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Domesticating Instability and Learning New Body Care: An Ethnographic Analysis of Cleanness Practices on the Threshold of Adolescence (France and Italy)

TitleDomesticating Instability and Learning New Body Care: An Ethnographic Analysis of Cleanness Practices on the Threshold of Adolescence (France and Italy)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsDiasio N
Secondary TitleItalian Journal of Sociology of Education
Date Published10/2017
PublisherPadova University Press
Place PublishedPadova, IT
ISSN Number2035-4983
Keywordsage transition, children, subjectivation, techniques of the body

Situations of instability and uncertainty such as age changes and changes in the body constitute privileged moments to analyze informal learning in daily life (Brougère, 2009). Starting from an ethnography carried out in France and Italy, we show how children appropriate “new” techniques of the body through verbal incitation, mimetic processes, and through the circulation of objects, sensory absorption, and moral and social judgments. These learning processes allow for the acquisition of “confident” and socially correct gestures in times when the body changes and partly becomes a stranger to itself, which imposes both a critical distance and the acquisition of new habits. These procedures are deployed through three modes: intensification of existing practices, adjustment of these practices, and a search for the right measure. However, acquiring such know-how requires a capacity to manage a variety of demands, and skill in orchestrating them and appropriating them. Blunders, failures and badly or barely successful attempts are of central importance for this type of learning, and constitute a fundamental dimension of the process of subjectivation.