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DePaul University School of Law




This Article looks at the coming-of-age stories in two recent films, Bend It Like Beckham and Real Women Have Curves, as an avenue to explore the question of constructing identity. Both films, arising out of the filmmakers' experiences, aim to offer representations of particular individuals in minority groups that challenge dominant representations. They also offer aspirational visions of how such individuals might find a way to construct a hybrid identity that allows them to negotiate their place within the various groups that claim them and within the broader society. How, the article asks, do the heroines in these films find ways to construct their identity in context, and what sort of cultural, social, and institutional arrangements facilitate, on the one hand, and hinder, on the other, their capacity to do so? Cultural norms and practices concerning women are often at the core of what a particular community deems to be essential components of its culture that must be transmitted from one generation to the next. Thus, debates about women and culture and about cultural assimilation versus cultural survival at their core implicate children and efforts by families and communities to socialize children. The article title also intentionally refers to a second meaning of coming-of-age: coming to helpful understandings of how best to understand questions regarding the interplay between identity and culture and the dynamic between individual and group identity. Studying the coming-of-age stories of adolescents, on the threshold of adulthood, offers a chance to see how they construct a self from, as philosopher K. Anthony Appiah has put it, the "tool kit of options made available by our culture and society." The Article's approach to identity recognizes the tension between freedom and determination and the interplay of choice and constraint in the construction of identity. Another useful orienting idea is that "culture" is not monolithic, homogeneous, and static, but contested, fluid, and in a continual process of reinterpretation.

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