Subculture

Summary

A subculture is a group of people within a culture that differentiates itself from the parent culture to which it belongs, often maintaining some of its founding principles. Subcultures develop their own norms and values regarding cultural, political, and sexual matters. Subcultures are part of society while keeping their specific characteristics intact. Examples of subcultures include BDSM, hippies, goths, bikers, punks, skinheads, hip-hopers, metalheads, and cosplayers. The concept of subcultures was developed in sociology and cultural studies.[1] Subcultures differ from countercultures.

DefinitionsEdit

The Oxford English Dictionary defines subculture, in regards to sociological and cultural anthropology, as "an identifiable subgroup within a society or group of people, esp. one characterized by beliefs or interests at variance with those of the larger group; the distinctive ideas, practices, or way of life of such a subgroup."[2]

As early as 1950, David Riesman distinguished between a majority, "which passively accepted commercially provided styles and meanings, and a 'subculture' which actively sought a minority style ... and interpreted it in accordance with subversive values".[3] In his 1979 book Subculture: The Meaning of Style, Dick Hebdige argued that a subculture is a subversion to normalcy. He wrote that subcultures can be perceived as negative due to their nature of criticism to the dominant societal standard. Hebdige argued that subculture brings together like-minded individuals who feel neglected by societal standards and allow them to develop a sense of identity.[4]

In 1995, Sarah Thornton, drawing on Pierre Bourdieu, described "subcultural capital" as the cultural knowledge and commodities acquired by members of a subculture, raising their status and helping differentiate themselves from members of other groups.[5] In 2007, Ken Gelder proposed to distinguish subcultures from countercultures based on the level of immersion in society.[6] Gelder further proposed six key ways in which subcultures can be identified through their:

  1. often negative relations to work (as 'idle', 'parasitic', at play or at leisure, etc.);
  2. negative or ambivalent relation to class (since subcultures are not 'class-conscious' and do not conform to traditional class definitions);
  3. association with territory (the 'street', the 'hood', the club, etc.), rather than property;
  4. movement out of the home and into non-domestic forms of belonging (i.e. social groups other than the family);
  5. stylistic ties to excess and exaggeration (with some exceptions);
  6. refusal of the banalities of ordinary life and massification.[6]

Sociologists Gary Alan Fine and Sherryl Kleinman argued that their 1979 research showed that a subculture is a group that serves to motivate a potential member to adopt the artifacts, behaviors, norms, and values characteristic of the group.[7]

History of studiesEdit

The evolution of subcultural studies has three main steps:[8]

Subcultures and devianceEdit

The earliest sociological studies on subcultures came from the so-called Chicago School, who interpreted them as forms of deviance and delinquency. Starting with what they called Social Disorganization Theory, they claimed that subcultures emerged on one hand because of some population sectors’ lack of socialization with the mainstream culture and, on the other, because of their adoption of alternative axiological and normative models. As Robert E. Park, Ernest Burgess, and Louis Wirth suggested, by means of selection and segregation processes, there thus appear in society "natural areas" or "moral regions" where deviant models concentrate and are re-inforced; they do not accept objectives or means of action offered by the mainstream culture, proposing different ones in their place—thereby becoming, depending on circumstances, innovators, rebels, or retreatists (Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin).

Subcultures, however, are not only the result of alternative action strategies but also of labelling processes on the basis of which, as Howard S. Becker explains, society defines them as outsiders. As Cohen clarifies, every subculture's style, consisting of image, demeanour and language becomes its recognition trait. And an individual's progressive adoption of a subcultural model will furnish him/her with growing status within this context but it will often, in tandem, deprive him/her of status in the broader social context outside where a different model prevails.[9] Cohen used the term 'Corner Boys' which were unable to compete with their better secured and prepared peers. These lower-class youths didn't have equal access to resources, resulting in the status of frustration, marginalization, and search for a solution.[10]

Subcultures and resistanceEdit

 
A goth couple attending the Whitby Goth Weekend festival, dressed in typical Gothic Victorian and Elizabethan styles.

In the work of John Clarke, Stuart Hall, Tony Jefferson, and Brian Roberts of the Birmingham CCCS (Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies), subcultures are interpreted as forms of resistance. Society is seen as being divided into two fundamental classes, the working class and the middle class, each with its own class culture, and middle-class culture being dominant. Particularly in the working class, subcultures grow out of the presence of specific interests and affiliations around which cultural models spring up, in conflict with both their parents' culture and mainstream culture. Facing a weakening of class identity, subcultures are then new forms of collective identification, expressing what Cohen defined "symbolic resistance" against the mainstream culture and developing imaginary solutions for structural problems.

As Paul Willis and Dick Hebdige underline, identity and resistance in subcultures are expressed through the development of a distinctive style which, by a re-signification and "bricolage" operation, use cultural goods and services as standardized products to buy and consume, in order to communicate and express one's own conflict. Yet the culture industry is often capable of re-absorbing the components of such a style and once again transforming them into consumer goods for the mass society. At the same time the mass media, while they participate in building subcultures by broadcasting their images, also weaken subcultures by depriving them of their subversive content or by spreading a socially stigmatized image of them and their members.[11]

Subcultures and distinctionEdit

The most recent interpretations see subcultures as forms of distinction. In an attempt to overcome the idea of subcultures as forms of deviance or resistance, they describe subcultures as collectivities which, on a cultural level, are sufficiently homogeneous internally and heterogeneous with respect to the outside world to be capable of developing, as Paul Hodkinson points out, consistent distinctiveness, identity, commitment and autonomy. Defined by Sarah Thornton as taste cultures, subcultures are endowed with elastic, porous borders, and are inserted into relationships of interaction and mingling, rather than independence and conflict, with the cultural industry and mass media, as Steve Redhead and David Muggleton emphasize. The very idea of a unique, internally homogeneous, dominant culture is explicitly criticized. Thus forms of individual involvement in subcultures are fluid and gradual, differentiated according to each actor's investment, outside clear dichotomies. The ideas of different levels of subcultural capital (Sarah Thornton) possessed by each individual, of the supermarket of style (Ted Polhemus) and of style surfing (Martina Böse) replace that of the subculture's insiders and outsiders – with the perspective of subcultures supplying resources for the construction of new identities going beyond strong, lasting identifications.

IdentifyingEdit

 
Members of the seminal punk rock band Ramones wearing early punk fashion items such as Converse sneakers, black leather jackets, and blue jeans.

The study of subcultures often consists of the study of symbolism attached to clothing, music, hairstyles, jewellery, and other visible affectations by members of subcultures, and also of the ways in which these same symbols are interpreted by members of the dominant culture. Dick Hebdige writes that members of a subculture often signal their membership through a distinctive and symbolic use of style, which includes fashions, mannerisms, and argot.[12]

 
Trekkies are a subculture of Star Trek fans

Subcultures can exist at all levels of organizations, highlighting the fact that there are multiple cultures or value combinations usually evident in any one organization that can complement but also compete with the overall organisational culture.[13] In some instances, subcultures have been legislated against, and their activities regulated or curtailed.[14] British youth subcultures had been described as a moral problem that ought to be handled by the guardians of the dominant culture within the post-war consensus.[14]

Relationships with mainstream cultureEdit

 
Potato chip packages featuring hip hop subcultural designs in a case of mainstream commercial cultural merging

It may be difficult to identify certain subcultures because their style (particularly clothing and music) may be adopted by mass culture for commercial purposes. Businesses often seek to capitalize on the subversive allure of subcultures in search of Cool, which remains valuable in the selling of any product.[15] This process of cultural appropriation may often result in the death or evolution of the subculture, as its members adopt new styles that appear alien to mainstream society.[16]

Music-based subcultures are particularly vulnerable to this process; what may be considered subcultures at one stage in their histories – such as jazz, goth, punk, hip hop, and rave cultures – may represent mainstream taste within a short period.[17] Some subcultures reject or modify the importance of style, stressing membership through the adoption of an ideology which may be much more resistant to commercial exploitation.[18] The punk subculture's distinctive (and initially shocking) style of clothing was adopted by mass-market fashion companies once the subculture became a media interest. Dick Hebdige argues that the punk subculture shares the same "radical aesthetic practices" as the Dadaist and Surrealist art movements:

Like Duchamp's 'ready mades' - manufactured objects which qualified as art because he chose to call them such, the most unremarkable and inappropriate items - a pin, a plastic clothes peg, a television component, a razor blade, a tampon - could be brought within the province of punk (un)fashion ... Objects borrowed from the most sordid of contexts found a place in punks' ensembles; lavatory chains were draped in graceful arcs across chests in plastic bin liners. Safety pins were taken out of their domestic 'utility' context and worn as gruesome ornaments through the cheek, ear or lip ... fragments of school uniform (white bri-nylon shirts, school ties) were symbolically defiled (the shirts covered in graffiti, or fake blood; the ties left undone) and juxtaposed against leather drains or shocking pink mohair tops.[19]

Urban tribesEdit

In 1985, French sociologist Michel Maffesoli coined the term urban tribe. It gained widespread use after the publication of his The Time of the Tribes (1988).[20] In 1996, this book was published in English.[21]

According to Maffesoli, urban tribes are microgroups of people who share common interests in urban areas. The members of these relatively small groups tend to have similar worldviews, dress styles and behavioral patterns.[22] Their social interactions are largely informal and emotionally laden, different from late capitalism's corporate-bourgeoisie cultures, based on dispassionate logic. Maffesoli claims that punks are a typical example of an "urban tribe".[23]

Five years after the first English translation of Le temps des tribus, writer Ethan Watters claims to have coined the same neologism in a New York Times Magazine article. This was later expanded upon the idea in his book Urban Tribes: A Generation Redefines Friendship, Family, and Commitment. According to Watters, urban tribes are groups of never-marrieds between the ages of 25 and 45 who gather in common-interest groups and enjoy an urban lifestyle, which offers an alternative to traditional family structures.[24]

Sexual and gender identity-based subculturesEdit

 

The sexual revolution of the 1960s led to a countercultural rejection of the established sexual and gender norms in the Western world, particularly in the urban areas of Europe, North and South America, Australia, and white South Africa. A more permissive social environment in these areas led to a proliferation of sexual subcultures—cultural expressions of non-normative sexuality. As with other subcultures, sexual subcultures adopted certain styles of fashion and gestures to distinguish themselves from mainstream Western culture.[28]

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people express themselves through the LGBT culture, considered the largest sexual subculture of the 20th and 21st centuries. With the ever-increasing acceptance of homosexuality in the early 21st century, including its expressions in fashion, music, and design, the gay culture can no longer be considered a subculture in many parts of the world, although some aspects of gay culture like leathermen, bears, and chubs are considered subcultures within the gay movement itself.[28] The butch and femme identities or roles among some lesbians also engender their own subculture with stereotypical attire, for instance drag kings.[28] A late 1980s development, the queer movement can be considered a subculture broadly encompassing those that reject normativity in sexual behavior, and who celebrate visibility and activism. The wider movement coincided with growing academic interests in queer studies and queer theory.

Aspects of sexual subcultures can vary along other cultural lines. For instance, in the United States, down-low is a slang term specifically used within the African-American community to refer to Black men who usually identify as heterosexual but actively seek sexual encounters and relations with other men, practice gay cruising, and frequently adopt a specific hip-hop attire during these activities.[28][29] They avoid sharing this information even if they have female sexual partner(s), they are married to a woman, or they are single.[30][31][32][33]

Social mediaEdit

In a 2011 study, Brady Robards and Andy Bennett said that online identity expression has been interpreted as exhibiting subcultural qualities. However, they argue it is more in line with neotribalism than with what is often classified as subculture. Social networking websites are quickly becoming the most used form of communication and means to distribute information and news. They offer a way for people with similar backgrounds, lifestyles, professions or hobbies to connect. According to a co-founder and executive creative strategist for RE-UP, as technology becomes a "life force," subcultures become the main bone of contention for brands as networks rise through cultural mash-ups and phenomenons.[34] Where social media is concerned, there seems to be a growing interest among media producers to use subcultures for branding. This is seen most actively on social network sites with user-generated content, such as YouTube.

Social media expert Scott Huntington cites one of the ways in which subcultures have been and can be successfully targeted to generate revenue: "It’s common to assume that subcultures aren’t a major market for most companies. Online apps for shopping, however, have made significant strides. Take Etsy, for example. It only allow vendors to sell handmade or vintage items, both of which can be considered a rather 'hipster' subculture. However, retailers on the site made almost $900 million in sales."[35]

DiscriminationEdit

Discrimination-based harassment and violence are sometimes directed towards a person or group based on their culture or subculture.[36][37][38][39] In 2013, the Greater Manchester Police in the United Kingdom began to classify attacks on subcultures such as goths, emos, punks, and metalheads as hate crimes, in the same way they record abuse against people because of their religion, race, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity.[39] The decision followed the murder of Sophie Lancaster and beating of her boyfriend in 2007, who were attacked because they were goths.[38] In 2012, human rights activists have denounced the occurrence of emo killings in Iraq, which consisted of between at least 6 and up to 70 teenage boys who were kidnapped, tortured, and murdered in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq, due to being targeted because they dressed in a "Westernized" emo style.[36][37]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

CitationsEdit

  1. ^ "What Is Subculture? - Theories, Definition & Examples - Video & Lesson Transcript". Study.com. Retrieved 2017-09-08.
  2. ^ "subculture". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  3. ^ Middleton 1990
  4. ^ Hebdige, Dick (1979). "Subculture: the meaning of style" (PDF).
  5. ^ Thornton 1995
  6. ^ a b Gelder 2007
  7. ^ Fine, Gary Alan; Kleinman, Sherryl (1979). "Rethinking Subculture: An Interactionist Analysis". American Journal of Sociology. 85 (1): 1–20. doi:10.1086/226971. ISSN 0002-9602. JSTOR 2778065. S2CID 144955053.
  8. ^ Berzano L., Genova C., Lifestyles and Subcultures. History and a New Perspective, Routledge, London, 2015 (part II)
  9. ^ Nwalozie, Chijioke J. (2015). "Rethinking Subcultures and Subculture Theory in the Study of Youth Crime _ A theoretical Discourse" (PDF).
  10. ^ Newburn, T. & Proquest, 2017. Criminology Third., Ann Arbor, Mich.]: ProQuest. pp. 210
  11. ^ Dellwing, M.; Kotarba, J.; Pino, N. (2014-10-22). The Death and Resurrection of Deviance: Current Ideas and Research. Springer. ISBN 9781137303806.
  12. ^ Hebdige 1981
  13. ^ Anheier, Helmut K., Stefan Toepler and Regina List, eds., International Encyclopedia of Civil Society, (Springer, 2010)
  14. ^ a b Hall, Stuart, Tony Jefferson, Resistance Through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain (Routledge, 1993).
  15. ^ Howes, David. Cross-cultural consumption: global markets, local realities. New York: Routledge, 1996. Print.
  16. ^ Goldstein-Gidoni, Ofra. "Producers of 'Japan' in Israel: Cultural appropriation in a non-colonial context." Ethnos:Journal of Anthropology 68.3 (2003): 365. Print.
  17. ^ Blair, M. Elizabeth, "Commercialization of Rap Music Youth Subculture." Journal of Popular Culture 27.3 (1993): 21-33. Print.
  18. ^ Lewin, Phillip, J. Patrick Williams. "Reconceptualizing Punk through Ideology and Authenticity". Conference Papers--American Sociological Association. 2007 Annual Meeting, 2007.
  19. ^ Dick Hebdige p.106-12
  20. ^ Frehse, Fraya (February 2006). "As realidades que as 'tribos urbanas' criam" [The realities that 'urban tribes' create]. Revista Brasileira de Ciências Sociais (in Portuguese). 21 (60). doi:10.1590/S0102-69092006000100012.
  21. ^ Maffesoli, Michel (1996-02-27). The Time of the Tribes: The Decline of Individualism in Mass Society. ISBN 080398474X.
  22. ^ "'Urban tribes' thriving in modern society". Retrieved 2017-09-08.
  23. ^ Maffesoli 1996
  24. ^ Watters 2003
  25. ^ Goicichea, Julia (August 16, 2017). "Why New York City Is a Major Destination for LGBT Travelers". The Culture Trip. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  26. ^ Rosenberg, Eli (June 24, 2016). "Stonewall Inn Named National Monument, a First for the Gay Rights Movement". The New York Times. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
  27. ^ "Workforce Diversity The Stonewall Inn, National Historic Landmark National Register Number: 99000562". National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Retrieved April 21, 2016.
  28. ^ a b c d Hovey, Jaime (2007). "Sexual subcultures". In Malti-Douglas, Fedwa (ed.). Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender. Macmillan Social Science Library. Vol. 4. Farmington Hills, Michigan: Macmillan Reference USA. pp. 1372–1374. ISBN 9780028661155. OCLC 922889305.
  29. ^ Bond, Lisa; Wheeler, Darrell P.; Millett, Gregorio A.; LaPollo, Archana B.; Carson, Lee F.; Liau, Adrian (April 2009). Morabia, Alfredo (ed.). "Black Men Who Have Sex With Men and the Association of Down-Low Identity With HIV Risk Behavior". American Journal of Public Health. American Public Health Association. 99 (Suppl 1): S92–S95. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2007.127217. eISSN 1541-0048. ISSN 0090-0036. PMC 2724949. PMID 19218177. S2CID 40119540.
  30. ^ King, J.L.; Courtney Carreras (April 25, 2006). "Coming Up from the Down Low: The Journey to Acceptance, Healing and Honest Love". Three Rivers Press. p. 36. Archived from the original on August 18, 2010. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
  31. ^ Johnson, Jason (1 May 2005). "Secret gay encounters of black men could be raising women's infection rate". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
  32. ^ Mutua, Athena (September 28, 2006). Progressive Black Masculinities. New York and London: Routledge. p. 169. ISBN 978-0-415-97687-9. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
  33. ^ Bennett, Jessica (May 19, 2008). "Outing Hip-Hop". Newsweek. Retrieved 2009-12-19.
  34. ^ Laurent Francois @lilzeon (2013-05-25). "Subcultures: Big Opportunity for Social Brands to Generate Value". Social Media Today. Retrieved 2017-10-19.
  35. ^ Subcultures and Social Media: Mass Differentiation
  36. ^ a b Rasheed, Ahmed; Ameer, Mohammed (10 March 2012). "Iraq militia stone youths to death for "emo" style". Reuters. Archived from the original on 23 April 2022. Retrieved 1 July 2022.
  37. ^ a b "Iraqi 'emo' youths reportedly killed by conservative militias". BBC News. 11 March 2012. Archived from the original on 18 June 2022. Retrieved 1 July 2022.
  38. ^ a b Sedgwick, Mark (4 April 2013). "How are goths and emos defined?". BBC News. Archived from the original on 20 June 2022. Retrieved 1 July 2022.
  39. ^ a b "Attacks on goths, punks, and emos are 'hate crimes'". Channel 4 News. 4 April 2013. Archived from the original on 19 October 2021. Retrieved 1 July 2022.

SourcesEdit

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  • Huq, Rupa (2006) 'Beyond subculture' (Routledge, 2006; softcover ISBN 0-415-27815-5. Hardcover ISBN 0-415-27814-7)
  • Maffesoli, Michel (1996). The Time of the Tribes: The Decline of Individualism in Mass Society. (London: Sage Publications. ISBN 0-8039-8474-X)
  • McKay, George (1996) Senseless Acts of Beauty: Cultures of Resistance since the Sixties. (London: Verso. ISBN 1-85984-028-0.)
  • McKay, George (2005) Circular Breathing: The Cultural Politics of Jazz in Britain. Durham NC: Duke University Press. ISBN 0-8223-3573-5.
  • Riesman, David (1950). "Listening to popular music", American Quarterly, 2, p. 359-71. Cited in Middleton, Richard (1990/2002). Studying Popular Music, p. 155. Philadelphia: Open University Press. ISBN 0-335-15275-9.
  • Thornton, Sarah (1995). Club Cultures: Music, Media, and Subcultural Capital. Cambridge: Polity Press. Cited in Negus, Keith (1996). Popular Music in Theory: An Introduction. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 0-8195-6310-2.
  • Watters, Ethan (2003). Urban Tribes: A Generation Redefines Friendship, Family, and Commitment. ISBN 1-58234-264-4.
  • Hall, Stuart, Tony Jefferson (1993). Resistance Through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain. Routledge, 1993.
  • Blair, M. Elizabeth (December 1993). "Commercialization of the Rap Music Youth Subculture". The Journal of Popular Culture. 27 (3): 21–33. doi:10.1111/j.0022-3840.1993.00021.x. ProQuest 195356599.
  • Goldstein-Gidoni, Ofra. "Producers of 'Japan' in Israel: Cultural appropriation in a non-colonial context." Ethnos:Journal of Anthropology 68.3 (2003): 365. Print.
  • Lewin, Phillip, J. Patrick Williams. "Reconceptualizing Punk through Ideology and Authenticity". Conference Papers—American Sociological Association. 2007 Conference Papers, 2007.
  • Howes, David. Cross-cultural consumption: global markets, local realities. New York: Routledge, 1996. Print.
  • Fine, Gary Alan; Kleinman, Sherryl (July 1979). "Rethinking Subculture: An Interactionist Analysis". American Journal of Sociology. 85 (1): 1–20. doi:10.1086/226971. S2CID 144955053.
  • Francois, L. (2013, May 25). Subcultures: Big Opportunity for Social Brands to Generate Value. Retrieved November 24, 2014, from http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/subcultures-big-opportunity-social-brands-generate-value
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  • Robards, Brady; Bennett, Andy (1 April 2011). "MyTribe: Post-subcultural Manifestations of Belonging on Social Network Sites". Sociology. 45 (2): 303–317. doi:10.1177/0038038510394025. hdl:10072/39970. S2CID 146711846.
  • Беляев, И. А. Культура, субкультура, контркультура / И. А. Беляев, Н. А. Беляева // Духовность и государственность. Сборник научных статей. Выпуск 3; под ред. И. А. Беляева. — Оренбург: Филиал УрАГС в г. Оренбурге, 2002. — С. 5-18.
  • Berzano, L., Genova, C. (2015). Lifestyles and Subcultures. History and a New Perspective. New York, NY: Routledge.

External linksEdit

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