© Sociologický ústav AV ČR, v.v.i., Praha 2011
The Formation of Identity in Teenage Mall Microculture:
A Case Study of Teenagers in Czech Malls*
JANA SPILKOVÁ and LUCIE RADOVÁ**
Charles University, Prague
Abstract: Geographies of children and youth are a surprisingly neglected research topic in the transforming (post-communist) countries, where many societal changes are taking place. This article introduces a research project that focused on teenagers and their leisure-time activities, concentrating especially on teenagers who spend the majority of their leisure time in shopping malls. The goal of the article is to reveal how such teenagers use the micro-space of the shopping mall, how they socialise, and how their social identities may be produced through different practices in the mall space. The study focused on teenagers aged 14–17 ‘hanging out’ in shopping malls in the largest Czech cities. The data were collected by participant observation and interviews. The teenagers studied have abandoned typical public spaces used for leisure time and produced their own spatial identities in the specifi c space of the shopping mall. They have created a true microculture through a combination of the personalities, locations, and events that they share in in the mall environment. The article also discusses interesting results concerning preference factors for leisure time activities in the mall environment. The concluding part of the article draws implications from the study for the future research agenda in the geographies and sociologies of youth.
Keywords: teenagers, hanging out, spatial microculture, geography of children and youth, shopping mall, Czech Republic
Sociologický časopis/Czech Sociological Review, 2011, Vol. 47, No. 3: 565–586 Introduction
Since the beginning of the 1990s, Central and Eastern Europe has within just fi fteen years lived through a process of retail development that usually takes perhaps fi fty years. This has considerably affected the spatial structure of the new retail environment and it has also affected consumer behaviour (shopping as a * This article is based on research undertaken within research project no. MSM 0021620831 ‘Geographical Systems and Risk Processes in the Context of Global Changes and European Integration’, sponsored by the Czech Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and project no. 205/08/P190 sponsored by the Czech Science Foundation.
** Direct all correspondence to: Jana Spilková, Lucie Radová, Department of Social Geography and Regional Development, Charles University, Albertov 6, 128 43 Prague 2, Czech Republic, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com. Sociologický časopis/Czech Sociological Review, 2011, Vol. 47, No. 3 566
leisure time activity), distorted by the previous lack of shopping opportunities. It seems that teenagers are one of the groups most likely to adapt easily to all these changes in the retail environment. International experience shows that a growing percentage of young people in large urban agglomerations of the ‘developed world’ spend their leisure time in shopping malls.
The shopping mall is, in principle, an ideal space for teenagers, whose access to many urban spaces may be limited, who have few leisure places to go to without structured activities or adult oversight, and who are not suffi ciently mobile and independent to decide about their leisure activities on their own. The shopping mall represents a familiar place, safely accessible by public transport, protected from the environment and unfavourable weather, offering many activities that are not restricted to just the adult population (cafés, cinema, fast food), and it is also a space that is considered safe. What is more, shopping and ‘fashion hunting’ are ‘musts’ for the majority of teenagers and foster the socialisation process and the hoped-for belonging to a particular peer group. Thus, some teenagers reproduce social identities by ‘hanging out’ in shopping...