Canadian Journal of Communication Vol 40 (2015) 350–351
©2015 Canadian Journal of Communication Corporation


Review

Giuliana Cucinelli
Concordia University


Out of the Basement: Youth Cultural Production in Practice and in Policy. By Miranda Campbell. Montréal, QC: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2013. 283 pp. ISBN 9780773541528.


This book delivers on its promise. In her book, Miranda Campbell successfully critiques the current ill-structured neoliberal conditions that surround and shape youth. This book answers the question of what youth cultural practices are and what conditions situate these practices, specifically youth small-scale and self-generated creative employment. Her book is well supported through her creative use of youth voices and real-life examples of youth engaged in cultural productions, including social media sensations.

The book is cleverly divided into three parts: practices, structures, and initiatives. In the first section, Campbell explores the different forms of youth creative practices and employment. Through individual life stories and narratives, the author maps out the challenges faced by young people exploring creative industry employment. Grounded in theories of youth culture and practices, as well as social relations, cultural production, participatory cultures, audience and access, the author establishes clear examples of the current conceptualization of youth and youth culture. Issues related to social structures and educational systems are examined in the following section. In the next section, the author explores the current and long-standing policies that affect youth. Campbell begins with Canadian cultural polices and moves to examine and compare with international policies, including the British system. Following this, she takes a close look at provincial aspects of cultural policies, including the Québec Education Program (QEP), highlighting the contradictions in the current lack of arts education in a province with a thriving cultural arts scene. In the final section, Campbell sheds light on how community and youth initiatives help to facilitate youth employment in creative industries.

The book is an excellent example of where policy and education need to focus in order to respond to this youth crisis. The reality is youth are adapting and challenging current outdated policies in order to sustain their employment. The real issues are deeply connected to social, and more importantly, educational systems. Campbell brings forward interesting issues in relation to this. The current neoliberal conditions are placing an emphasis on developing “compensates” and “skills,” but the questions remain for whom, and for which jobs? Educational reforms continue to push a curriculum grounded in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), and continue to ignore the importance and driving force in each of these disciplines: arts. As Campbell echoes throughout the book, creativity is key. Without updated policies in place, artists and creativity will eventually diminish, in turn influencing all employment disciplines. At the root of innovation is creativity, and without creativity being fostered in our schools through art-based classes and programs, we are loosing out on a generation of brilliant creative minds forced to render to dysfunctional policies and a broken system. As Campbell suggests, and it is a clear common thread that surfaces throughout the book, the various gaps in federal, provincial, and municipal policies are crystalized by examples of the realities faced by youth interested in creative industries.

In conclusion, Campbell’s book is essential for anyone and everyone interested in youth cultural productions. More importantly, every single policymaker, teacher, and parent should read this book. It serves as a mirror of the reality facing young people “stuck” in old-fashioned systems that are truly disabling their vocational lives, leading them to give-up or surrender to a neoliberal system that values “skills” over creative and innovative souls and minds. 



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