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Breaking bored: Boredom, gender and risk-taking among young greasers in Sweden
Linköping University, The Tema Institute, The Department of Gender Studies. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
2012 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In this article the author discusses how the experience of boredom becomes a vital part of the narratives and practices of a group of young greasers in a peri-urban community in Sweden. The greasers’ risk-taking practices with vehicles (drifting and speeding) can be understood in a more nuanced way by introducing boredom as an analytical tool, intersected with an analysis of conceptions and norms around gender, age and place. Boredom is understood to be a material resource for the young people to draw upon and can be analysed as a discursive spatial strategy, denoting the greasers active engagement with an experienced boredom that is both imposed upon them externally and (re)created by themselves.


Understanding boredom in the way outlined above breaks with the colloquial and scholarly understanding, where boredom is most commonly depicted as a negative mental state of specific individuals (most of the psychological research goes under this rubric) or as a negative condition of Western postmodern societies (most of the sociological, philosophical and literary research can be placed here). Rather than perceiving and conceptualising boredom as an inherent spatial characteristic, boredom is negotiated in relation to place. From this angle, the greasers engage with the stereotypical notion of their community as boring and backwards by creating a counter image. The greasers take action, quite literally, against the notion of a backward and boring rurality enforced upon them and their community, by claiming and occupying public space and by practicing risk taking with their vehicles.


A large part of how the young expressed themselves around drifting or speeding is all about “having fun”. “To have fun” is for the greasers intertwined with perceptions and experiences of boredom in two distinctive ways: a) when you have fun in the right way (with vehicles or by joking about accidents) you can opt for a greaser identity which per definition is non-boring and b) this fun-loving identity makes it possible to use boredom as a resource where risk-taking appears to be the ”natural” outcome – which in turn function to remedy experiences of boredom.


At a more theoretical level, the discursive spatial strategies are discussed in relation to dominant and normative forms of masculinity. Analysing the risk-taking practices as violations in a much broader sense than the narrow scope of traffic violations, permit a framework that can be connected to the reproduction of (affective) inequality. Within this framework, boredom is understood as a discursive spatial strategy that re-create intersectional power differences related to age, gender and place. To be more specific, the discourse on boredom upholds dominant and normative forms of masculinity by appropriating public space (and thus distancing oneself from the femininized private space) and exercising and encouraging violations with vehicles.


The ethnographic material I draw upon in this paper originates from the fieldwork I carried out in a periurban community, Samplinge, in Sweden in year 2010. The fieldwork consisted of participant observation of regular visitors aged between 15 to 18 years old (fifteen boys and seven girls) at the local youth center and a central meeting place in the community in the evenings – the local shop’s entrance courtyard – as well as six group interviews and twelve individual interviews with the same visitors. These visitors are known as the local greasers. I have also conducted what I call ride alongs where I have been a passenger in some of the greasers’ cars. Also, seventeen pupils from grade nine in the local high school – not regular visitors of the youth center – were interviewed, in groups of two (thirteen interviews) or individually (four interviews). All in all thirty five interviews have been executed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
gender, masculinity, age, place, spatial boredom
Keyword [sv]
kön, maskulinitet, ålder, plats, rumslig tristess
National Category
Gender Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-89926OAI: diva2:610445
Masculinities in Motion - Men, Gender Equality and Quality of Life, 31 May - 1 June 2012, Oslo, Norway
Vinnova, 2006-03261
Available from: 2013-03-11 Created: 2013-03-11 Last updated: 2013-03-20

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Joelsson, Tanja
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