individuals construct meanings and futures within the variety of discourses that help shape kids in twenty-first century America."

Pamela J. Bettis

Washington State University

"The knowledge that emerges from different school/life contexts among a diverse group of adolescents is very rich."

Sandra Winn Tutwiler

Washburn University

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface. New Age for Coming of Age. Surface Depths. Economic Domain: Il/licit Pursuit of Mobility. Kinship Domain: Family (Dis)connections. Religious Domain: Freedom of/From Religion. Political Domain: Democracy and Domination. Reaching Shore. Appendix.

About the Series

Sociocultural, Political, and Historical Studies in Education

This series focuses on studies of public and private institutions, the media, and academic disciplines that contribute to educating--in the broadest sense--students and the general public. The series welcomes volumes with multicultural perspectives, diverse interpretations, and a range of political points of view from conservative to critical. Books accepted for publication in this series will be written for an academic audience and, in some cases, also for use as supplementary readings in graduate and undergraduate courses.

Topics to be addressed in this series include, but are not limited to, sociocultural, political, and historical studies of

Local, state, national, and international educational systems

Elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities

Public institutions of education such as museums, libraries, and foundations

Computer systems and software as instruments of public education

The popular media as forms of public education

Content areas within the academic study of education, such as curriculum and instruction, psychology, and educational technology

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
EDUCATION / Students & Student Life
PSYCHOLOGY / Developmental / Adolescent