Club Cultures: Boundaries, Identities and Otherness

By Silvia Rief | Go to book overview

8 Allegorical Anarchy, Symbolic
Hierarchy
Sexual Boundaries in Two London
Dance Clubs

Academic representations of contemporary youth club cultures since the late 1990s can broadly be divided into two strands. On the one hand, club and dance cultures are deeply infused with images of transgression and liminality. Some authors interpreted dance cultures as a manifestation of a post-subcultural era, in which the demarcation of subcultural boundaries has given way to a postmodern style eclecticism (Muggleton 1997, 2000: 47; Polhemus 1996) and to more flexible and transient neotribal formations (A. Bennett 1999, 2000).1 Other accounts conjured up images of the social inclusiveness of dance cultures beyond boundaries of class, sexuality or ethnicity or even beyond ‘the scene of identity politics’ (Melechi 1993: 38). Especially the drug ecstasy was seen to weaken clearcut sexual identifications (see also the discussion in Measham, Parker, and Aldridge 2001: 48–51 and Hutton 2006). On the other hand, academic studies emphasized the continuing centrality of boundary work within clubbing scenes and dance cultures and the segmentation of dance spaces into ‘mainstream’, ‘residual’ or ‘alternative’ spaces attracting particular strata of cash-rich or cash-poor youth (Chatterton and Hollands 2003: 3–6). Dance cultures were described as ‘taste cultures’ characterized by constant disputes over the legitimate taste and the struggle for symbolic capital via ‘subcultural ideologies’ modelled on Bourdieu’s concept of distinction (Thornton 1995: 3). Such practices of classification not only demarcate boundaries between music genres and scenes, but also between subjects and types of practices (e.g. ‘E-heads’ vs. ‘Beer Monsters’; see Moore 2003b). It has been claimed that music policy and drug consumption patterns are key factors for the segmentation of clubbing scenes (Measham 2004: 341). Moreover, they articulate and remake social boundaries of class, ethnicity, gender and sexuality. These stratifiers circumscribe varying notions of belonging and entitlements to certain spaces opening up different types of participation. Clubs provide arenas for the construction and mutual (mis-)recognition of identities through the meanings negotiated in social practices. Instead of merely expressing existing social boundaries, the clubbing scene can be seen as a medium for the institutionalization or de-institutionalization of symbolic and social

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