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Youth Sexualities: Public Feelings and Contemporary Cultural Politics [2 volumes]
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xvi Introduction hegemonic categories of the respectable or the deviant Black youth, which are amplified and legitimized in the media by Black elites’ (think: Bill Cosby) narratives of deviance and criminality (39). In turn, Cohen reports that many Black youth are acutely aware of their vilification by Black adults, evaluate themselves through the dichotomy of respectable/deviant, and hold “the expectation that individuals should make the ‘right’ deci- sion” (89). Cohen (2010) underscores the ways that moral panics both reflect and create felt positions and relations as they circulate through communities. As both promise and threat, youth function as “affective magnets” (Grossberg 2005, 235) as enduring topics of social concern. But not all magnets attract the same attention, evoke the same feelings, or live out their status in pre- dictable ways, as theorizations of public feelings and affect illuminate. CONCEPTUALIZING PUBLIC FEELINGS I am not interested in narrative, or truth, or truth to power, on a certain level I am fascinated by affect, by positioning, and by intimacy . . . What happens when I stand close to you? What’s your body going to do? What’s my body going to do? (Claudia Rankine, in Berlant 2014, para. 33) The language of public feelings takes part in the so-called affective turn in critical and social theorizing of the last decade (e.g., Clough and Halley 2007 Gregg and Seigworth 2010). Affect theory has a complex genealogy, with many writers arguing that its theoretical range and topical reach are strengths (Seigworth and Gregg 2010). Across these volumes, authors enact this intellectual diversity. Some authors explicitly engage affect the- ory others the language of public feelings others conceptualizations of moral panic others psychoanalytic insights and yet others specific emo- tions, such as fear, anxiety, shame, anger, (un)happiness, sentimentality, compassion, despair, hope, hopelessness, melancholy, optimism, desire for belonging, and ambivalence. Here I offer a brief—and necessarily incomplete—orientation to public feelings, affects, and emotions. I chose “public feelings” as a framework for this collection because so much of how youth sexualities are thought about, acted on, and lived out lies in the domain of what we colloquially would call the felt or the emotional. As I suggested in the previous section, thinking about youth sexualities is as much felt as it is thought, attached to multiple anxieties about cultural change, racial difference, and the future. The idea of “public feelings” underscores that the ostensibly private or inti- mate is constitutive of the so-called public sphere, feelings are integral to community formation, and feeling and thought are not separate. My thinking about public feelings aligns with scholars who situate the