The Post-Subcultures Reader

The Post-Subcultures Reader

The Post-Subcultures Reader

The Post-Subcultures Reader


Once it was just Mods and Rockers or Hippies and Skinheads. Now we have Riot Grrls and Rappers; Modern Primitives and Metalheads; Goths, Clubcultures and Fetishists; Urban Tribes, New Age Travellers and Internet fan groups. In a global society with a rapid proliferation of images, fashions and lifestyles, it is -unsurprisingly - becoming increasingly difficult to pinpoint what 'subculture actually means. Enthusiastically adopted by the media and academia, subculture may be a convenient way to describe more unconventional aspects of youth culture, but it does little to help us comprehend the diverse range of youth groups in todays so-called postmodern world. How can we begin to rethink, reformulate and replace outdated notions of subcultures to make them applicable to the experiences of youth in the twenty-first century? And to what extent does this involve the challenging of past orthodoxies about spectacular subcultural styles?From Seattle anarchist punks to UK Asian underground music, Canadian female X-Files fans to Australian dance cultures, this groundbreaking book draws on a wide variety of international case studies to investigate the new relationships among youth subcultural music, politics and taste. Is it possible to work within the existing limitations of subculture, or has the concept exhausted its usefulness? Can attempts at re-conceptualization, such as neo-tribes, sub-streams and micro-networks, adequately capture the experience of fragmentation, flux and fluidity that is central to contemporary youth culture?This timely book is the first to challenge and reconsider the use of subculture. In doing so, it questions the possibility and relevance of what might be termed post-subcultural studies and helps to chart the emergence of a new paradigm for the study of youth subculture.


Subcultures represent noise (as opposed to sound): interference in the orderly sequence which leads from real events and phenomena to their representation in the media. We should therefore not underestimate the signifying power of the spectacular subculture not only as a metaphor for potential anarchy ‘out there’ but as an actual mechanism of semantic disorder: a kind of temporary blockage in the system of representation.

(Hebdige 1979: 90)

Subcultures as noise: a metaphor that possesses a deep, romantic and poetic resonance for many scholars. The heroic rhetoric of resistance, the valorization of the underdog and outsider, and the reemergence of a potentially political workingclass consciousness are all embedded in discourses that have shaped the theorization of subcultures in the past twenty years. The work of Dick Hebdige and others connected with the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) at the University of Birmingham, through which these conceits evolved, remain a backdrop for many contemporary theories of subcultures. The sartorial splendour of teds, mods, rockers and punks became emblematic of a ‘semiotic guerrilla warfare’, which took objects from the dominant culture and transformed their everyday naturalized meaning into something spectacular and alien. Style became a form of resistance.

This discourse of style has outlasted many other aspects of the CCCS work, recuperated through recent attempts to situate subcultural practices within a postmodern milieu. In this context Baudrillard's implosion of meaning, the blurring of fantasy and reality through the aestheticization of everyday life and the supremacy of the image in an ocularcentric culture, have become tropes that consign subcultural practices to a narrow notion of spectacle. Social and cultural practices, condensed to mere processes of signification, are consequently viewed through theories inadequately predisposed to consider the complex intersection and layering of institutional, industrial, material, social, spatial and temporal dimensions and relations that facilitate and circumscribe a given social formation's operation.

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