Pride in the Projects

Teens Building Identities in Urban Contexts

312 pages

3 illustrations

July, 2008

ISBN: 9780814719923



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Nancy L. Deutsch is Assistant Professor in the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia.

All books by Nancy L. Deutsch

Teens in America’s inner cities grow up and construct identities amidst a landscape of relationships and violence, support and discrimination, games and gangs. In such contexts, local environments such as after-school programs may help youth to mediate between social stereotypes and daily experience, or provide space for them to consider themselves as contributing members of a community.

Based on four years of field work with both the adolescent members and staff of an inner-city youth organization in a large Midwestern city, Pride in the Projects examines the construction of identity as it occurs within this local context, emphasizing the relationships within which identities are formed. Drawing on research in psychology, sociology, education, and race and gender studies, the volume highlights the inadequacies in current identity development theories, expanding our understanding of the lives of urban teens and the ways in which interpersonal connections serve as powerful contexts for self-construction. The adolescents’ stories illuminate how they find ways to discover who they are, and who they would like to be—in positive and healthy ways—in the face of very real obstacles. The book closes with implications for practice, alerting scholars, educators, practitioners, and concerned citizens of the positive developmental possibilities inherent in youth settings when we pay attention to the voices of youth.


  • "This is the most powerful and original book on adolescent development I have read in recent years. Pride in the Projects is beautifully written, rigorously researched, and passionately argued."

    —Greg Dimitriadis, author of Friendship, Cliques, and Gangs: Young Black Men Coming of Age in Urban America

  • "This book offers fresh perspectives on a range of issues."


  • "Recommended for professionals in every field who work with urban youth as it offers valuable insight into teens’ formation of identity and the factors that can influence that development."


  • "The most powerful and original book on adolescent development read in recent years. . .beautifully written, rigorously researched and passionately argued."

    —University of Virginia

  • Pride in the Projects will be a valuable resource for those interested in engaging a holistic view of the everyday lives of youth and serves as a powerful reminder of the knowledge gained when we privilege the voices of those we are striving to understand.”

    The Journal of Youth and Adolescence