An interdisciplinary youth studies scholar, Jessica Taft's work focuses on the political lives of children and youth across the Americas, with an emphasis on youth activists and youth social movements. Theoretically, she is interested in how identity narratives shape social movement practices and look at how the subject categories of child, youth, adult, teenager, and girl are constructed within transnational and local political cultures, and how these subject categories matter for the strategies, organizational structures, and internal dynamics of social movements.
Her first book, Rebel Girls: Youth Activism and Social Change Across the Americas (NYU 2011), is an ethnography of teenage girl activists in five cities in North and South America. She has recently completed a book on intergenerational relationships and age-based power in the Peruvian movement of working children, entitled The Kids are in Charge: Activism and Power in Peru's Movement of Working Children (NYU 2019). She has published articles on “girl power” discourses, girls’ organizations and ideas about the public sphere, peer-driven political socialization among activist youth, and youth activists' conceptions of democracy, as well as an edited volume on youth citizenship and civic-political engagement.