Bucharest teenagers in search for narrative spaces: exploring desired uncertainty in an undesired reality
Paper short abstract:
Drawing on fours years of ethnographic research, with more than 200 teenagers, I propose a discussion about the teenagers’ search for scary, unsafe urban experiences and their metamorphosis into creative, narrative experiences – in the uncertain context of post-socialist Bucharest.
Paper long abstract:
A group of teenagers living in the centre of Bucharest sometimes went to hang-out inside the huge ruins of an unfinished communist-period mega-building. They used to go there despite their parents' interdictions, hang-out with other teens from the neighbourhood and even with some homeless teens. The ruins were scary, unsafe, dirty, dark. The adults wanted them gone. But for the teens, the ruins offered a real adventure, shared with their peers. A group of teenagers living in a social housing neighbourhood sometimes went to explore an abandoned park and lake in the other extremity of Bucharest, searching for strange animals. Among garbage, wild flora, traces of homeless occupation, far from adult eyes, they imagined encounters with mutant animals. These are examples of Bucharest teens being attracted to uncertain spaces, as a tactic to deal with their uncertain social situation - as in the urban geographies built by adults, the teenagers face continuous limitations, exclusion, tensions. Thus, the ugly, unsafe urban spaces - abandoned by adults - become for them precious spaces of freedom, imagination, discovery, sociability, identity building. The collective narratives about these spaces and experiences are the means of transforming fear and uncertainty into socially significant, desirable encounters; reason why, inspired by urban sociologist Richard Sennett, we could call them "narrative spaces". Drawing on fours years of ethnographic research, with more than 200 teenagers, I propose a discussion about the teenagers' search for scary, unsafe urban experiences and their metamorphosis into creative, narrative experiences - in the uncertain context of post-socialist Bucharest.
Children and youth exploring uncertain realities