The Subcultures Reader, Second Edition. Edited by Ken Gelder. 2005. New York: Routledge.
“The Field of Subcultural Studies” – Ken Gelder – pp. 1-18
Subcultures as “groups of people that are in some way represented as non-normative and/or marginal through their particular interests and practices, through what way they are, what they do and where they do it” (1). Different subcultures deal with subcultural difference – well, differently- celebrating, or dreading difference. Origins in 1940s, but ideas and presence of subculture has existence long prior to this – examinations of ‘fringe’ or ‘anti-‘ society folks, the inhabitants of ‘underworlds’ of ‘unproductivity and instability’ – in Elizabethan literature and into nineteenth century England – examination of lumpenproletariat by Marx (continues into English narrative of skinheads, mods, well into the 1970s, and migration of these ideas to America around turn of the century). Primary role of ethnography and anthropology in documenting subculture, as well as Chicago School of sociology. Subcultures are social groups, but socialness is unique to group. References to Horkheimer and Adorno’s culture industry – the homogenizing, rationalizing process that removes individuality from cultural production and consumption, as a root for cultural studies. However, subcultural studies looks to Tonnies (1887) ideas of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft – differentiation between community (folk, kinship, authentic relations) and society (modernity and capitalism, development, rationality) , respectively. However, unlike Adorno, community relates to the group, rather than society (to Tonnies, the elevation of the individual) ^ think of applications to Durkheim, here. Relates Turner’s communitas as anti-structure: “an expression of liminality, of social marginality and difference; a site of unmediated contact between people at the edges of society, unregulated by it and free from its orderly gaze, a realm of full and ‘total; experience” (Turner 1969, 136; here, 10). . “Subcultures may be non-normative, but they are not ‘normless’” (6). Scene, as defined by Irwin (1977) offers expression to a definable social world, with recognition of its fluidity in social identity and mobility – in terms of relationships, and multiplicity of membership. Post-subcultural studies begin in 1970s, Birmingham School, particularly in the work of Dick Hebdige – works away from class and domination as well as semiotics – instead, looks as transience, fragmentation, and fluidity of identity ^examine work on post-subcultures. Muggleton (2000)’s post-subculture views subculture as “a symptom of postmodern hyperindividualism” (6, here 13), where the desire to individualize promotes group affiliation – however, this seems to obscure social location and additional contexts of analyses.
Historicizing subcultural research – Chicago School worked to look at constituent, often ethnically-based groups of persons that had not “succeeded” in assimilation – Park’s “cities within cities” – also tying subcultural studies with emerging criminological study – however, 1970s critiques the vocabulary used, as most used terms of faddishness, or craze – did not speak to community, cohesion, or complexity.
Milton Gordon. 1947. Selection from “The Concept of the Sub-Culture and Its Application” (1947). Pp.46-50
Mentions of urban, rural, middle-class culture are generic and are taken uncritically, when we should more likely focus upon these classifications as subculture. Subculture as “a sub-division of a national culture, composed of a combination of factorable social situations such as class status, ethnic background, regional and rural or urban residence, and religious affiliation, but forming a functioning unity which has an integrated impact on the participating individual” (46, here – italics his). Sex, age, class, religion, ethnicity, etc. work to form an overlapping set of expectations and norms – ^here, examining nascent intersectionality? Leads us to inquire about access to resources and status, assumptions about uniformity of meaning, questions about deviance is labeled. However, subculture is associated more with personality and individual rather than context of larger social organization.
Albert K. Cohen. Selection from “A General Theory of Subcultures” (1955). Pp. 50-59
Strays from “psychogenic” understandings of delinquency, and thus, subculture – however, Cohen focuses on the role of choice and rationality in belonging and social action, yet still notes that most interactions are ritualized and are not consciously addressed. Human action is problem-based, and solutions are sourced from interactional and environmental contexts. Resources are finite, and thus, decisions work to delineate allocation – subcultural membership offers parameters on how to cope and access resources – how to rank importance of resources, etc. Acceptance of these norms promote subcultural assimilation; however, does this differentiate from wider society’s membership? Subcultural longevity is based on the subcultural adaptation’s ability to solve problems. However, focus is on problems of achieving status – what about other claims? Acknowledges that subcultural assumptions may not work across subcultural groups (^but what about even subcultural individuals?) Subcultures establish new status systems within selves, by creating acceptable space for deviance from wider norms – earning status within subculture creates loss of status outside of culture (^does this always have to be the case, this inverse relationship?)
John Irwin – “Notes on the Status of the Concept Subculture” (1970). Pp. 73-80
Questions Gordon’s basis of subculture on ethnicity, religion, etc. as arbitrary – these divisions are not necessarily equivalent, or recognized by anyone aside from sociologists. Subcultures not as social segments and patterns within, but of social worlds and perspectives shared – “the social world can be and often is an explicit category in the minds of a broader population than social scientists and the group carrying the subculture” (74) – that is, it is more widely recognized as different than just in the minds of sociologists. Shared and explicit category, multiple varieties of choice of scene available for participation, and variability and commitment to a scene is probable. Introduces reflexivity, subcultural pluralism, and subcultural relativism – being able to question and examine subcultural practice and self-practice simultaneously. (Side critique to dramaturgy – see Messinger et al 1962 – state that natural interaction is un-self-conscious; instead dramaturgy is useful as an analytical, but not applicative model.) Irwin contests this, noting that within subcultural frames, most people are “on” – implying that front-stage behavior is being enacted.
The Birmingham tradition and Cultural Studies – Ken Gelder Pp. 81-85
CCCS – Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham University founded in 1964, closed in 2002, turned away from criminology, urban sociology, ethnographic methods and focused on popular culture, media, and everyday life – analysis based on ideology, culture is based upon some form of (class) conflict. “Class happens when some men, as a result of common experiences (inherited or shared), feel and articulate the identity of their interests as between themselves, and as against other men whose interests are different from (and usually opposed to) theirs” (Thompson 1980, 8-9; here 81-82). Phil Cohen’s (1972) piece notes that subcultures are subordinated, and must be working-class in origin, as a form of compromise to larger social orders – does not pose social resistance. Focus on Gramsci’s idea of hegemony – coercing subcultures with the opportunity to “have space” in system. Often, CCCS studies are more textual than empirical ^ how to unite these approaches? Hebdige’s punks as oppositional, yet able to be integrated. Incorporation happened through conversion of punk style into mass-produced styles, or labeling punk ideology as deviant.
John Clarke, Stuart Hall, Tony Jefferson and Brian Roberts – “Subcultures, Cultures, and Class” (1975). Pp. 94-104
Subcultures must be “focused around certain activities, values, certain uses of material artefacts, territorial spaces etc. which significantly differentiate them from the wider culture. But, since they are sub-sets, there must also be significant things which bind and articulate them with the ‘parent’ culture” (here 94). Subcultures are varying in density – tightly or loosely bound; when distinguished by age, labeled youth subculture. Subcultural members may have different modes of dress or interaction, but are still living within same society and often sharing space with most other mainstream peers. Refers to Gramsci’s hegemony as how ruling classes exert total social authority over subordinate classes. “Hegemony works through ideology, but it does not consist of false ideas, perceptions, definitions. It works primarily by inserting the subordinate class into the key institutions and structures which support the power and social authority of the dominant order.[…] Often, this subordination is secured only because the dominant order succeeds in weakening, destroying, displacing or incorporating alternative institutions of defence and resistance thrown up by the subordinate class (96). Hegemony as non-singular, but maintained through an alliance of rule-class fractions – historical bloc. Not just class rule, but a consented-to ruling and more so, leading that is coerced and negotiated. Subcultures help to negotiate these spaces and territories, and provide ideologies to help in these negotiations and provide generational consciousness which separates self from parental identification (potentially, a metaphor for larger, supporting culture that hosts and leads them – noting subcultural participation demands a certain degree of affluence and ability to consume to set selves apart from other groups. ^focus on class, consumption, and age in subcultural involvement does not work to explain multi-class and multigenerational subcultural participation. “Commodities are […] cultural signs. They have already been invested, by the dominant culture, with meanings, associations, social connotations. Many of these meanings seem fixed and ‘natural’. But this is only because the dominant culture has so fully appropriated them to its use, that the meanings which it attributes to the commodities have come to appear as the only meaning which they can express. In fact, in cultural systems, there is no ‘natural’ meaning as such. Objects and commodities do not mean any one thing. They ‘mean’ only because they have already been arranged, according to social use, into cultural codes of meaning, which assign meanings to them” (102). ^however, this implies that subcultures cannot create their own objects or meanings to accompany them- must everything pass through the meaning-making-machine of the dominants? Though meanings offered to these new objects can be founded in meanings that are sourced in domination, cannot meanings come from purely subcultural interactions and meaning-making? – Meaning making in subcultures can invert or appropriate from dominant culture – “The new meanings emerge because the ‘bits’ which had been borrowed or revived were brought together into a new and distinctive stylistic ensemble: but also because the symbolic objects – dress, appearance, language, ritual occasions, styles of interaction, music – were made to form a unity with the groups relations, situation, experiences: the crystallisation in an expressive form, which then defines the group’s public identity. The symbolic aspects cannot, then, be separated from the structure, experiences, activities, and outlook of the groups as social formations. Subcultural style is based on the infra-structure of group relations, activities, and contexts” (103). Distinguishing between structures (“socially organised positions and experiences of the class in relation to the major institutions and structures”), cultures (“range of socially organised and patterned responses to these basic material and social conditions” and biographies (the ‘careers’ of particular individuals through these structures and cultures – the means by which individual identities and life-histories are constructed out of collective experiences”) (104)
Angela McRobbie and Jenny Garber – “Girls and Subcultures” (1977) Pp. 105-112
Girls’ participation within ethnographic accounts of subculture are lacking – current studies uncritically review or obscure the presence of girls at all in their work. “When girls are acknowledged in this literature, it tends to be in terms of their sexual attractiveness” (105) – unwillingness to speak with researchers, presumption of girls of male researchers to be in cahoots with male subcultural members? “Girls’ subcultures may have become invisible because the very term ‘subculture’ has acquired such strong masculine overtones” (106) – due to marginalization of women into private spheres in larger society, pressing subcultural participation and the associated actions, consumption patterns, and locations to be considered anti-feminine, in an era where a stringent notion of femininity demanded financial dependency and prospects for marriageability – women’s wages were considerably lower than men’s – less funds toward subcultural spending. Many of girls’ subcultural activities were often based in the home, rather than the studied and policed streets. Discussions of motorbike girl with sexual access, mod girl with short-term disposable income used toward consumption of clothing, the hippy of pressing off marriage – where “Femininity moved imperceptibly between the ‘earth-mother’, the pre-Raphaelite mystic, the kind of ‘goddess’ serenaded by Bob Dylan, and the dreamy fragility of Marianne Faithful” (111) – most having to involve the silence and compliance of women in male-dominated subcultures – although, progressing to women’s aggression and destruction as subcultures evolved. McRobbie reasons that girls find it cheaper, easier, and less risky to participate in mainstream culture.
Dick Hebdige – “Subculture: The Meaning of Style” (1975) Pp. 121-131
Subcultures as “noise” – potentials for semantic anarchy, as temporary kinks in system of representation. Horror and chaos emerging from the breaking of culturally-held taboos, particularly in punk scene, however, these are co-opted into dominant frameworks of meaning, while simultaneously casting them as distinct others – issuing moral panics. “As the subculture beings to strike its own eminently marketable pose, as its vocabulary (both visual and verbal) becomes more and more familiar, so the referential context to which it can be most conveniently assigned is made increasingly apparent. Eventually, the mods, the punks, the glitter rockers can be incorporated, brought back into line, located on the preferred ‘map of the problematic social reality’ (Geertz 1964) at the point where boys in lipstick are ‘just kids dressing up’, where girls in rubber dresses are ‘daughters just like yours’…. The media, as Stuart Hall (1977) has argued, not only record resistance, they ‘situate it within the dominant framework of meanings’”[…] (122). Occurs through 1) “conversion of subcultural signs (dress, music, etc.) into mass-produced objects (i.e. the commodity form)” and/or 2) “the ‘labelling’ and re-definition of deviant behavior by dominant groups – the police, the media, the judiciary (i.e. the ideological form) (122). Hebdige notes that “a subculture is concerned first and foremost with consumption. It operates exclusively in the leisure sphere…. It communicates through commodities even if the meanings attached to those commodities are purposefully distorted or overthrown. […] As soon as the original innovations which signify ‘subculture’ are translated into commodities and made generally available, they become ‘frozen.’ Once removed from their private contexts by the small entrepreneurs and big fashion interests who produce them on a mass scale, they become codified, made comprehensible, rendered at once public property and profitable merchandise.” (122-123). ^is this true? What does Hebdige mean by ‘frozen’? This commodity adoption occurs regardless of political orientation of subculture. Ideological adoption creates subcultures as Others – “trivialized, naturalized, domesticated” as a way to dealing with threat OR, “transformed into meaningless exotica, a ‘pure object, a spectacle, a clown,’ (Barthes 1972) (124) – this promotes “the cycle leading from opposition to defusion, from resistance to incorporation encloses each successive subculture” (124) – rituals of subculture are often rooted in conspicuous consumption, even though by some subcultural standards, certain types of consumption may be refused. This is analogous to bricolage – a bricklayer metaphor, imbuing the attribution of meaning – “Together, object and meaning constitute a sign, and, within any one culture, such signs are assembled, repeatedly, into characteristic forms of discourse. However, when the bricoleur re-locates the signicant object in a different position within that discourse, using the same overall repertoire of signs, or when that object is placed within a different total ensemble, a new discourse is constituted, a different message conveyed” (Clarke 1975) – the use of commonly recognized symbols destructed and (re)constructed in a way that commits “semiotic guerrilla warfare” (Eco 1972), but in ways that were made to reflect subcultural group life – “The objects chosen were, either intrinsically or in their adapted forms, homologous with the focal concerns, activities, group structures and collective self-image of the subculture” (127), but even these created signs and meanings were not immune to question and dissection.
Angela McRobbie “Second-Hand Dresses and the Role of the Ragmarket” (1989) Pp.132-142
Magazine iD in early 1980s stopped young people to ask what they were wearing, developing a form of street-based style advice – many opted for ragmarket. Shopping has been considered feminine activity – however, consumption through subculture has often been examined through masculine lens, with subcultural men under review. Shopping long attributed to female-enslavement through capitalist and consumerist practice; however, Carter (1979) examines how shopping can be empowering event. Buying and selling has been presumed to be women’s work, and thus, unexamined. Ragmarket roots in 1960’s, where buying used clothing conjured stigmas of poverty – however, hippies were concerned with “realness” and craftsmanship of materials, in resistance to synthetic materials of high fashion, which in turn, offered a semi-entrepreneurial network surrounding these countercultural market centers, with cinemas, restaurants, and art galleries0
Post-subcultures – Pp. 143-147
Jock Young – “Mass society is rationalized and alienating, but sociality provides a bond that is ‘emotional’ and ‘empathetic’ (Gelder here 146). Maffesoli ties tribalism’s solidarity to a diverse, postmodern primitiveness, focusing on the development of ritual and shared customs.
Stanley Cohen “Symbols of Trouble” (1980) Pp. 157-168
Resistance in subculture becomes coded in symbols – where “… ‘humble objects’ can be magically ‘appropriated’; ‘stolen’ by subordinate groups and made to carry ‘secret’ meanings which express, in code, a form of resistance to the order which guarantees their continued subordination” (Hebdige 1979, 18; here, 163). However, Cohen argues, that this resistance is not developed completely and totally internally to the group – other influences have to work to contextualize the resistance, and what they’re resisting is, critiquing Hebdige.
Ken Gelder – “Introduction to Part Five: Style, Fashion, Signature” Pp. 271-275
“Subcultures develop a particular ‘look’, and they express themselves in particular ways: linguistically, musically, and so on. The way subcultural participants dress, the way they might talk or write (their ‘argot’ or slang), the sounds they might produce or listen to, the media they might create, the designs and technologies they might use – these all work to produce social identity for the participants themselves and distinguish those people from others” (271). Fashion as likely one of the most immediate and recognizable traits of subcultural production and presentation. Simmel’s “Fashion” in 1904 notes that increase of production and turnover in fashion alluded to increasing pace of consumer capitalism – fashion as “the imitation of a given pattern and thus satisfies the need for social adaptation…. At the same time, and to no less a degree, it satisfies the need for distinction, the tendency towards differentiation, change and individual contrast” (Simmel 1904, cited in Frisby and Featherstone 1997; 189, here 271) – fashion simultaneously produces imitation and differentiation. Fashion can indicate conspicuous consumption – economic affluence or protest of political/economic conditions – (can be raced, sexed, aged, etc.) (^move away from the desk-bound semiotics of symbols, and back into the ethnographic, interactive spheres of the Chicago school, to let consumers of these fashions to explain and decode symbols, instead of interpreting them in a falsely-objective, removed manner). “Style and territory are connected, of course: one’s subcultural distinctions can flourish in one place and go utterly unnoticed in another” (275).
Dick Hebdige – “Posing… Threats, Striking… Poses: Youth, Surveillance, and Display” (1983) – Pp. 288-298
Applies Foucaultian applications of diffuse power to sexuality, fashion, youth, and subcultural display – applies Foucaultian mode of genealogy to explore how Industrial Revolution created new modes of production, urbanization, social/capital mobility – promoting anonymity in the enlarged and alienated crowd. Because of the surveillance imposed on monitoring youth rebellion, we see that gestures, poses, and stances become ways of communicating dissent – “that the politics of youth culture is a politics of gestures, symbol, and metaphor, that it deals in the currency of signs and that the subcultural response is, thus, always essentially ambiguous” (297). ^think about this quote – because this is a point of debate – “Subculture is, then, neither simply an affirmation or a refusal, neither simply resistance against symbolic order nor straightforward conformity with the parent culture. It is … a declaration of independence, of Otherness, of alien intent, a refusal of anonymity, of subordinate status. It is an insubordination. And at the same time, it is also a confirmation of the fact of powerlessness, a celebration of impotence. Subcultures are both a play for attention and a refusal, once attention has been granted…” (297).
Kobena Mercer – “Black Hair/Style Politics” (1987) – Pp. 299-311
Hair as a symbolic source of power, yet often, black hair has come to be known (and in-group labeled) as unkept – “uncultivated”- where racism’s impacts become embodied and hair becomes an ethnic signifier, a tool to demonstrate in/civility – hair as politicized – where naturalness of black hair becomes signified with opposition. Dreadlocks inferred naturalness, rebellion – wearing of dashikis, head wraps, elaborate embroidery was a means to demonstrate preference for removal of Westernized influence, and promote Afrocentric ideology, identity, and consumption. Promoting Black reclamation of beauty where White aesthetic had differentiated them. However, commercialization in market promoted adoption of Afro as a means to participate in countercultural “looks” without ideological identification – hippies worked to demonstrate disaffection from Western life, and hair became another means to contest this – a way to purposefully Other self. Adoption of black hairstyle and fashion was a practice in opposition – “Like the Afghan coats and Kashmiri caftans worn by the hippy, the dashiki was reframed by dominant definitions of ethnic otherness as ‘exotica’: its connotations of cultural nationalism were clawed back as just another item of freakish exoticism for mass consumption” (304)
Introduction to Part Seven: Scenes of Music – Ken Gelder – Pp. 433-435
Eclectic nature of musical tastes provide multiple loose affiliations more so than singular identification, including subcultural membership – music often produced in industrial and commercial contexts, so that often, cultural tastes can be prescribed top down; however, subcultural tastes are presumed to be active and generative, where innovation stems from the bottom up. Ecstatic rave experience as a means to escape daily pressures and self (Reynolds 1999, 238).
Will Straw – “Communities and Scenes in Popular Music” (1991) – Pp. 469-478
Defining a scene – musicality within geographic particularity – however, geography presumes some sort of stability in population; music scene implies cultural practices, exchange, and communication that may be more fluid. “[…] the exercise of combining styles or genres will rarely produce the sense of a synthesis whose constituent elements are displaced, or through which musical communities are brought into new alliances, as has been the case at particular transitional points within rock history. Rather, one sees the emergence of a wider variety of stylistic or generic exercises, in which no style begins as privileged or as more organically expressive of a cultural point of departure” (472). Transitions, then, are idiosyncratic, rather than collective redirections. Evidences of this are marked in the slowness of his adaptation, and the similar cultural values (of white bohemia, as Straw notes) that translate the uptake of music, despite unique geographic areas. “Bringing together the activities of dance and musical consumption, the dance club articulates the sense of social identity as embodied to the conspicuous and differential display of taste. As such, it serves to render explicit the distribution of knowledges and forms of cultural capital across the vectors of gender, race, and class” (474).
James Farrer – “Disco ‘Super-Culture’: Consuming Foreign Sex in the Chinese Disco” (1999) – Pp.479 -490
Chinese disco as a globalizing, appropriating force that works to use imagery and language of Western dance and status (clubs named Hollywood, Broadway, etc.), that work as fields for youth to experiment in cosmopolitanism and eroticism – using differential dress from every-day to subvert cultural prescriptions of masculinity, femininity, acceptable sexuality – dance not only as a means to sexual activity, but as a type of sexual expression (Ward 1993, 22) – as a “safe” space for sexual expression by women (McRobbie 1984; Peiss 1986) – although Chinese discos are not an arena for dating, most activity that occurs is through peer groups. Foreigner’s presence heightens perception of cosmopolitanism of club, and work to construct a sexual self-image of watching, and being watched. “The cosmopolitan disco culture thus offers a varied palette of sexual themes and a place for sexual playfulness, its transnational mélange of sounds and images marking it as a space apart from everyday life where such play is possible. Dancers use these transnational and local discourses tactically to enhance their own sense of pleasure, desirability and autonomous choice […] The disco milieu is not a place for constructing social solidarities in opposition to the global marketplace but for engaging the market through fantasies of the self as a desirable sexual object” (488/490). Uptake of club culture and dance communities has, so far, yet to take off.
Howard Rheingold – “Introduction to The Virtual Community” (1994) – Pp. 518 – 529
No single, specific, monolithic online subculture, but a system of subcultures that gather around a variety of interests that sometimes intersect with real-life practices and interpersonal relations. Virtual communities offer leverage to everyday people at little personal investment – social, economic, political outlets and sway. Acts as a sphere of discourse creation. CMC – computer-mediated communications facilitated by the conceptual space of “cyberspace”- where commerce, dialogue, power, and personality can convene and be expressed.
Stephen Duncombe – “Community: The Zine Scene” (1997) – Pp. 530 -540
– historical context of 1950s Beats, countercultural 1960s flourished in the White Flight of the suburbanites, however, return of the middle class to this hip locales priced bohemians out of these centers of “excitement and cultural vivacity that living in bohemian neighborhoods offered, and had good-paying jobs to ensure that they could live where they pleased” (536) – bohemians had to move out, and were replaced by Yuppies, ever in pursuit of the fruits of the lucrative culture industry – “The world in which we live is an increasingly mobile one and becoming ever more decentralized across space. Besides, there was always something contradictory about nailing a name synonymous with Gypsies and vagabonds to a fixed location” (537). “Bohemia today is first and foremost not a single bohemia – it is many and they are widely dispersed [….] The reasons for this dispersal are multiple, foremost being the fact that bohemia followed in the shadow of mainstream society, spreading out of the cities and into the suburbs. But this dispersal is also linked to more recent phenomena: gentrification and a superheated culture market” (536)
Paul Hodkinson – “Communicating Goth: On-line Media” (2002) – Pp. 564-574
Instead of working to dissolve or hybridize boundaries of goth culture, the internet has worked to reinforce boundaries and concentrate involvement, counter to most literature (that of Turkle 1995 – where internet becomes “‘a culture of simulation’ characterized by the ability to ‘invent ourselves’ by moving freely between an infinite number of potential identities and, indeed, playing out several at any one moment in time” (here 564). Discussion boards and moderators can work to monitor and censure opinions, particularly those of new-comers. More experienced board members can take on the positions of moderators, thus already having familiarity with expectations and norms of the board. Goth online communities did not advocate the replacement of off-line lives with online ones, but worked to facilitate real-world subcultural practice – through “providing specialist knowledge, constructing values, offering practical information, and generating friendships” (569-570) ^Do social networks such as Pinterest work to communicate this similar bonds, or do magazines work to facilitate this type of value-sharing? Discussion threads and websites facilitated debate and discussion of new norms – particularly of fashion, and acceptability of fashion (even in some gendered contexts – whether or not it was appropriate for men to wear skirts, and on what occasion, as well as opportunities to participate in off-line subcultural activities, such as shows, meet-ups, and social events: “The interactive nature of such forums enabled something of an on-line equivalent of ‘word of mouth’ to take place. Its advantage over its traditional face-to-face equivalent, though, was the size of the audience for each contribution” (572). – Internet is not a separate entity for socializing or living, but a means to facilitate and enhance on-ground existences and relations (Kendall 1999; 60, here 574).
Martin Roberts – “Notes on the Global Underground: Subcultures and Globalization” (2004) – Pp. 575 -586
Cultures as increasingly deterritorialized and mobile (Clifford 1992), but debates as to whether or not the result of this is homogenization or hybridization. Little attention placed on subcultures in studies. Anglo-American bias on subcultures is inherent with its definition – as sociocultural difference within modern societies – (how, then, does this impact otherwisely “non-modern” societies?) Cosmopolitanism as non-monolithic – as a plurality and overlap of cosmopolitanisms, contributing to the cosmopolitan imaginary, but is this simply a practice reserved for leisure classes? Contests the notion of subcultures as tribal analogy – how does the problematic association with the ‘pre-modern’ tribe explain postmodern and global extensions of subculture? Interested in “the appropriation and consumption by subcultural groups, typically originating from the former colonial powers, of the (in many cases commodified) symbolic systems and cultural practices of indigenous, aboriginal or otherwise ‘exotic’ societies” (578).
“What is clear, however, is that the increasing cosmopolitanism of the global culture industry today greatly expands the repertoire of resources for the formation of group identities, within the West as well as outside it. The globalization of subcultures is part of this larger process, and as we shall see, subcultural identities today are increasingly characterized by a similar cosmopolitanism [….] for example, whereas rock music in Western societies or anime in Japan occupy a mainstream position within their respective cultural contexts, they may be coded as subcultural once appropriated outside them” (578). Coins term subculture industry – “to refer to the paradoxical commercialization of subcultural production, identities, and symbolic practices – paradoxical because the latter typically position themselves in opposition to the commercial mainstream represented by the culture industry itself” (578), involving rapid incorporation by mainstream forces, and the increased production of subcultural capital in differentiated ways – often facilitated by the bottom-up, rather than mainstream and elite top-down culture industry tactics of creation and incorporation. “While cultural capital in the old-fashioned sense of the term continues to function as a source of social distinction, it is ‘subcultural capital’ that is sought most avidly by the socio-economic elites of the younger generation” (Thornton 1995, here 579) – contradictory, though, as exampled through urban black underclass fetishization of white high-cultural prestige (Fendi, Gucci), whereas white middle class youth seek black underclass elements to appropriate for sake of prestige (Eminem, etc.).
“The rituals and iconography of the Goa-trance movement mimic those of imagined ‘primitive’ cultures, often haphazardly and in overtly exoticist forms, reproducing the modern myth of the native’s closeness to nature. Raves are typically held in remote locations such as deserts, beaches or jungles, and timed to coincide with cyclic natural events such as full moons or eclipses, equinoxes and solstices. Primitivist fashion statements such as body-painting, hair-braiding and piercing are common. In this primitivist world, the DJ becomes a shaman, leading audiences on an initiatory journey where the boundaries between self and other, individual consciousness and the natural world, seem to dissolve” (582). Trance tourism orchestrated by global tourist and entertainment industries – where high prices work to exclude certain undesirable consumers and locals. Subcultural consumption becomes a means to conspicuously consume culture, cosmopolitanism, and experience (what is preformed to be an assumption of) globalized hybridity. Seeking of non-Western Other becomes an easy way to distinguish self from rest – seeking the “uncolonized” and “exotic” as a means to escape the mass-cultural mainstream – “As soon as a new style is picked up on by the culture industry, it loses interest and is discarded for another” (585 ^how then, can relatively static subcultural fashions, say Victorian goth, stay as they are?)
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