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The identity and impact of Xers


Originally published in the Union College Magazine, Spring 2014

Christine Henseler, professor of Spanish and Hispanic Studies/chair of Modern Languages and Literatures

Generation X?

A lot of people just shrug, the demographic is non-descript to them, they can’t think of anything defining, said Christine Henseler. That or they imagine a bunch of malcontents slacking off to the tune of Nirvana’s “Nevermind.”

This is why Henseler studies the generation – her generation – a group of people born approximately between 1960/70 and 1980/90. In a new book she edited, Generation X Goes Global: Mapping a Youth Culture in Motion, Henseler and over 35 fellow scholars explore the identity and impact of Xers around the world.

What they discovered is that Xers are generally defined by transition. No matter the country, they’ve lived through intense social and political change – in South Africa the abolition of apartheid, in Greece the collapse of the Eastern block, and everywhere the Internet’s rise.

But Xers themselves also embody transition; they have become change-makers.

“Through it all, they have been paying attention, cynically sniping about the world and slowly adopting more active roles, developing new technologies, and speaking in different tongues of protest, comment, question and challenge,” Henseler said, quoting the book. “It is no surprise that the radicals of yesterday – the metalheads and punks – have become the revolutionaries of today. Instead of swallowing political propaganda, they are Googling for truth.”

To broaden this exploration of a group that, unlike the Baby Boomers, remains undefined and under-recognized for its contributions, Henseler developed a website (www.generationxgoesglobal.com). She welcomes contributions.

“My hope is that the book and site will deepen our understanding of who Generation X is,” Henseler said. “There are many stories still to be told about our impact on the world. It is time to speak up.”