THE CRUCIBLE OF YOUTH: JUVENILE DELINQUENCY AND THE MAKING OF MODERN MEXICO CITY, 1938-1968
Vaughan, Mary Kay
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In "The Crucible of Youth," I examine the socialization of youth as part of the Mexican welfare state's larger project to modernize the nation and the family in the post-revolutionary era, from 1938-1968. My dissertation demonstrates how youth were the focus of new public institutions, such as schools, gymnasia, and reformatories designed to educate, regenerate, and moralize. A showpiece of these projects was the Juvenile Court, which opened its doors in 1927. The Court was designed as a totalizing institution with a revolutionary mission to initially protect and assist orphaned and abandoned youth. I trace the Court's evolution in the decades following its inauguration and document its expansion that included numerous clinics for testing minors' mental and physical health, a network of correctional facilities with work and sports programs, and special police units to monitor youth behavior in the capital. As a consequence of the attempts to socialize wayward adolescents and unruly children, I discover how these minors unwittingly became major players in state formation and in turn, tested the limits of the Mexican welfare state. Their contestation of social mores and notions of what constituted `normal' and `deviant' behavior for young people in Mexico City, shaped social relations in the capital along class and gender lines. My research draws from official documents and individual case files from the Juvenile Court in Mexico City, academic literature from criminology, psychology, and sociology, and sources from visual culture such as films and sensationalist press. I observe the scientific underpinnings of juvenile crime theory and the social role that science, particularly eugenics, came to play in assessing the traits of the popular classes writ large. I also examine how social workers' reports shaped the discussion on delinquency, revealing the power relationships between these agents of the state and the most vulnerable population of the city, poor and working class youth. Lastly, I analyze narratives about juvenile crime represented by popular press which showcase public anxieties about the maintenance of gender and class roles in society, and the challenges of modernity, like "rebels without a cause" to stabilizing the modern urban family.