Dirt, Decadence, and Dionysus -Treatise on the New Orleans punk scene

University essay from Lunds universitet/Sociologi

Abstract: This thesis explores the relation between subcultures’ utilization of assumed working class attributes and those cultural elements tied to hedonism and boundary breaking. It does so by taking as its case a segment of the American punk- and traveling community as it expressed itself in New Orleans during the time of six spring weeks in 2012. Building on a foundation of hermeneutics, applying as an analytical tool socio- symbolic homology, this thesis aims to gain new knowledge, not only about the punk subculture, but also about the context it grows out of. By exploring the meaning embedded in cultural items drawn upon in constructions of the subculture, we are offered insight into matters of cultural production, agency and resistance as well as possible sociological routes to the comprehension of these. Although the findings, based on small scale ethnographic fieldwork, should be viewed as illustrative examples first and foremost facilitating further discussion, some conclusions are drawn: To interpret punk’s employment of assumed working- and lower class traits simply as an appropriation and romanticization carried out by individuals not entitled to these traits, is too simple a reading. Although I do find tendencies of reproduction of class based disparities, primarily manifested in diverging notions of subcultural authenticity, the culture can, I argue, be seen as a ‘compromise equilibrium’, shaped simultaneously by forces from ‘above’ and ‘below’. Discovering a nexus between different cultural items drawn upon in the production of punk culture, it becomes apparent that qualities attributed to various categories of ‘Others’, the working class poor being one, can in fact be seen in connection with fundamental anxieties suppressed in rational modernity. Subcultures’ confrontation of these fears through transgression can thus be viewed as modernity-critique most of all, facilitating attempted constructions of meaningful identities and communities.

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