Nancy Deutsch (PhD04) Releases New Book, Pride in the Projects


Nancy Deutsch (PhD04), assistant professor of education at University of Virginia, recently released a new book, Pride in the Projects: Teens Building Identities in Urban Contexts. The book is based on her doctoral research in the Human Development and Social Policy program.

Pride in the Projects, published by New York University Press, explores how teenagers in U.S. inner cities grow up and discover their identities against a background of chaos and caring. Deutsch sees special importance in the relationships forged through settings such as after-school programs.

The book reports the research Deutsch completed over four years as a doctoral student at the School of Education and Social Policy. Deutsch did field work at the East Side Boys and Girls Club in a large Midwestern city as part of an evaluation under the direction of Professor Barton Hirsch.

"As I spent time at East Side, I noticed that for many teens, the club played an important part in their lives. Many of the youth 'grew up' at the club. I became interested in how teens used this after-school program as a space for developing their sense of identity," says Deutsch. The research at East Side led first to her dissertation and now Pride in the Projects.

Pride in the Projects contributes to understanding of the lives of urban teenagers. In contrast to previous approaches to adolescent identity development, one key message is the need to consider the importance of interpersonal relationships in settings such as after-school programs. "The book challenges researchers to go beyond thinking about individuation as the primary goal of adolescence and to consider the ways in which all of our identities, female and male, are negotiated and constructed within and through our relationships with other people. It demonstrates how racial, class and gender identities intersect and are actively constructed by youth in their interactions with peers and adults in settings such as this after-school program," says Deutsch.

For professional who work with young people and policy makers, Pride in the Projects provides important new information, especially in relation to after-school programs. As Deutsch says in her book, "Examining how youth negotiate and build identities in after-school contexts, settings in which they voluntarily choose to participate, can help researchers understand how youth use their social contexts and relationships in their construction of self and, thereby, how these and other settings can best support youth development."
By Marilyn Sherman with photo by Melissa Maki
Last Modified: 8/14/09