Abstract

This study departs from mainstream criminology to approach youth conflict and violence from a youth-centered perspective drawn from cultural studies of young people and sociolegal research. To access youth orientations, we analyze experiential stories of peer conflict written by students at a multiethnic, low-income high school situated in an urban core of the western United States. We argue that youth narratives of conflict offer glimpses into how young people make sense of conflict in their everyday lives, as well as insights as to how the images and decisional bases embedded in their storytelling connect to adult-centered discourses found in popular media and formal education. Our analyses identify a range of story types ("tales"), each marked by a different narrative style, that students fashion as they write about peer conflict: "action tales," "moral tales," "expressive tales," and "rational tales." In our study, students wrote a majority of stories in the action-tale narrative style. We propose three alternative explanations for this pattern using class code, moral development, and institutional resistance perspectives. Finally, we discuss the theoretical and policy implications of our work and raise questions for future research.

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