Coming of age stories : now and then

Text of a talk given to Birkbeck College Department of Literature June 2016

Introduction: the youth question then and now

In this talk I am going to be taking a line of thought for a walk in two directions at once. I will stepping back from the present, to   retrace an argument  about the youth question which I first articulated in the late 1960’s and 70’s  at a time when Mods,Rockers  and Skinheads, Beats and Hippies were highly visible signs  of a deeper  shift in the tectonic plates of the British class  system.… Read the rest


 Rethinking the Youth Question with C Wright Mills

 Look,mum, it comes down to something pretty simple. If I get a job when I leave school, its gonna be part time-most probably serving some rich kid  fried chicken.I’ve started to see myself like dad. And I don’t know if that’s such a bad thing. Dad does things. When he had a job he did his job.… Read the rest

Mapping the Real : Ethno-graphology and the ‘Other Scene’

…  since Neolithic times  we have been marking down representations on cave walls, in the dirt, on parchment, trees, lunchplates, napkins, even on our own  skin-all so we could remember  where we have been, where we want to be going, where we should be going. There is a deep impulse ingrained in us to take these directions, coordinates, declarations out of the mush of our minds  and actualize them in the real world.… Read the rest

Born to Flying Glass

In this talk, given to a number of  conferences and seminars in Germany, Sweden and the UK in  2005/6 I discuss a number of theoretical and methodological issues related to a research project on early  childhood memories of civilian bombing  in World War Two.

View the text here:  Born To Flying Glass

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Not Lost in Translation: Phil Cohen and Nora Rathzel in Dialogue on the Youth Question

This video is a short extract from a lecture ‘ Young heads,Old Shoulders’ given  to a conference of youth workers and educationalists in Hamburg.
It is included to illustrate some of the issues raised by translating issues from one national context and field of discourse  to another. This Anglo-German dialogue on the Youth question was pursued further in the context of a collaborative research project  looking at young people’s sense of place, and identity in London and Hamburg.… Read the rest

Methods in Dialogue / Finding the Way Home

This video illustrates some of the innovative methods used in a research project which explored young people’s sense of place and identity  in two deprived neighbourhoods in London’s Docklands. The aim was to provide a  space of representation in which the young people felt free to express their fears and anxieties, whether through artwork, or the  stories they told about the everyday  incidents of their lives.… Read the rest

Depicting the Gospel of Work: From Moralised Landscape to Mechanical Reproduction

Throughout the nineteeenth century, the association of heroic forms of masculinity with manual work was adumbrated less through political rhetoric than through biblical imagery and also in aesthetics of labour developed by the painters and photographers of the first industrial revolution. We will look briefly at each in turn.

View the full text here:  Phil Cohen Gospel

This gallery of 120 images in  Body Politics contains the following sections:   Elemental Labour-Mummers, miners and sweeps-Time and Motion Studies-Automata- Youth culture and extreme sport-physical culture and the dream of the collective body- masculinity and  manual labour in a post industrial world.It… Read the rest

Beyond Storm and Stress Some reflections on War, Modernity and Youth after 9/11

In the West, during the ‘heroic’ 19th century   phase of nation and empire building youth’  was placed rhetorically and actually in the front ranks of violent confrontation. Young men were cast as the main protagonists of class war and civil war, not to mention the ‘war of generations’, the struggle of the forces of modernity against tradition. In the process young women were effectively sidelined.… Read the rest