The history of everyday life (Alltagsgeschichte), or social history (Sozialgeschichte), guides some of my research. Broadly speaking, I am interested in the experiences of everyday people as they navigate and engage with different environments, in Germany, and throughout its empires. I do so namely by concentrating on specific case studies, or micro-histories, embedded within broader narratives. For my dissertation now book publication I analyzed constructions of supposed young delinquents within the urban spaces of Munich.
History of Youth and Urban History
My dissertation and book focus on social constructions of youth in Munich between 1942 and 1973. It traces images or representations of young people, including the delinquent boy (der verwahrloste Junge), rowdies (Halbstarke), and teenagers. I argue that youth is not merely a construction but also a tool of social control. Whereas this emphasis closely follows Michel Foucault’s understanding of the “benefits of illegality” (Discipline and Punish), my analysis also draws on urban history and theoretical concepts like Stanley Cohen’s “moral panics.” An article based on my research appeared in the Journal for the History of Childhood and Youth in spring 2013. My book titled Coming of Age: Constructing and Controlling Youth in Munich, 1942-1973 was published in May 2016, and the introduction is available online; I was also able to discuss it in more detail for the New Books in History podcast. Overall, the book has been received positively – and the paperback version is scheduled for publication in July 2020.
“This is a strong contribution to the (still under-researched) post-war history of West Germany, one that also provides fresh insights into the histories of European youth and Cold War cultural politics. It transcends traditional markers of German history such as Stunde Null, moving from a ‘generational’ approach to one more rooted in the everyday history of youth.” [Alan McDougall, University of Guelph, backcover]
“….Kalb’s work does a remarkable job of balancing the views of authority figures and young people.” [Choice]
“Kalb’s creativity in examining how youth were designated as lawbreakers, black marketeers, and bohemian rowdies offers a glimpse into larger conversations about postwar society and the return of stability.” [Central European History]
“…and makes for some solid cultural history” [International Social Science Review]
Since the publication of my book in 2016 I have stayed engaged in this field – though it has arguably taken a backseat to my more recent research project. Apart from some conference presentations, I published a short vignette titled “‘Gammler,’ Juvenile Delinquency, and Moral Panics 1960s West Germany” in the online journal Europe Now in 2019. In this piece, I focus on the so-called Gammler wandering youth throughout postwar West Germany. I am thus expanding my analysis to reach beyond Munich. In the future, I might return to such work as I remain intrigued by migrating youth, discussions around delinquency, and youth culture.