Valerie Harwood, University of Wollongong

Harwood, V. (2012). Disorderly. In S. Talburt & N. Lesko (Eds.), Keywords in youth studies: Tracing affects, movements, knowledges (pp. 116-120). New York: Routledge.


Over the past 30 years the word disorderly has become increasingly linked to discourses of mental disorder. This change points to the effects that the social and cultural has in the production of "scientific" knowledge of youth. Unlike uses in the mid-20th century, the word disorderly is now medicalized, conjuring images of aberrant behavior together with psychopathology. Earlier depictions of disorderliness such as James Dean's famous role as Jim Stark, the drunk and disorderly youth outsider in Rebel Without a Cause (Weisbart & Ray, 1955), were not underwritten with medicalized notions. Such representations linked youth with "out of order" behavior, attributing youthfulness with drunkenness and irresponsibility. The somewhat uncomplicated incorporation of mental disorder into the everyday is due to the creep of psychiatric concepts into wider cultural knowledge. From this perspective the production of disorderly meanings can be understood as cultural effects of medicalization and psychopathologization.