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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Decolonizing Being, Knowledge, and Power: Youth Activism in California at the Turn of the 21st Century

  • Author(s): Banales, Samuel
  • Advisor(s): Briggs, Charles L
  • et al.

By focusing on the politics of age and (de)colonization, this dissertation underscores how the oppression of young people of color is systemic and central to modernity. Drawing upon decolonial thought, including U.S. Third World women of color, modernity/coloniality, decolonial feminisms, and decolonizing anthropology scholarship, this dissertation is grounded in the activism of youth of color in California at the turn of the 21st century across race, class, gender, sexuality, and age politics. I base my research on two interrelated, sequential youth movements that I argue were decolonizing: the various walkouts organized by Chican@ youth during the 1990s and the subsequent multi-ethnic "No on 21" movement (also known as the "youth movement") in 2000. Through an interdisciplinary activist ethnography, which includes speaking to and conducting interviews with many participants and organizers of these movements, participating in local youth activism in various capacities, and evaluating hundreds of articles--from mainstream media to "alternative" sources, like activist blogs, leftist presses, and high school newspapers--I contend that the youth of color activism that is examined here worked towards ontological, epistemological, and institutional decolonization. This study, which addresses negative social understandings about youth in general and young people of color specifically, highlights how the oppression of youth is systemic and central to modernity/coloniality, and calls attention to the necessity of incorporating age, power, and their theorization into the discourses on decolonization. Along with making youth's politics and political identities essential to the research, this dissertation aims to contribute to, not only knowledge production, but also the unfinished project of decolonization--which most literature on young people or youth activism has yet to do.

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