Holly Swyers is an associate professor of anthropology at Lake Forest College and the principal investigator of the Adulthood Project. The Adulthood Project is the third in a series of projects she has engaged in to investigate contemporary U.S. culture. The first of these projects involved 2 1/2 years of field work in U.S. high schools and culminated in her dissertation: Succeed Anyway: Life and Lessons in American High Schools. This monograph investigated the ways in which American students are taught to navigate the contradiction between freedom and equality, effectively making them into subjects and citizens of the United States. The second project resulted in the book Wrigley Regulars: Finding Community in the Bleachers. By spending over a dozen seasons among the self-defined community of regulars in the bleachers of Wrigley Field, Professor Swyers was able to uncover various practices that enabled the regulars to become a family-like institution. The example of the regulars helps reveal the patterns of behavior that Americans rely upon to extend their social networks beyond family and work relationships and allows us to see the way community is a thing that people do rather than a thing that people have. The Adulthood Project has a larger scope than either of the previous projects. Taking as its premise that one way to understand American culture is to understand what it means to be a "productive member of society" (i.e. an adult), the project requires wide ranging interviewing and media analysis. Professor Swyers has been using it to explore team ethnographic methods and crowd-sourcing with a long-term goal of producing a qualitative research database to which undergraduates and other researchers can contribute and from which researchers can examine American adulthood from a variety of angles beyond what statistics and quantitative data can reveal.

Posts By Holly:

Reflecting on Adulthood and Parenting

This morning, I read an article in the Washington Post on parenting as a member of Generation X by Alison Slater Tate. What struck me forcibly about this article, and what makes it stand out among so many decriers of the Millennials or the Plurals or whatever we’re calling the next generation, is that it shows

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The End of Summer

With classes right around the corner, we’re wrapping up the summer Adulthood research. It’s been a very productive summer, and it’s been exciting to watch my research assistants develop their own takes on the data we’ve collected and the current conversation around adulthood in the U.S. What strikes me most about this past summer are the

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August team reports

After taking a break from the Adulthood Project in July, the lab is up and running again for August, with a shift in focus toward data analysis. While we have a couple of potential interviews to do, the pause in operations has made it clear how much data we actually have already. The plan now

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Updates on Generations and on College Debt

Shortly after posting earlier this week regarding my frustration with media misimpressions, I discovered two useful things. One supports my argument that the supposed student debt crisis has been blown all out of proportion (this Brookings Institutions report), and the other corrects my idea that the media refers to everyone born after 1980 as Millennials.

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Media misimpressions

A number of things have crossed my desk in the past week that I feel compelled to respond to, in large part because I’ve grown deeply weary of the “kids these days” stories that dominate the media whenever so-called “millennials” are mentioned. Leaving aside the issue of who constitutes the millennials (pundits seem to include

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Thinking about the Big Picture

As this field season has been speeding by, I’m finding myself thinking hard about the way the Adulthood Project is evolving. On the one hand, there is the question at the heart of my own research, but at the same time, there is real teaching and learning happening more or less daily as different researchers

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A New Field Season

Over the course of the early phases of the Adulthood Project, I have experimented with different styles of team work, ranging from project development to field work. It has been a learning process for me to go from the typically solo work of ethnography to the team-based approach. One thing I didn’t fully grasp was that in

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Watching a Project Grow

Over the last several years, I have watched the Adulthood Project grow from a curious question (“Why do the college students I teach seem so anxiously committed to a single path to adulthood?”) to a sprawling research agenda involving over a dozen students, hundreds of interviews, and still more archived media reports. I am very excited