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Week Ten - Subcultures

Punks, Pranks, Freaks

and Geeks
What is a subculture?
 Subculture = ‘a social group with particular
behaviors or beliefs’(Holme & Gronlund, 2005 p.1)

 Centered around: music, sports, literature,

religion OR political, social or geographical

 Membership signaled through a distinctive

and symbolic use of style e.g. fashion,
behavior, mannerisms (Hebdige, 1979)
Wiki List:
 Anarcho Punk
 Beat Generation
 Casuals
 Emo
 Furries
 Grungies
 Juggling
 Skin Head
 Teddy Boy
 ‘subculture’s emerge when the larger
culture fails to meet people’s needs- for
example, to provide resources or
meanings so that some people find fault
with the culture and form their own
identity-granting communities of
meanings’ (Langman & Halnon, 2005 p.273).
Why do people join
 Group problem solving mechanism
 Seek conformity/ dependence on fellows
 Dissatisfaction with the dominant culture, looking for further
 Status

 ‘Subculture represents a new status system

by sanctioning behavior tabooed or frowned
upon by the larger society; the acquisition of
status within the new group is accompanied
by a loss of status outside the group’ (Cohen, 1955 p.57)
 Externally regarded as ‘antisocial’
 Internally- a community- gaming is more
of a sport in which you use your brain,
learn tactics, team work and problem
 Would not exist without new
media/communications technology-
internet = a valuable connection
Subculture Vs
 “Subculture"
– A separate culture existing within the mainstream culture.
– A group of people with distinguishing characteristics, but who consider
themselves part of the general culture.
– They aren’t always opposed to dominant culture and may work best within
the mainstream
– It is specialised, having idiosyncratic views on aesthetics, politics or the way
life should be lived.
Example: Hip Hop, Raver’s, Emo’s and Gamer’s etc
 “Counterculture"
– An active working against the mainstream culture.
– A group of people who explicitly reject the values of the culture around them.
– They often differing from mainstream society in terms of aesthetics, politics,
social beliefs and structures.
– It has to be large enough to act as a genuine foil to the dominant culture
Example: Hippies in the 1960’s
History of Hip Hop
 Cultural movement
 Developed in New York City - 1970s.
 Primarily Black and Latino Americans.
 The five pillars of hip-hop culture are:
– MCing, DJing, breaking, graffiti writing, and knowledge.

 DJ Clive "Kool Herc" Campbell - highly influential in the pioneering stage - created the
blueprint for hip hop music and culture by building upon the Jamaican tradition of toasting
(impromptu poetry and sayings over music)
 ”Breaking" - gained momentum as a style of performance and dancing- became part of the
lexicon of hip hop culture.
 In the late 70’s refined and developed use of break beats, including cutting and scratching.

 Late 1970s, the culture had gained media attention

 Hip hop was further defined in 1982, using an electronic sound, taking advantage of
synthesizer technology.
 In the 1980’s the appearance of music videos changed entertainment: they often glorified
urban neighborhoods.
 Many hip hop-related films were released between 1982 and 1985, and the documentary
Style Wars. These films expanded the appeal of hip hop beyond the boundaries of New York.
 By 1985, youth worldwide were embracing the hip hop culture. The hip hop artwork and
"slang" of US urban communities quickly found its way to Europe and Asia, as the culture's
global appeal took root.
 The emergence of new media technologies and globalisation have allowed for the hip hop
culture to be shared around different countries. Hip hop is attractive in its ability to give a
voice to disenfranchised youth in any country, and as music with a message it is a form
available to all societies worldwide.
Media, Technology and
 Media - important in transferring information
 Subcultures used traditional media to propagate ideas
 When the internet entered the mainstream - forums and fan sites quickly
became home to subcultures of all descriptions
 It's a valuable connection for people to get in touch with like-minded
people and develop or strengthen social connections online, rather than
face to face.
 Subcultures that originated offline have “migrated” to the virtual world.
 The growth of file-sharing (EG video/audio) websites and increased
access to high-speed web connections laid the foundations for online
cultures, and other social networks now all play host to thriving
communities too.
 Many websites spring up to feed the interest in the different cultures,
some attempting to document or define it, others providing members of
these subcultures with ways to express their affiliation.
 Discussions centre around the clothes to wear, the mannerisms to adopt
and what as a part of the specific subculture you should love or hate.
 Provides a forum free of traditional censorship
 Members of a subculture often signal their
membership by making distinctive and
symbolic tangible choices in clothing and
 Intangible elements, such as common
interests, slang, music genres and gathering
places can also be an important factor
 Pressures towards conformity
Music - Signifier or
According to Simon Frith (1996), music is
an essential component of many
contemporary youth cultures.

“not how a particular piece of music

reflects the people,
but how it produces them”
Emo / Scene
 Largely
regarded as bleak and morbid.
 Number of sub-subcultures
– hXc
– Straight Edge (sXe)
– Screamo
 Massive focus on Music.
– Music knowledge = respect
Subculture Stereotype

 A stereotype by definition is a positive or negative set of beliefs

held by an individual about the characteristics of a group of
people. It varies in its accuracy, the extent to which the
stereotyped group members possess these traits, and the
extent to which the set of beliefs is shared by others.
 Stereotypes have a degree of truth and an element of social
 Media plays a significant role in the stereotyping of
subcultures as it can be a powerful tool in creating
or reinforcing stereotypes
 Culture also plays a role in the development of stereotypes
 Hierarchies tend to form in most aspects of society.
With regards to subcultures, although hierarchies are
certainly present, they are present in some
subcultures more than others.

 E.g Hierarchies of gamers differ from hierarchies of

Rave subculture

 In terms of social class, it is known that generally

subcultures are made up of people from working
class society. These are people that are looking for
something that is missing in their lives
 The word 'Rave' was a term used for big, often
unlicensed dance events, usually underground
parties in abandoned warehouses, fields and clubs
 The underground rave scene began in Chicago in the
early 80’s and thus the new electronic music genre
Acid house was born!
 By 1987 acid house had reached the UK
 Along with breakthrough of a new sound came with it
a new party drug. MDMA or better known as ecstasy
is an amphetamine, psycho-active drug.
 legalised events, parties and club nights
have made it possible for rave to continue
 Cohen, K Albert. 1955, ‘A General Theory of Subcultures’, The Subcultures
Reader,2nd ed, Abingdon, Oxon, pp50-59.

Holme, P & Gronlund, A. 2005, ‘Modeling the Dynamics of Youth Subcultures’ ,
Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, Vol 8, Iss 3
 Langman, L & Halnon, K.2005, ‘Globalization and the Grotesque’, pp269-279 in
Critical Globalization Studies, edited by Richard Applebalm and William
 Hedige D Subculture, The Meaning of Style Universty of Chicago Press 1979
 M Brake - The sociology of youth culture and youth subcultures: Sex and drugs
and rock'n'roll 1980
 J. Firth Subcultures, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography Volume 12 1999

 Fantazia Rave Archive, Acid House Music: The Timeline,