Dr. Ben Bradley (2018)

Writing Fellow Report by Dr. Ben Bradley

"In September 2018 I had the privilege to attend the I-CYS as a Writing Fellow. I heard high praise for the fellowship from Mary-Ann Shantz, so asked director Kristine Alexander for more information about it in spring 2018, and applied shortly thereafter.

My time at the Institute and University of Lethbridge was spent working on a book project that brings environmental history into conversation with the histories of youth and of popular culture. Tentatively titled Going Wild: Rowdy Parks and Canada’s Popular Culture of Nature, it examines the ‘rowdyism’ that was common in non-urban parks during the years 1965-85. While many historians characterize this as a period of growing environmental consciousness and idealism amongst North America’s young people, I argue that the widespread conflict over what constituted proper behaviour in the Great Outdoors is evidence of a more hedonistic, even nihilistic popular culture of nature. From Newfoundland to Vancouver Island, working- and middle-class youths used the free space offered parks for their own rebellious purposes. Their contestation of these democratized amenities obliged adult campers, parents, and government agencies to demarcate clearer boundaries of appropriate behaviour in provincial and national parks, and in so doing, also shaped the broader debate about permissiveness and modern youth.

It was timely – and also a bit weird – to be discussing the utility of high school yearbooks as historical sources and the rise of teenage binge drinking in the 1970s at the very moment such issues were making global headlines due to the contentious confirmation hearings for a certain Supreme Court nominee in the United States.

As I am not a historian of childhood and youth by training, I benefited immensely from the expert advice and supportive feedback provided by I-CYS staff, as well as by graduate students and faculty from departments including History, Education, and Geography. Their suggestions from different disciplinary perspectives helped open new avenues of thinking and steered me toward useful sources in the University Library.

I greatly enjoyed my stay in LA, as I learned some Lethbridgians call it. Kristine and her colleagues generously showed me around the city as well as the campus. Highlights included the London Road neighbourhood, with its many heritage homes; pizza pot pie at Top Pizza; the Southern Alberta Art Gallery and the Galt Museum; and the beautiful fall foliage. I only wish there’d been more time to explore the Oldman River valley and the coulees that drain into it. I’d return at the drop of a hat, and strongly recommend that you apply too."

Learn how to become a writing fellow here: http://www.uleth.ca/research/centres-institutes/institute-child-and-yout...