Juvenile States: A Genealogy of Race, Gender and Delinquency in U.S. Culture, 1899-1967

Kae, Heyang Julie. Juvenile States: A Genealogy of Race, Gender and Delinquency in U.S. Culture, 1899-1967. 2014. University of Washington, PhD dissertation.

Adviser: Chandan Reddy

This dissertation surveys the status of the juvenile delinquent in U.S. cultural production through a cross disciplinary investigation of sociology, psychology, literature and film. The cultural archive of this dissertation is organized around two important legal watersheds in juvenile justice. In 1899, the first juvenile court was established in Cook County, Illinois, and ushered a wave of juvenile justice reform in courts across the nation. The culmination of early Progressive era child savers' efforts, the installation of juvenile courts marked a significant shift in the court's formal role from neutral adjudicator to a paternal administrator. The Supreme Court decision, In re Gault (1967) marks the second watershed. Within normative legal accounts, this decision is seen as "restoring" the court's impartial treatment of the juvenile based on the determination that juvenile court procedure failed to protect the juvenile's right to due process. Across these legal watersheds, this dissertation offers a genealogy of juvenile delinquency discourse that interrogates the complex network of disciplinary knowledge (including law, psychology and sociology), which simultaneously clarified and obfuscated the causal features of youth's supposed predisposition towards criminal behavior. I use a genealogical method, as theorized by Michel Foucault, to expose the limits, obfuscations, and contradictions of dominant narratives of juvenile delinquency in order to denaturalize the authority of disciplinary knowledge by examining juvenile delinquency discourse as an assembly of historical entanglements and political contestations that were critically imagined in aesthetic representations of juvenile delinquency. To this end, the chapters offer sustained readings of literary and cinematic representations of the juvenile delinquent to decenter the pathological determinacies of delinquent behavior deployed by the state and social sciences and to animate the juvenile delinquent as a constitutively porous figure that has reinforced a state technology of selective incorporation.

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