The construction of at-risk youth: a qualitative study of community-based youth-serving agencies
This thesis explores the ways in which the ‘at-risk’ designation of marginalized and disadvantaged youth within youth-serving agencies contributes to a program of governance within a neoliberalized welfare state. I argue that while there is considerable resistance to the risk designation within youth-serving agencies, officially accepting funding for programming designed to target at-risk youth continues to individualize the troubles youth face and responsibilizes youth to become their own risk managers. Through these structural funding constraints, youth-serving agency staff inadvertently disseminates expert knowledges that validate the notion of ‘at-risk’ youth as a growing problem while legitimating the perspective that social problems can and should be addressed through individual treatment rather than social policy. This both disciplines youth to become better liberal subjects while leaving structural constraints unaddressed. I conclude with some examples of resistance that show promise of working outside of these technologies of governance.
Youth, Risk, Neoliberalism