I am an interdisciplinary youth studies scholar, trained as a sociologist and located in the field of Latin American and Latino Studies. My research focuses on young people as political subjects and bridges the scholarship on childhood, youth, and girlhood, with research on social movements, activism, and political engagement. Theoretically, I draw from intersectional feminism to illuminate how age functions as an axis of power and inequality in complex relation with other social differences. I explore how discourses about what it means to be a child, or a youth, or an adult shape the ways people experience and navigate these categories. Building on the important contributions of Latin American social movements and critical approaches to childhood, my work challenges the naturalization of adults’ power over children and furthers our understanding of how young people can (and should) be included in democratic social and political life.
My first book, Rebel Girls: Youth Activism and Social Change Across the Americas (NYU Press, 2011), is a transnational ethnography of teenage girl activists in five cities in North and South America. It was the first major study of teenage girls’ participation in social movements, and one of very few books that provides a transnational perspective on high school activism.
My second book, The Kids Are in Charge: Activism and Power in Peru’s Movement of Working Children (NYU Press, 2019), explores the possibilities and challenges for creating horizontal intergenerational social movements. Founded in 1976, the Peruvian movement of working children has fought to redefine age-based roles in society, including defending children’s right to work. In this book, I explore how the movement’s discourses, practices, and institutional structures foster a radical re-imagining of childhood and democratize intergenerational relationships.
I have published numerous articles on a range of topics related to youth politics, including “girl power” discourses, girls’ organizations and ideas about the public sphere, peer-led political socialization amongst youth activists, and young activists’ ideas about what constitutes meaningful democratic participation (the last two with Hava R. Gordon). I also co-edited (with Sandi K. Nenga) an edited volume that seeks to bring together research on a variety of forms of youth engagement activities in order to explore multiple approaches to and understandings of youth citizenship.