Category Archives: Uncategorized

Creating your final project page

I have created a page for each of you to fill in with your final project content. Follow the steps below to get your skeleton in place. We will view the skeletons together on 12/4 (you will talk about your project informally – you do not need to prepare a formal presentation).

1) Log in to wordpress.com. Hover over your name in the top right corner of the screen, and find the Representing Subcultures & Social Movements site. Once you’re in it, go to the Dashboard and find the page with your name on it. Now you can edit your own page. PLEASE DO NOT EDIT ANYONE’S PAGE OTHER THAN YOUR OWN!

2) Change the title from your name to whatever your project title is. You can also edit the permalink (just under the title box) so that your page URL is more explanatory than just your name.

3) Copy the text of your paper into the main text area. After pasting, you may need to adjust some of the formatting/styles so that your text looks more web-friendly. You may just use placeholder text for now if you’d prefer to wait until you receive feedback on your paper draft.

4) Decide where you want images/video/other multimedia to appear within your text. Once you’ve placed your cursor where you want the media, use the Add Media button (just above the main text area). You can either insert media using a URL, or if your media does not already exist on the web, you can upload it to our class WordPress library.

5) You should also insert hyperlinks wherever possible (without going overboard). This means when you refer to public figures or texts, turn these mentions into links so that your reader could explore and gather more information. To do this, highlight the text you want to turn into a link, then click on the little chain icon at the top of the main text area, then paste the URL you want to link to into the box that pops up. (You can just do a few of these as a trial run by 12/4 and then finish them all when you publish your final version.)

You should have steps 1-5 completed by class time on 12/4, with the understanding that your text and hyperlinks may change after you receive feedback on your draft. I will be available in office hours to help you on Monday (from 11-12), or Wednesday (from 11-12 or 3:30-4:30). You could also ask whoever uploaded your group’s blog post, because they probably understand WordPress basics.

6) Once you are ready to publish your page, change the visibility setting from Private to Public (the setting for this is in the right sidebar menu). Your page will be viewable using the URL repsub13.wordpress.com/projects/yourname, or whatever you changed the URL to. Once everyone’s page is uploaded I will update the menu so that each of your pages comes up in the Student Projects drop-down menu!

Black Power Movement: Empowering and Creating a Strong Racial Identity for African-Americans

By Joy Min, Rafaella Ribas, Brittany Welch

<Reading Summary>

The 1950s and 1960s were very important decades in regards to civil rights activism and more specifically the Black Power Movement. In Racial Formation in the United States, Michael Omi and Howard Winant argue that although the movement did not have the most permanent successes as seen by the return of the ethnicity paradigm in the 1980s, this was one of the first, “new social movements–the first to expand the concerns of politics to the social, to the terrain of everyday life” (96).  The Black Movement acknowledged that race incorporates politics, economics, and culture; overall, it heightened racial awareness and meaning by drawing media attention through highly dramatized demonstrations. Early on in the civil rights era, the emphasis was on racial integration and equality whereas later, more radical, separatist black power ideologies emphasized the black community and the black aesthetic, which derived from a rich cultural heritage.  Omi and Winant state, “the black movement redefined the meaning of racial identity, and consequently of race itself in American society (99).

In The Art of Protest, T.V. Reed discusses the black power movement, specifically the Black Panther Party, in regards to its theatrical or performative tactics as a spectacle in the mass media.  There is an interesting dynamic between the “black power theater and black power as theater” (Reed 50).  Radical leader, Malcolm X was known for his dramatic speeches, which in turn, inspired playwright, Amiri Baraka, who created many black nationalist plays and inspired other to follow his lead. This black power theater then rolled over into the black power movement itself; many of the Black Panther’s demonstrations were televised, staged events, revealing, “highly dramatic, stylized confrontations, often involving guns and the police” (Reed 42).  While the Black Panther party was violent at times, the media overemphasized this violence, ignoring the good and charitable acts of the party. Regardless, these performative tactics attracted attention as well as illustrated the black aesthetic within the black power movement, allowing blacks to unite around a common identity with their own theater, dance, poetry, sports, food, and more.

In New Day in Babylon: The Black Power Movement and American Culture, William L. VandeBurg details this concept of the black aesthetic and how it was appropriated or co-opted by the white mainstream. The black aesthetic was tightly tied to the concept of “soul,” which is the “essence of the separate black culture” (VandeBurg 195). In other words, it is an energy or mystique that helped define the black culture as its own separate group. There was soul food, soul music, and even soul talk. Not surprisingly, corporations tried to take terminology that was popular within the black community and use it in advertising to market to black consumers. This “black talk” made its way from the black community to the white mainstream and even to Hollywood. To fight this appropriation, the black community tried to preserve its language by making it a “moving target” (VandeBurg 218). Even white rock & roll itself (Janis Joplin, Iron Butterfly, and Vanilla Fudge) was essentially the appropriation, or even copying, of the gospel and blues soul music of the black community. Overall, corporations tried to capitalize on many aspects of this newly revived black culture.

<Screening Summary>

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The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 by Goran Hugo Olsson is a documentary that uses the mixtape format as the title indicates, to show the people, society, culture, and style that fuelled an era of spasmodic change. The film consists of footage shot by Swedish reporters from 1967 to 1975. From the end of 1960s to the early 1970s, Swedish interest in the U.S. civil rights movement and the U.S. anti-war movement peaked, and often, the Swedish media portrayed the Black Power Movement in a very negative light, showing only the worst moments that would make them seem as terrorists and violent. So some Swedish television journalists traveled to the United States to show the country as it really is.

The documentary starts with speeches that talk about how the United States doesn’t represent everyone in America, but only the ones in power. And the voice over by Erykah Badu(2010) says, “Because we want peace, we want to work with pride. That’s all we want. To say that we are wrong, to defend ourselves, is idiotic. Shame on America for that. Shame on any person who judges someone for defending himself for his family,” right after the speeches given by a few leaders of Black Power Movement. This shows how the media has been portraying the Black Power Movement as violent and dangerous, when in reality, all they are trying to do is just protect themselves from danger. This documentary shows how they just wanted to free themselves from inequality and be represented equally, but the media emphasized the violence to manipulate the public and the rest of the world outside of the United States. In the film, it even shows how in 1970, J. Edgar Hoover stated that the Black Power Movement’s Free Breakfast Program is the most dangerous internal threat to the U.S., and that by itself can show how oppressed the African Americans were.

The Swedish journalists also interviewed Angela Davis, who was falsely accused of murder. The police blamed Davis as the owner for the gun that was used for killing, when it wasn’t even hers. And in fact, even if it was hers, someone else could have used it, but they just put this blame on her, highly likely because of her race. Later in the film, there is a voice from a radio station saying, “niggas are moved into the white neighborhood, we better expect some bloodshed,” showing the degree of extreme racism during that time.

The film also includes the interview with Merill Panitt, the Editorial Director of TV Guide, where he talks about how the anti-Americanism in Sweden is “emphasizing only the negative aspects of America,” and that “we[Americans] have a more realistic perspective of what’s going on in America, whereas people abroad do not see any of the positive aspects in America, and only see the bad news.” This, again, emphasizes how European nations, especially Sweden, had a distorted view of America through media, and by showing this reality in the film, the journalists were trying to capture what is actually going on.

Overall, the documentary was well made, with a good use of voice over from current times mixed in with the interviews and footages from the past. However, the documentary was a bit hard to follow at times, because it was a little difficult to follow who was speaking when, and who that person is. Often in the film, they would show a scene from the past and have a voice over from someone in current times, so it may be hard for someone who doesn’t have much knowledge about this topic to understand the film completely. But it was unique in its own way, because most of the documentaries that we watched in class, such as Jesus Camp or Trekkies, were very organized and structured, with the whole documentary from the same time period. In comparison, The Black Power Mixtape, since it was a compilation of the footages, it was somewhat less organized, but worked well the purpose of the film, which was to show the United States as it really is. So what is better than compiling all the original speeches and happenings from the actual time period?

<Discussion Summary>

Due to the fact that the readings were quite dense this week, we started our discussion by writing down questions we still had about the Black Power movement.  We first addressed some basic issues and then discussed more broad and relevant matters to the movement such as the effectiveness of using a violent approach. Moreover, we also talked about some general responses towards the screening, with particular emphasis on Angela Davis’ explanation regarding the fact that they did not plan to be a violent yet that is how it turned out to be, given that they had to defend themselves while fighting for their people’s rights.

What do we mean when we say that Black Panther Party was engaged in a theatrical performance?

1

In class, we have discussed how creating a spectacle, which is meant to be looked as just as theater is meant to look at, which goes along with role playing and recognizable characters such as the iconic Radical leader, Malcolm X and Angela Davis. Along with iconic characters were the style icons belonging to that movement, which consisted of the berets, which can be traced back to the French Revolution, the raised fist representing the Black Power salute, their slogans “Power to the People”, and the natural hair also known as the Afro hairstyle. Furthermore, stylistic icons belonging to the Black Power Panthers also reflected in the way they dressed, which consisted of a military influence: black pants and black leather jackets, which resembled a uniform, signifying that they were prepared to fight.

In sum:

2

Was soul exclusive of Black Panthers?

3

Black is defined through ethnicity and by their cultural traditions and norms, especially regarding soul: music, food, and even soul talk. However, as discussed in class, soul was not exclusive to the Black Panthers. Though Black Power refers to a larger cultural movement that tried to advance the notion of black self-empowerment, soul refers to a larger version of that. For instance everyone could listen to Marvin Gay’s records, yet not everyone bought into this Black Power ideology and certainly not all the black power people were part of the Black Panther Party.

Is peace more effective for social change? If they had responded completely non-violent would they have achieved any change?

4

It is true that not all activists use violence. In fact, a lot of the violence encountered in the Black Power Movement was a reaction linked to Martin Luther King’s civil right movement and their very disciplined commitment to non-violent responses. However, those activists retained from violence and they still suffered hostility from the militants, therefore black activists saw non-violence as “having been tried yet still failing”, and for this reason their approach was quite different. Moreover, aggression has shown to be the most effective alternative in capturing the media’s attention, even though it portrays them in a poor lighting as media representations of the movement played up on violence and aggressive tactics.

Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that we are talking about a group of people who has been suffering oppression by white people for a long period of time; therefore they justify and even categorize the violence present in their movement as a self-defense mechanism. In class we’ve discussed how The Black Panther Party was influenced by Karl Marx and the idea of vanguard party—they thought they were the enlighten ones who saw oppression for what it was and could lead the rest of the African-Americans out of their “false consciousness” into revolution. Thus, they saw themselves at the cutting edge of Black resistance and therefore hoped everyone would get on board with them.

5

Besides the readings, we also talked about our reactions to the documentary we have watched in class. There was a particular scene that disturbed many students, which was when we saw images of children chanting about having guns and going after the police. At first that seemed very aggressive and some people in class shared how taken back they were while watching that scene. However, others argued that when that scene is put into context and we are able to analyze it as a whole, we could better comprehend that the chanting had more to do with a responsive reaction than with a direct attack.

6

Another scene that we discussed was when Angela Davis was interviewed while still in prison, and was asked if she knew the extent of the violence within the movement. Her explanation was that they had never planned to be a violent, yet that is how it turned out to be, because when one is attacked and deprived from their basic rights as a human, one must defend oneself. Therefore she classified the violent acts as self-defense. However, in class we argued that while non-violence responses seem to be ineffective, so does self-defense mechanisms—at least to some extent, given that revolutionary powers cannot go against the state for they will most always lose. Which led us to question whether the movement was a failure?

7

As we can see, it is extremely difficult to measure a movement’s success, however we can argue that it wasn’t a complete failure given that it raised awareness to the oppression suffered by black people, which is in fact an effective step towards eliminating or at least diminishing inequality between black and white people. Finally, the black power movement was a global phenomenon that provided a new perspective to all Afro-Americans in regards to their social struggles; thus whether it was a success or not, it definitely did unify them in favor of cultural/national liberation.

Works Cited

“And the Gold Medal for Hypocrisy Goes To… David Cameron.” Kevin Mcguire, 28 Aug. 2012. Web. 8 Nov. 2013.

Omi, Michael, and Howard Winant. Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s. New York: Routledge, 1994. Print.

“PBS Independent Lens – The Black Power Mixtape (2011).” PBS Independent Lens – The Black Power Mixtape (2011). N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Nov. 2013.

Reed, T. V. The Art of Protest: Culture and Activism from the Civil Rights Movement to the Streets of Seattle. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2005. Print.

Van, Deburg William L. New Day in Babylon: The Black Power Movement and American Culture, 1965-1975. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1992. Print.

#repub13. Twitter.com. 6 November 2013. <https://twitter.com/search?q=%23repsub13&src=hash&f=realtime>

Contextualizing The Many Faces of Anarchism

Will the Revolution Be Cybercast? (T.V. Reed)

Introduction and Overview:

The “Battle of Seattle,” which took place on November 30, 1999, was a crucial turning point for social movements in two key ways, both of which Reed has highlighted in this text. The first is a change in how social movements were represented in organizing for key events and the second was looking more deeply at how old and new media covered and represented the global justice movement.

After learning more about the structure and goals of Occupy Wall Street and being introduced to a panel that actively participated in the protests, the Battle of Seattle offers several insights that provide more depth into the roots of contemporary justice movements and the anarchist subculture. The 1999 movement demonstrated the first attempt to unify hundreds of global justice movements for the single goal of opposing the many dilemmas brought on by corporate globalization. How were they going to do this? By shutting down the convention of one of the world’s most powerful organizations, the World Trade Organization (WTO). The level of self-awareness and confidence elicited through the movement has since become a building block for future justice movements.

First off, what is corporate globalization?

Corporate globalization is the process whereby transnational corporations have unregulated political power that they exercise through trade agreements and deregulated financial markets. The system is then “rationalized through a new version of free market political-economic ideology known as ‘neo-liberalism’” (Reed 243).

Even today, the definition and role is not always clear.

So what’s the big deal?

Well, a lot. These are just a few of the key elements of globalization:

  • An increase in the role played by transnational organizations like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the WTO.

  • A weakened role for national governments and a surge in power of multi-national corporate power.

  • New economic practices that hugely increase the segmenting of the labor force by distributing various parts of the production process around the globe rather than centralizing it in one nation (what we now know to as “outsourcing”).

  • New global communication networks.

OK. So corporate communication is changing. What does that mean for me?

The main goal for almost any business is simple: to increase profitability. It is no different with transnational organizations. Because the leaders of these neoliberal organizations primarily come from the most developed nations in the world, many of their practices and decisions sacrifice human rights for continued profitability.

Some of the examples Reed gives to demonstrate the effect of globalizations are the intensification of environmental degradation, undermining of worker rights and civil rights, exacerbation of the worldwide health crisis, and facilitation for a continued cultural domination by the US corporate media.

The ‘rehearsal’ and ‘performance’ of The Battle of Seattle:

For months before the historic protest on November 30th, individual anarchists and organizers voiced their opinions and concerns. Throughout this entire period, mass media portrayed the group solely as “antiglobalization,” stealing bits and pieces of their rhetoric to fit a binary standard more palpable for the public’s understanding. Ironically, very few protestors were against the totality that is corporate globalization – rather they advocated for “critical globalization,” “democratic globalization” or “globalization from below” (Reed 244).

q1

Reed goes on to split the several-days-long protest into three sections: education, culture and blockading. While these areas of study were readily seen and understood within the movement, only one was projected outward to the public: a disruptive blockade. To each other, attendees of the movement represented a group eager to experience “prayers, meditation and education…[they were] well-informed people hungry for further knowledge.” To the media, they were nothing but “know-nothing flat earthers” (248).

Furthermore, the movement was interestingly represented as something of a theatrical performance, both from the inside and projected outward. Endless elements of art and culture and dramatization and spectacle entered the day-to-day rhetoric—needless to say, the critique of the performance differed widely from those participating to those watching. On the one end, police and authorities were represented as faceless, motionless bodies of terror, while protesters were overgeneralized as wild, out of control anarchists.

Representation of the movement across mediums:

During and after the blockade (which lasted for several days in a series of bloody, violent altercations before successfully shutting down the WTO convention), corporate media chose to use wide-reaching mass mediums such as broadcast and print to focus on the Black Bloc’s involvement in the protest. The group strayed from the primarily non-violent demonstrations by breaking specially selected store windows and vandalizing store fronts with graffiti. Despite the fact that the Direct Action Network was not directly involved with this group, the media focused on how their actions “ruined the protest.” As can be the case with mass media in these situations, a relatively small aspect of the protest was latched onto and highlighted, completely distorting the mindsets and intentions of the 50,000 protesters in attendance.


Source: Indymedia.org.uk

This brought up a very important question: were the acts of property destruction responsible for negative coverage in the mainstream media, or were they the only way the events got any press at all?

I would argue for the former due to a new medium of communication that emerged during this time. Indymedia is an interactive website that allowed millions of users to read, watch or listen to stories while also posting their own works of media as well—a democratizing of content to parallel the goal of democratized globalization. It was described as “an activist model that mirrors the organic, decentralized, interlinked pathways of the Internet—the Internet come to life” (270). This was truly the first medium to offer a strong alternative to the homogenized content disseminating from the mainstream.

To fit with the spirit of the movement, the protesters decidedly represented their own culture and activities through a corporate medium, aligning the within-group representation with the overall growth of the movement.

Criticism of the Indymedia revolution:

While the introduction of Indymedia certainly shook up the forum and created an opportunity for social movements to represent themselves in an entirely new, democratic way, there are still several questions and components that can’t be ignored. First of all, in 1999 Internet access was still quite limited globally. Therefore, First World activists were the ones primarily in charge of the dissemination of information. First World activists are also oftentimes the ones least exploited by corporate globalization.

Furthermore, there was a lack of integration between old and new media. By leaving alternative viewpoints on one side and mainstream perspectives on the other, there is limited room for advancing the practices of representation in the media.

What Indymedia did create was an ability to see more clearly into the distortions of representation and needs within the movement: Social justice activist Yutaka Dirks was quoted saying, “We need to listen to and learn from those most affected by globalization, those who are talking about the racist/sexist/oppressive ways we have been organizing. We need to take the work of organizing in inclusive ways and confront oppression within our movement seriously” (280).

While the system isn’t perfect, the integration of digital media into the public eye opened new pathways for movements and subcultures to be represented for years to come.

Lifestyle Politics and Radical Activism (Laura Portwood-Stacer)

In this book, Portwood-Stacer seeks to offer contextual examples of lifestyle politics and radical activism. For many activists, the concept of anarchy involves an intentional adherence to anarchist principles in one’s daily life. This includes the way one dresses, what one eats, where one lives, how one speaks, who one spends time with, as well as how one spends time for both a career and for leisure. A major aspect of activism—and anarchism in particular—is putting forth effort. Living a non-mainstream lifestyle stands out as it is considered difficult. On the other hand, critics of lifestyle politics—including other anarchists—condemn the practice because they do not think it is effective:

Other ways which anarchists live their anarchy is by adhering to their core principles, including the rejection of power hierarchies. In order to achieve this, anarchists volunteer for organizations that survive in a collective manner. Communities gather in the form of meetings, protests and book fairs. Since there is no unified goals of anarchy, there is also cloudiness when it comes to who can participate.

While other subcultures coalesce in form and function, anarchists unify by congregating in a mutual space which gives coherence to the collective movement.

The lifestyle politics method of protest is not without flaws. Though there is no standard for membership, there is an interlocking nature of oppressions, which is translated in the fact that most anarchists are White, middle class, straight males. Also, the concept of lifestyle politics can be considered anti-anarchist because it aligns with the views of mainstream society. In order to find an effective means of lifestyle politics, Portwood-Stacer argues that the best way is through trial and error.

Notes from Underground (Stephen Duncombe)

In addition to lifestyle politics, another important aspect of anarchism is its zine culture. Duncombe asserts that anarchist zines are often political, but mostly personal. This repurposing of materials which could—and have been—used for propaganda, clouds the targeted audience.

Zines are marketed toward alienation, though there is an explicit difference between the rebel in mainstream culture and the rebel in the zines. “The rebel of mainstream media is on the outside, howling at the world for its injustice, but invariably wanting to get in, to be accepted, but on his (invariably this rebel is male) own terms” (30). In essence, the zine rebel alienates and the mainstream rebel is alienated.

This personal aspect is what shapes zine production. There is often a rejection of professionalism in order to be truly authentic. Duncombe clarifies that this authenticity is incongruent with nature; rather it is about a constructed identity. The aim is more about conveying “real feelings” than about making sense or even being legible. Subjects are highly subjective, while (mostly) literary amateurs share insights and experiences. Incorporating the personal characteristic, zines are often political in nature, connecting opinion with facts through use of interviews and relevant anecdotes. According to Duncombe, personalization can both forfeit and supply authority through vulnerability and experience, respectively.

“Dear Punk Rock Activism” (Andy Cornell)

A slight departure from anarchism, Cornell writes about the effectiveness of punk rock activism. While it thrives in connecting and resonating with participants on a personal level, punk rock activism almost fizzles in affecting those who are outside the subculture. Where it is succeeds in providing a community for the rebel, it almost always fails to make lasting structural change.

In order to reconcile this, Cornell differentiates activists from organizers. Activists identify with anarchist ideals, and they use lifestyle politics, but self-centrally. Organizers are the real affecters, because they are activists who also mobilize others. Mere lifestyle activism cannot be radical until you start organizing masses of people.

Most anarchist activists are not organizers simply because of demographic. As Portwood-Stacer mentions, there is an “interlocking nature of oppressions,” which states that most lifestylists are White, middle class straight males. Cornell argues that when adopting a subculture, it is instinctual to reject one’s origin; however, this proves to be ineffectual because isolating oneself is not going to change anyone else. Rather, it would be more effective to stay and mobilize.

“The Globalization Movement & The New Left” (Graeber)

            In this article David Graeber wants to make it clear that he is writing as an anarchists and wants you to come away with three main things. The first being that while anarchists are not an Anti-Globalization movement, they also are not “violent protesters,” and, unlike what some say, they are do have a coherent ideology. In regards to Anti-Globalization, Graeber believes it would be better to say they are against neoliberalism, which Reed discussed greatly. He describes this confusing term as “market fundamentalism” where only the economic elite know how to prosper in this economy. An interesting aspect of the term that he brings in is that it is difficult to describe and combat because it is the basis of the American economy. However if one were to use this term in literature it would seem as if anarchism would exclude everyone except the educated elite.

            The idea of the movement being anti-global is actually nonsensical because the whole movement began with an international network called the People’s Global Action, which had branches all over the world. This group’s first action occurred in 1996 and there was no call to action in the United States until Seattle in 1999. Some of the goals for these groups actually deal with wanting the freedom to move around the world without barriers and repression. At the time there was more and more state repression, not only in creating country borders, but also in media flows because large corporations would not want specific media to get out, which is heading any possibility of globalization. Graeber also notes how the movement’s core and organizational structure is actually the opposite of most things, which are developed in the Western world and then sent around. This movement originated in the global South and then spread, which may be one of the key differences.

            These protesters are not violent. Typically the most violent people during the interactions between protesters and police officers are the latter. The activists have taken this into account and try to disrupt this idea as much as possible, which they labeled a new language to civil disobedience, just because formerly it had to be violent or as peaceful as Ghandi. My favorite example that Graeber noted was the Revolutionary Anarchist Clown Bloc. They dressed in rainbow wigs, had squeaky mallets, and rode around on high bikes and attacked each other or other protesters who called themselves Billionaires for Bush (or Gore) and chanted silly things like “Three Word Chant! Three Word Chant!” and confused the policemen. The anarchists have no desire to seize power, rather they would like to expose it and take it apart, ultimately leading to peace.

            The main ideology that Graeber wants us to come away with is that this group wants to reinvent democracy by creating a new form of organization that focuses on horizontal networks rather than a top-down structure. He also says that although as we sit here in our everyday life if someone says “another world is possible” we would think “sure, okay,” but when you actually take part in a movement like Seattle or OWS you feel this sense that anything is possible and creating this new structure lends to an experience that gives you hope. In those moments you can see this other world that people talk of. He then went on to discuss consensus and how we could use some of these ideologies to help create a new type of organization. Then in his final notes he gives a call to action for intellectuals and tells them they can be the helping force to find an answer.

            I find Graeber’s argument very compelling and truthful. The main issue that I see in the article is that there is no answer, so yes you may be able to put this thrill in people’s hearts, but there can only be so many. Without a concrete action plan there is really no way for the mass public to get behind something. Motivating the middle is the hardest part and when that happens there can be some serious change, but until then anarchists may still just be portrayed as young kids who don’t know better.

Speaker & Field Trip

There was not much theory or discussion during class because we were lucky enough to have Andrew Cornell, a professor at Haverford College and former active member in Occupy Wall Street, come to speak with us about his relationship with anarchism. The class then went on a brief field trip to ABC No Rio on the Lower East Side. Professor Cornell started by giving us a brief history of his study and how he got interested in anarchism.

Cornell first became interested in anarchism back when he found out about the Battle of Seattle. This drove him to focus on the movement during his PhD, mainly on anarchists from the 20th century, ranging from 1919 and World War I to the Vietnam War. He came into the study of anarchism with roots in history, so he wanted to create a narrative within anarchism, which proved difficult. He found that the subculture themselves did not really keep much documentation in regards to their history, so he chose to look at the representations of anarchists.

He began to describe how the early anarchists were portrayed in the mass media of the time, newspapers. During this time period there were many immigrants coming in from Eastern and Southern Europe. They were seen as inferior people and the people living in America at the time considered themselves saintly because they were allowing these people to come and do menial jobs. They were also seen as most likely to be anarchists and the media then began to portray anarchists as such. However there were also many anarchists in the Southwest who were Latinos. Anarchists were portrayed as immigrants who were not white, very violent, and unable to speak English. Media showed them as animal-like and people who attacked all institutions. These are all, obviously, very different from how anarchists are viewed today, which have a tendency to mirror more of those involved in Occupy Wall Street.
Source: fbi.gov

Today the average anarchist is white, middle class, young and educated. These were also the types of people acting in the Battle of Seattle. This form of rebellion dealt with more mass actions and street protests that used the black block. In Seattle they used this action to stop meetings from occurring and it worked! However, media still said that these activists did feel a sense of guilt and shame because they wore masks and did not want to be identified. These acts were eventually folded into terrorism.

During class we discussed a great deal about what unifies a subculture and what they consume to make themselves a subculture. Anarchists did not seem to consume anything too expensive or concrete, like punks who went to punk rock shows and had a specific style. These intellectual anarchists have many ideas which they then produce media, which brings them together. This, the majority of the time, is zines, which we also discussed and eventually visited the ABC No Rio Zine Library.

“Where can I get in on this anarchist writing?!” you may ask. Luckily New York has plenty of spots where you can go and learn about anarchists or check out any sort of zine your heart desires. The first place to check out is an infoshop, in New York the main location is Blue Stock Ink. These are essentially bookshops sometimes with coffee shops or the like attached. That is actually where our zine library tour guide got her start. There are also anarchist book fairs that bring people together and allow them to share their ideas.

This DIY style is interesting to see because it makes you wonder about the commodification of a subculture, like we have discussed in so many other classes. Interestingly enough this did start to happen in the 1970s and 80s with the rise of corporate punk culture and the song “Anarchism in the UK.” However, in typical subculture fashion, there were those bands that refused to take money from large corporations, which they were against. This also brought up the discussion of what it meant to wear the circle A that goes along with anarchism. We questioned if it had lost meaning and Professor Cornell believed that there were two different classes within this sense of anarchism. There were those who wore the symbol just to prove a point that they were going “against the grain” and those who wore the symbol and then thought about larger issues like that of feminism and social justice.
(Mainstream uses of Circle A found on the walk home from ABC No Rio)

ABC No Rio is a great depiction of anarchism. It started out as a squatter home and eventually the city decided to give it to those who resided there. Here they house an extensive Zine library and also host punk shows. All of the people who work there are volunteers and also help with the Food Not Bombs organization down the street. It is funded mainly through grants and, while it has a very cool vibe, you wonder if, at any moment, you will fall through the floor.

            The zine library was very interesting. Have you created a zine and want it to be catalogued? Send it in and if they think it isn’t half bad they will document it. Our guide told us that this is one of the easiest ways to access zines because there is so much red tape around the zine libraries that NYU and Barnard have. Essentially if you want to become involved in a place that encourages self-representation definitely check out ABC No Rio and Blue Stocking Ink. The session was brief, but spawned a great amount of intrigue in the class.

Bibliography:

Reed, T. V. “Will the Revolution Be Cybercast?” The Art of Protest: Culture and Activism from the Civil Rights Movement to the Streets of Seattle. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2005. 240-85. Print.

Cornell, Andrew. “Dear Punk Rock Anarchism.” Letters from Young Activists: Today’s Rebels Speak out. New York: Nation, 2006. Print.

Graeber, David. “The Globalization Movement & The New New Left.” BLUE. N.p., 14 July 2002. Web.

Portwood-Stacer, Laura. Lifestyle Politics and Radical Activism. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013. Print.

Duncombe, Stephen. Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture. London: Verso, 1997. Print.

#repub13. Twitter.com. 4 November 2013. <https://twitter.com/search?q=%23repsub13&src=hash&f=realtime>

Occupy Wall Street: Social Movement or Fleeting Moment?

Reading Summary:

Todd Gitlin, “The Whole World Is Watching”

Introduction

Gitlin’s book is about the relationship between the mass media and social movements, specifically the New Left and the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Gitlin sees the mass media as a core system for the distribution of ideology. In the late twentieth century, political movements rely on large-scale communications in order to “matter” and stay relevant; yet in order to be “newsworthy,” movements must submit to the rules of newsmaking by conforming to journalistic notions of what a “story” is, what an “event” is, and what a “protest” is. The processed image of a political movement then tends to become that movement for the publics and institutions that otherwise have no other sources of information about the movement. Likewise, by omitting to cover a political movement, mass media can deprive a movement of larger significance. Media also certify leaders within a movement, often converting leadership into “celebrity.” Different forms of media systematically frame news events in ways that can determine the movement’s fate.

When faced with social opposition, journalism’s regular approach is to process the disturbance, to control its image and to diffuse it at the same time, to absorb what can be absorbed into the dominant structures of definitions and images and to push the rest into the margins of social life.

To make the world beyond direct experience look natural, the media frames its subjects. Frames are principles of selection, emphasis, and presentation composed of little tacit theories about what exists, what happens, and what matters. Media frames are persistent patterns of cognition, interpretation, and presentation, of selection, emphasis, and exclusion, by which symbol-handlers routinely organize discourse, whether verbal or visual. Frames are necessary for journalists to process large amounts of information quickly and routinely—frames, therefore, are unavoidable.

Gitlin works from the assumption that the mass media are a significant social force in the forming and delimiting of ideology. Gitlin’s ideas take their influence from Gramsci’s theory of hegemony—the process through which those who rule the dominant institutions secure their power in large measure directly and indirectly, by impressing their definitions of the situation upon those they rule and, if not usurping the whole of ideological space, still significantly limiting what is thought throughout the society. Hegemony is done by the dominant and collaborated in by the dominated.

Ch. 1: Preliminaries

Gitlin states that the media treatment of the movement and the movement approach to the media were themselves situated within a historical context. Movements and media are not creatures of each other; they work on each other, but not in conditions of their own making.

The media and the movement needed each other; the media needed stories and the movement needed publicity for recruitment. Yet, in the early years of SDS the media paid little attention to them, and did not care to seek out media attention themselves. After the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, the media discovered SDS, and SDS began to show an interest in large-scale organization and publicity. With the March on Washington on April 17, 1965, student war protests and the SDS in particular became big news. The media soon began to frame the movement through deprecatory frames, including: trivialization, polarization, emphasis on internal dissension, marginalization, disparagement by numbers, disparagement of the movement’s effectiveness, reliance on statements by government officials and other authorities, emphasis on the presence of Communists, emphasis on the carrying of “Viet Cong” flags, emphasis on violence in demonstrations, delegitimizing use of quotation marks, and considerable attention to right-wing opposition to the movement. Some of these framings can be attributed to traditional assumptions in news treatment: news concerns the event, not the underlying condition; conflict, not consensus; the fact that “advances the story,” not the one that explains it.

To combat the negative portrayal of their movement by the media, SDS attempted to use the unsought media attention to amplify the anti-war message. The media attention helped recruit new members and backers into SDS. Many of these new members differed from the original founders—they were less intellectual, more activist, and more deeply estranged from the dominant institutions.

Versions of SDS, Spring 1965

Because quick news pegs require significant events in short, direct terms, the unintended ideological effect is to undermine whatever efforts movements may make to present a general, coherent political opposition; the effect is to reinforce the image that reform movements focus, and in the nature of things ought to focus, on single grievances which the system, however reluctantly, can correct without altering fundamental social relations.

Throughout the sub-society of reporters, arrests certify protest events. Arrests are easily quantifiable and out-of-the-ordinary when they are voluntary. The approach to covering arrest stories comes from the police beat; this practice first gives newsmaking power to police, and then to activists who learn how to turn the tables by strategically getting arrested. Arrests allow for non-celebrities to become newsmakers—they are, in fact, one of the few mechanisms available for certifying a social issue.

Some frames become to prevail widely across media outlets and forms. This happens because when reporters are in unfamiliar social territory, and when enough of them are clustered in that unfamiliar territory to constitute a social group, they are liable to become a hermetic group, looking to each other for bearings, rather than outward. Stories, then, spread horizontally across news organizations as they spread vertically within organizations.

Organizational Crisis, 1965

The standard social-psychological literature is agreed that mass communications are most influential with respect to new issues, to issues on which opinions have not already formed, and to issues which are ambiguous and/or highly charged emotionally. Because few Americans had experience with antiwar movements, early coverage of SDS was highly influential. By surrounding the movement with a distracting frame (violence, Viet Cong flags, etc.) and by minimizing their account of the movement’s rational arguments against the war, the media might have helped insulate the growing movement. It is conceivable that by 1965 the media were helping to polarize the public by broadcasting provocative symbols toward which audiences could hardly maintain neutrality.

 Certifying Leaders and Converting Leadership to Celebrity

As the movement grew in notoriety, the lure and pressure of celebrity began to put pressure on the movement. On one hand, celebrity could be used as a means toward political ends. On the other hand it could corrupt the intentions of some ambitious leaders. The cultural apparatus has a structured need for celebrity, and the news media often interprets events as a drama, with individuals driving the events. In modern times, the need for a “human interest” is intensified with news media’s representations of the individual humans. On top of this, journalistic codes of objectivity and balance decree a search for a “spokesperson.” One key to the antiwar leaders’ claim to be celebrities was that they did bring with them certain radical credential: it was their relation not to diffuse communities but to movements that gave them a plausible claim to newsworthiness by the media’s own lights. The media promoted these celebrities selectively and thereby conferred on them “bona fides” extending far beyond the borders of the movement. These leader-celebrities developed two polar responses: they could pyramid celebrity (“investing” media recognition to accumulate more of the same, believing that they were turning the celebrity role to political advantage) or flee celebrity altogether.

Contracting Time and Eclipsing Context

While the media did not invent radical movements or demonstrations, one thing that is modern is a new sense of time, a new velocity of experience, a new “vertigo.” The synthetic timetables and images of the modern world suffuse and throw into question our knowledge of the real. The mass media routinize this “missing” and then not only propound meaning for experience but actually help constitute it. Capitalist production and its extension into the realm of images has made the experience of onrushing change a constant. The built-in irony of the capitalist economy and the development of the forms of news within it is that the stability of the system is predicated on the institutionalization of change and speed. Because of this, a strategically minded political movement cannot afford to substitute the commodity process of news, fashion, and image for a grasp of its own situation, a suitable organizational form, and a working knowledge of social conditions, structures, and interests.

 Discussion:

This week we switched things up and had our discussion at the beginning of class. (Ah, change!) In this discussion, we caught up on some terms and readings that we have done throughout the semester. So let’s begin with this review:

We began by mentioning Occupy Wall Street, our case study of the week. Could it be defined as more of a subculture or a social movement? We decided the latter after defining a social movement as an unauthorized, un-institutional movement of power that are seeking to change the world (Note: not only their world, the world. They desire to make lasting change.) So what was Occupy’s desired change? This is somewhat difficult to define and we as a class argued that this was a major problem of the movement. Here are the ideas that we could come up with:

  1. Have people pay more attention to what’s going on in economy/ politics
  2. More equal distribution of wealth.
  3. Corporations having less power.

Occupy appeared like a demonstration to proclaim “we’re fed up,” but it quickly became a catalyst for others to act upon their goals, almost like a brand. It led to demonstrations on college campuses and public spaces. So, though a lack of clear, defined goals, it enabled others to act just through their being.

We also discussed how Occupy had no clear leader so thus, the media focused on the outlandish ideas of the movement, the ones that are easy to report and are interesting. Because of this horizontal structure, it also had no leader for the media to contact. News outlets could go to any nut-job, call them an authority, and let them speak for the movement.

Now let’s get into those readings and terms. First, we talked about the idea of how actions invoke change. T.V. Reed wrote that repeated actions define movements. And change is brought about because of these repeated actions, thus, causing institutional change. Then, the idea of how meaning relies on difference was discussed. Stuart Hall argues that in language, concepts only make sense to us when there’s an opposite or one that differs. So, society can only understand movements in that they are different from mainstream society. Subcultures and movements are defined through what they aren’t. Compare Occupy to mainstream society and boom, you have your definition of OWS. These differences are thus how they are seen and represented. The tools of representation are called codes. We talked about the example of the punk movement and its codes: spitting, swearing, and wearing garbage.

The media likes to highlight these differences and actively work to do this. It creates a process of other-ing, as in creating the comparison of mainstream society versus the subculture. And at this point, the class discussion got started on the media. (I mean, it’s impossible to talk about any form of culture without the media’s involvement.) Gitlin speaks extensively about the news media’s coverage of oppositional movements. Media organizations used such tactics as media frames, which allows for the selection of what is to be shown. The media chooses what to put in a picture and the angle that it approaches. These frames are unavoidable because news has to narrow down reality because one can’t be everywhere at once. So how does one fit into these frames? Make a spectacle! Bring publicity to one’s self!

And lastly, let’s talk about hegemony. It is the definition of reality that gets advanced as the one that makes the most sense. It is the systematic engineering of mass consent. By seeing these same pictures of reality over and over again, we believe, they make sense to us. News stories are always 90 seconds long and thus, reality has to fit in this format. What often makes it in? Violence! It’s easy to tell in a short amount of time; viewers like to see it; and there’s always new content in this genre.

And before introducing the OWS panel, we briefly talked about the question of once a story gets news coverage, what happens to the movement? Independent actions may change because now the media is watching. This obviously affects the group. Also, the more press you have, the more followers you get (yay!) but some of those may be there because it’s the place to be, not because of the movement.

Occupy Wall Street Panel:

Next we had the privilege of being able to interview and listen to a panel discussion with several OWS activists. The panelists were involved with OWS in a diverse number of ways. Some contributed to the movement by writing, creating zines, some by organizing marches, others by organizing public square style assemblies. Most of them never camped in Zucotti Park, yet all of them identified with the movement in their own ways.

The panelists shared their perspectives on how OWS was portrayed in the media and how they experienced the movement. OWS is often criticized as a failure partly because it did not bring about any form of institutionalized change that people could point to and say OWS was directly responsible for. However, they were very successful in bringing issues like inequality and corporate corruption into the public view and sparking discussion and debate. Terms like “the one percent” and “the ninety-nine percent” are now part of the average American’ vernacular and were even used during the 2012 presidential debates. The OWS protests that began in NYC spread to other continents and served as a template for other movements months after OWS protesters had been cleared out of Zucoitti Park.

Still though, the movement is often looked back upon with belittlement and criticism. The narrative that is often recounted is one that frames OWS as an abandoned cause. But that narrative ignores the fact that OWS faced massive police repression and although this was top news at the time that the arrests, pepper spraying, and violent incidents were occurring, the retrospective view that mainstream media gives of OWS tends to ignore this repression and frames the OWS as one that “fizzled” or “burned out” due to lack of organization and potency showing how media creates hegemony between mainstream beliefs and it’s opposition.

Another thing OSW accomplished that has gone somewhat ignored is that it created templates for self organizing in communities where they had not previously existed, or were not as well-engrained. The effects of OWS on NYC communities ability to self-organize became particularly apparent after Hurricane Sandy when groups of people used the Occupy ethos to organize Occupy Sandy and summon other helpers to provide relief to those affected by the storm.

Perhaps the most important impact OSW movement had is that it radicalized large groups of people for the first time in a very long time. It evoked passions, emotions, frustrations, and feelings of hope in large numbers of people The media tends to brush these less empirical effects of the movement off because they’re not as easily observed or quantified, but they can still be extremely powerful for invoking change. Many of the panelists could remember a time in each of their lives when they first because getting into activism and mentioned how this was important in influencing their decision to get involved when a new movement, OWS, came along. The biggest implication this has is that sentiments from past movements can be renewed and reawakened in new contexts. This is important when you consider how social movements evolve over time. Social movements, like subcultures, evolve out of existing cultural contexts. In many ways, OWS can been seen as an extension of the Global Justice movement that began in the late 80s and 90s. Although we may view them as two totally separate events, there may be a time we look back on them and consider them part of the same movement.

Bibliography

Gitlin, Todd. The Whole World Is Watching. Los Angeles, California: University of California, 2003. Print.

Hall, Stuart. The Work of Representation. London: SAGE Publications, 1997. Print.

Reed, T.V. The Art of Protest. Univ Of Minnesota, 2005. Print.

#OWS Twitter.com. 22 October 2013. <https://twitter.com/search?q=%23repsub13&src=hash&f=realtime>

#repub13. Twitter.com. 22 October 2013. <https://twitter.com/search?q=%23repsub13&src=hash&f=realtime>

Punks: Individuality For One and For All

“Punk was never about one particular clean cut imagery…it’s about many, many individuals coming very loosely together” – Johnny Rotten, Sex Pistols

punks2

Reading Summaries:

“Subculture: The Meaning of Style” by Dick Hebidge

Within “Subculture: The Meaning of Style,” Dick Hebidge how style emerges, how it communicates, and how it functions within society. Stuart Hall argues that media produces an “ideological effect” that works to homogenize cultures and ideologies, constructing images that categorize and classify the diversity of society, and as a result, lay the foundation for the ways in which people make sense of the social world. For this reason, those who control the mass media harbor an enormous power that enables them to define culture in their terms, constantly working to re-appropriate stylistic features of counterculture movements to neutralize any threats to that power. Specifically, in regards to punk, Hebidge attributes the subculture’s success to its, “…ability to symptomatize a whole cluster of contemporary problems,” utilizing existing forms of rhetoric and dress to create a punk metaphor and a punk style (87). Emerging in Great Britain during the late 1970s, a time characterized by unemployment and violence, punks stylized their appearance and behavior to reflect feelings of aggression, frustration, and anxiety. They adopted a do-it-yourself philosophy that challenged the conventional and encouraged the oppositional, creating their own media so that they could act as producers of meaning, not simply as consumers.

“Notes from the Underground” by Stephen Duncombe

As succinctly stated by Duncombe in his book “Notes from Underground,” the paradox of negative identity is that, “…who you are is contingent upon who you are rebelling against” (47). By defining itself in opposition of the dominant culture, the punk identity becomes a negative identity, remaining meaningful insofar as it remains linked to what it is not. Duncombe argues that zines (fanzines) function as an integral part of the punk culture because of their ability to define reality in their own terms rather than those of the dominant culture. As the subculture’s primary form of communication, zines provide a space for punks to openly express themselves and cultivate their identities free from the pressures of mainstream society. By creating their own media, punks resist the conforming forces of the dominant culture, acting as producers rather than merely consumers, and encouraging others to do the same. One problem that emerges within the subculture is the mixing of “authentic individuality” and “communal solidarity” (68). As Duncombe puts it, “being a punk means you define yourself against society as an individual, but it also means that you define yourself as being part of a group, adhering to community standards” (68). Differing views within the punk community about “what it means to be punk” creates instability and presents a contradiction that may never really be solved. However, it is this contradiction that allows zines to remain meaningful and representative of the punk culture. In contrast to zines, dominant media often negatively portrays punks, presenting them as violent individuals, and in the process, creating negative stereotypes. By adopting a DIY philosophy, punks take their representation into their own hands, aware that while they may not be able to influence the way the dominant media portrays them, at least they will take action themselves to voice individualistic views.

“The Philosophy of Punk” by Craig O’Hara

O’Hara discusses the communicative function of zines amongst punks, viewing them as media compellations that unify various elements of the subculture and convey its essence. Emerging in the mid-70s, zines defied the rules followed by traditional magazines, taking a more grass-roots approach to publishing both through style and content. Linked to the punk DIY philosophy, zines were created and sold on affordable terms, discussing a variety of topics from a variety of views, and circulating within the subculture as a reminder that, “anyone could and should do it themselves” (65). While the aim of zines is to encourage a multiplicity of views through a variety of publications, more popular zines like MRR raise suspicion within the subculture as members worry about the power of these publications to influence younger punks. By gaining larger followings, zines face the pressures of conforming to more professional standards that link them to mainstream media, and as a result negate their efforts as a counter-cultural movement. However, despite the criticism of certain publications, the goals of zines remain the same across the board, focusing on the communication of ideas that define the punk culture and philosophy (69).

“Subcultures: Cultural Histories and Social Practice” by Ken Gelder

Chapter 2 “The Chicago School and After: Sociology, Deviance, and Social Worlds”

The chapter focuses on the University of Chicago and its role in shaping sociological perspective on subculture studies. Robert E. Park was an integral player in defining culture as a global term and in naming Chicago as an immigrant destination (28). He describes metropolitan cities as full of “little worlds” that enable people to move through and be transformed by them (29).

Hobohemia, ganglands, and taxi dancers are described later in the chapter in accordance to ethnographic research:

Sociologist Nels Anderson conducted Hobohemia research and describes Hobohemia as a utopia where “different racial groups – in particular white Americans and African Americas –freely and comfortably cohabit without reproducing the racisms and social hierarchies found in mainstream society” (34).

Sociologist Frederic M. Thrasher explored gang life in Chicago, also through ethnographic research and field observations. He asserted that “gangs were a product of a modern city” and covered gang topics such as delinquency, relations to the local community, support networks and institutions, ethnicity, poverty, and involvement in organized crime” (35).

Sociologist Paul G. Cressey describes a taxi hall as its own social world with “its own ways of acting, talking, thinking…its own vocabulary, its own activities and interests, its own conception of what is significant in life, and – to a certain extent – its own scheme of life” (38).  The taxi hall subculture, in which commercial imperatives and romantic impulses collide, may result in a problematic tension between work and pleasure (39).

Through the above examples, the chapter outlines criminal activity as a social practice and phenomenon. Gelder writes, “This view of delinquency as a social outcome of nonconformity was very different to the prevailing view of nonconformity as a matter of alienation” (41). While the chapter doesn’t address punks directly, this idea of nonconformity and individuality can be applied to punk philosophy. Gelder goes on to explain how nonconformity is a product of social dissatisfaction, and as The Filth and the Fury documentary points out, punk subculture emerged in 1970s London due to a serious class divide. Because punks valued individuality, they were viewed as deviant for holding different values than the rest of society. Gelder describes this as the “labeling theory” in which when moral entrepreneurs (members of dominant society) judge and label others as deviant, they turn deviance into a “role that gets played out according to the label” (43).

Chapter 3 “Bar Scenes and Club Cultures: Sociality, Excess, Utopia”

Chapter 3 describes club life in London, specifically establishments like the Hell-Fire Clubs, Freemasonries, and queer discos. The chapter emphasizes bar scenes role in shaping social identifies from butch lesbians to drag king and queens. While the chapter doesn’t directly reference punks and their relationship to bar and club culture, it’s important to understand clubs’ potential to disrupt social norms. Whether a rave club or drag bar, these establishments housed various “subsubgenres and microscenes” (64). We would imagine that punks found a similar sense of intimacy with their underground culture as well.

Documentary Summary

the-filth-and-the-fury-movie-poster-1999-1020298878

The Filth and the Fury is a British documentary released in 2000 about the punk rock band, The Sex Pistols. The documentary tells the story of the band’s rise and decline from the viewpoint of the band members themselves. Their accounts of the events, taken from interview footage, serve as the narration for the documentary. The film is set in 1976 London, a time when unemployment was the cause of great unease. The Sex Pistols claim to have created their band and their identities to combat these challenges and ideals. England was in a state of social upheaval and the punks, as director Julien Temple illustrates in this film, were a reaction to this concerning social state. The ways in which they differentiated themselves by fashion served as the starting point for the subcultures’ creation. In silhouetted interview footage, the members of the band reveal that they would cover themselves in trash in an effort to draw attention to the trash issue in England at the time. Julien Temple’s stylistic choice to hide the faces of those interviewed allows the viewer to immerse themselves in the world of punk rock in the 1970s in London, rather than be distracted by what the iconic punk rocker looks like now.

They wanted to stand out like peacocks, as one member expressed, so that they could feel different in a crowd of sameness. Everything that they did, in fact, from their choices in fashion to their lyrics, was to be against everything and anyone “normal”, or more accurately, what was considered mainstream.

ImageImageImage

By calling each other “cunts,” abusing drugs and alcohol, wearing clothes previously associated with fetish wear such as leather, and wrapping themselves in trash, early punks successfully distinguished themselves from everything “normal.” This carefully designed persona was not exclusive to their punk shows and concerts, but came into the public arena as well. For example, the band was featured on The Today Show, and their “performance” on the news show was similar to that of stage show. The band members insulted the talk show host with vulgar words and showed up having consumed a lot of alcohol, among other personality altering substances. The smoking, drinking and cussing they associated themselves with everywhere else did not cease when they were in the public eye.

The film effectively portrays punks’ “fuck you attitude” that punks around the world began to admire and call brave. Their attitude, as described in various interviews, came from a violence of the mind, not of the body. They were vulgar and rude, all in an effort to defy the man and the mainstream politeness of higher society. The film was stylized much like a fanzine with an amateur and raw look, and showed the concerts and punk events as freak shows, with fighting, drug use, excessive alcohol, urination, and words like “faggots” and “cunts” used onstage. Whether or not this was the director’s intention, the documentary seems scattered and disorganized, much like the culture of punks both in the 1970s in England and today.

In relation to the readings and the ideological connections between punks and dominant culture, it is important to recognize theories that Duncombe presents. Duncombe discusses how punks were only meaningful because they were different from the mainstream. Therefore, without the mainstream and the normalness of society, punks couldn’t prove themselves to be different. Their identity’s definition is dependent on the very thing they work to oppose. This ironic observation was made very evident in the screening. They continued, however, to resist this society in every way, and even went so far as to create their own media (DIY media) such as fanzines and rockumentaries much like The Filth and the Fury.

The Do-It-Yourself aspect of the culture is successfully portrayed in the film as well. DIY is a major component of their unique culture, as they felt you could not “buy” your way to acceptance. Simply wearing a leather jacket with band patches did not make someone a punk. As the documentary explains, the symbolic leather jacket must be unique and found at a thrift store, or somewhere authentic, and pasted with personal band patches. The same went for the creation of the ripped t-shirts with safety pins. A punk would have ripped their own t-shirt, and hooked the holes with safety pins themselves. They would not, then, have gone to stores like those that we have today such as Hot Topic, and purchase the “punk look” without any added effort on their part. To the real, original, and authentic punks featured in The Filth and the Fury, this is a key distinguishing factor between poser and real.

Class Discussion Summary

The class agreed that the documentary The Filth and the Fury differed both formally and stylistically from Jesus Camp and Trekkies. Unlike Jesus Camp and Trekkies, the footage in The Filth and the Fury is archival and focuses on capturing a specific moment in time – what it means to be punk today is vastly different than what it meant in the 1970s. The Filth and the Fury includes more negative highlights about punk subculture than the Evangelical Christians and Star Trek fans did. As a result, viewers see how punks functioned in the world and how the world perceived them. Having that outside perspective is valuable and something that Trekkies and Jesus Camp lacked. Unlike other documentaries from this semester, the filmmaker, Julien Temple, rarely included outside interviews, rather he included media footage from other outlets. The class believes this is because he wanted to capture a very specific, authentic point of view from a specific time period because as the class pointed out, London punk culture emerged from an alienating class system, whereas New York City punk culture was in response to hippies.

In The Filth and the Fury, the juxtaposition between music and visuals, specifically in scenes where songs like “God Save the Queen,” plays over images of guards and obedience and provides for the viewer a visible contrast of the punk culture and the dominant culture of that time. The narrative is led by punks and supplemented with both supportive and contradicting images. The rash scene changes and overwhelming archival footage causes the viewer anxiety. It is chaotic and raw, a style that effectively portrays the attitudes and foundation of the punk rock culture outside of filmic representations. The filmmaker’s decision to portray this tension is aligned with values and goals of punk culture. The idea of homology, where style reflects philosophy, was brought up and the class agreed that the stylistic decisions made by the filmmaker properly reflect punk philosophy.  Also, during interviews, only the silhouette was captured and the class talked about how this was an attempt for viewers to focus on content and not representation.

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Ideas of re-appropriation and commodification were also central themes in the class discussion. The relationship between punk and commercial culture fueled commentary about DIY projects, mainstream values, and what it means to be a part of an “underground” subculture. Hebidge argues that the relationship between subcultures and the mainstream enables the processes of appropriation and re-appropriation. In order for punks to communicate their resistance, they are required to agree, to a certain extent, with the dominant definitions of the dominant culture. This partial agreement is what enables them to appropriate meaning from the dominant culture and introduce new meaning for their rebellion in tangible terms. “For punk to be dismissed as chaos,” Hebidge comments, “it had first to ‘make sense’ as noise” (88). Therefore, punks construct an alternative identity by communicating, through language and style, their opposition to perceived notions of “normal”, “traditional”, and “appropriate”, standing out by their apparent “otherness” that threatens ordered society. However, the relationship between subcultures and mainstream culture that allows for appropriation also allows for re-appropriation, allowing the dominant culture to neutralize the threat of punk by re-appropriating the stylistic traits of punk dress so that they appear as a mainstream trend.

Professor P-S gave a helpful example for distinguishing the difference between appropriation and re-appropriation:

Safety pins for diapers à (appropriation) Punks use safety pins for DIY fashion projects à   (re-appropriation) Forever 21 makes safety pin earrings

This sparked a discussion about trendy retail stores, like Forever 21 and H&M re-appropriating punk fashion and profiting from the ideals of punk culture. Today, people can easily buy a Ramones t-shirt and be a “punk poser.” No doubt that The Sex Pistols would cringe at this sentiment. The progression of the safety pin example above serves as a prime example of the re-appropriation referenced in the film. The product began as a tool used for diapers, but it is evident that punks took this tool and recreated its meaning to fit their culture’s language. The dominant culture took this meaning and recreated it once more. Realizing that they could profit off the mass production of the punk look, safety pins, ripped jeans, leather jackets, spikes, and band patches can be found in a variety of stores where “real punks” would most definitely not shop.

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The class also discussed theories from authors we’ve read this semester and how they apply to the documentary. First, Jenkin’s idea of textual poaching is expressed within the film as members of The Sex Pistols discuss the ways that they appropriated lyrics from popular songs. This instance of textual poaching may be seen as an act of resistance by the band, incorporating lyrics that already have meaning within dominant culture, and interpreting it on their own terms so that they may create new meaning. Those listening to their music are then confronted by a duality of meaning, both that of the dominant culture, and that of the subculture, allowing them a greater freedom in choice of how to interpret the lyrics. This textual poaching once again reveals how subcultures are connected to the dominant culture they rebel against, exemplifying how punks encourage people to act not only as consumers, but also as producers.

The class tried to alleviate the tension between “selling out” and remaining true to the individualistic values that punks proudly represent. The class wanted to know, how is it that The Sex Pistols can be so against the mainstream, yet have a record deal with a prominent label and use the money made from their concerts to support their lifestyle? Did The Sex Pistols sell out?

Lastly, the Met exhibit “From Punk to Couture” also came up in discussion about punk turning mainstream. Someone tweeted a link to an article that quoted celebrities talking about “punk” at the Met Gala that kicked off the rebellious exhibit:

“I did not [have a punk phase]. That’s why I think my version of punk for me is not probably the mohawk, typical punk that you’d sort of envision. A little bit more like ‘romantic punk.’”
—Kim Kardashian

“I feel very elegant but kinda punk rock because it’s leather.”
—Jessica Alba

“I don’t think I fully understood the theme.”
—Kate Upton

“My dog ate a safety pin during the fitting, which is punk.”
—Lena Dunham

The class agreed that music, fashion, and culture inevitably intertwine and influence each other, making it nearly impossible for subcultures to escape what is mainstream.

Jensen

morency

Star Trek Fandom: The Federation Alliance of Misfits

by Imani Ribadeneyra, Kyle Schmitt and Maria Schwanke 

“Trekkies are the only fan subculture listed in the Oxford English Dictionary” – Trekkies

                                    Image

 We think it is important to keep the following two class objective in mind when considering the Trekkie fandom and its adherence to our understandings of a subculture.

Class Objectives

– Critique representations of marginal subcultures

– Understand relationship between popular culture and subculture

Reading Summary:

“Fans, Networks, Pirates: Virtual and Media Subcultures,” from Subcultures Written by Ken Gelder

Ken Gelder delves into virtual and media subcultures, a community that Star Trek is central to.  He discusses the representation and interpretation of many of these media subcultures and illustrates how they are often viewed with negative connotations. It can be argued that many representations of marginal subcultures are biased and provide examples from only a few members or perspectives of said cultures.

 One such instance is the notion “engrossment” within subcultures as outlined by Fine. In subcultures such as Star Trek and online “role-playing-games or RPG” members of the subcultures become “engrossed” within the culture neglecting their “real lives” and approach their participation as a sort of “vocational calling.” This notion outlines a level of involvement that comes at the expense of ones connection to the “real world.” It is argued that this “imbalance” between “virtual” and “physical” reality is claimed to lead to “pathologisation,” and other deranged tendencies. Gelder also describes the participation of individuals within these online communities and other similar subcultural communities as a means of nonconformity, dissent and active rebellion against the outside world. However, it must be considered that perhaps these individuals are not “rebelling,” but attempting to find somewhere they belong.

 Another representation of fandom members is as “textual poachers”, which is often referenced as “parasitic” to popular culture as members disregard notions of intellectual property. This is particularly relevant to the notion of the subcultural fan as an “amateur producer.” Fandom participants produce “zines,” which are fan written forms of media that are in contrast to the otherwise prevalent corporatization of mass media production. In these zines fans imbibe their own fantasies or interpretations of the media text within their own work giving birth to feminist Star Trek worlds and homoerotic Kirk/Spock relationships.

 Another conflict within the representations of media subcultures is the notion that these communities are simultaneously exclusive and inclusive, “social and self absorbed” (144), anonymous and yet a place of community, solidarity and identification. These seemingly conflicting ideas are brought together in subcultures -particularly those that proliferate online – where individuals with access to the textual and technological material are given the opportunity to find community, self-actualization and acceptance.

 In conclusion, the Internet acts as a “strengthening agent” for many subcultures, connecting those who may otherwise not be connected. It provides individuals and subcultures with a new platform through which everyday interactions and cultural activities can take place, however it also provides consumers with a means of activity outside of the otherwise “controlled communication system” within popular culture (149).

To learn more about Ken Gelder:

http://culture-communication.unimelb.edu.au/about/people/academic/ken-gelder

“Utopian Enterprise: Articulating the Meaning of Star Trek‘s Culture of Consumption”

Written by Robert V. Kozinets

Robert Kozinets explores the Star Trek subculture in relation to its role as a “utopian refuge” (67) for those who feel ostracized, alienated and disheartened by modern society. He does so through the lens of a “quasi-member” of the Star Trek subculture, through his own fieldwork at conventions, online chat rooms, email interviews and as a longtime viewer and collector.

Kozinet defines subcultures as groups of individuals who define themselves by cultivating significance and community based on particular beliefs and ideals in contrast to society as a whole. The term subculture itself is often associated with the “deviant,” the “parasitic,” the “subaltern,” and is frequently seen as subordinate to the hegemonic structure of popular culture. The specific term “subculture of consumption” was devised by Schouten and McAlexander, and signifies “a distinctive subgroup of society that self selects on the basis of a shared commitment to a particular class, brand or consumption activity (p. 68).” For Kozinets the term “culture of consumption” articulates an inter-textual or “interconnected system of commercially produced images, texts, and objects” that individuals utilize to find community and meaning within their lives.

Star Trek is a science fiction television series originally aired in 1966 that takes place in a “post-capitalist social and technological utopia” 300 years in the future. The Star Trek subculture is part of the avid enthusiast culture of “media fandom.” These fans can be considered an “elite fraction” of the mass audience, distinguished from other general “followers” by the connection of their social and cultural identity and the given media. These fans typically “consume resistantly” as they see their relationship to the media object as deeper than mere consumption practices. They also assemble together to form communities of media fandom and actively find ways atypical ways to participate and immerse themselves within the media.

The first theme Kozinets examines is the notion of Star Trek subculture as a “utopian sanctuary.” (71) The original series set up this framework through their relatively ground breaking treatment of the “social taboos” of the time, by placing women and people of color in authoritative roles and depicting the gender and race interactions in a non-prejudiced manner. To the viewer the show illustrated a world in contrast to the “imperfections” of everyday society and many disenfranchised individuals became drawn to this “utopian world.” Many fans interviewed by Kozinets refer to Star Trek fandom as a means of escape from loneliness. In the Star Trek universe there was “no racism, poverty, deformity, idiotic nationalism or political injustice” and the fans see Star Trek fandom as an “aspirational vision.”

The second theme discussed is the stigma faced by those who identify with Star TrekFrequently the Star Trek subculture is marginalized and represented as a consumption practice associated with “fanaticism, immaturity, passivity, escapism, addiction, obsessive consumption, and the inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality” (73). As a result of this labeling many Star Trek fans attempt to minimize or to conceal their relationship to the show out of fear of ridicule. However, once these fans are in “safe places” within the Star Trek community this “shame” in the outside world plays a strong bonding role and encourages a “depth of (loyalty and) involvement” with the media and the Star Trek community than may not have otherwise existed.

The third theme considered is the likening of Star Trek to “mythic, sacred and religious meanings (76)” by members of the subculture. Kozinets claims these connections illustrate the extent of the investment that fans have in the franchise as fans articulate the notion that Star Trek is something “greater-than-the-self.” This mentality manifests itself through the idea that Star Trek fandom is partially about “creating” the future depicted in the show through charitable works and social involvement. However, Star Trek fandom is also often labeled as a “sacred consumption” practice where consumers legitimize their consumer behavior through “religious” and moral dialogue.

 The “utopian” ideal of Stark Trek has proliferated in the minds of consumers who have re-appropriated the Star Trek universe to answer to their individualized needs. The subculture is simultaneously dependent on and in contrast to popular culture as Star Trek fans actively individualize their consumption practices. Star Trek fans struggle to maintain the “identity” of their culture amongst the capitalist pressures of popular culture and the commercializing pressures of the media industry.

 To read this complete text and other texts by Robert V. Kozinets: http://scholar.google.com/citations?user=_TUaYW4AAAAJ&hl=en

To learn more about Robert V. Kozinets visit his personal blog: http://kozinets.net

Star Trek Rerun, Reread, Rewritten: Fan Writing as Textual Poaching”

Written by Henry Jenkins

Henry Jenkins explores the stigma surrounding the Star Trek subculture and the ways in which the members interact with the media texts in the context of hegemonic society. “Trekkies” are often stereotyped by popular culture as juvenile “misfits,” and “crazies.” These fans are seen as “poaching” features from media texts to suit their personal needs leading to their “two-form” relationship with consumer culture. Members of the Star Trek subculture simultaneously absorb and transform the consumer culture identity of Star Trek and participate with the media as active consumers as opposed to passive consumers. While the subculture is often reprimanded and looked down upon for their “appropriating and re-appropriating” of original texts, Trekkies legitimize their actions through their belief that they are “rescuers” of the true meaning of the primary text, upholding the “moralistic laws” pertaining to the treatment of Star Trek.

 Star Trek fans transform their personal reaction to the media text into social interaction and convert an otherwise passive relationship into an active one. An example of this is Fanzine literature or fan written texts based on the original media. The majority of fan writing is actually authored by women. Jenkins reasons that this is perhaps because many popular culture media texts are written with women “on the edge” of male narratives therefore forcing women to reinterpret these texts to find a “female narrative” to which they can relate and experience female pleasures. These female-authored fanzines are a way for women to find ways to express themselves outside of the patriarchal hegemonic structure of popular culture, especially in a masculine literary genre like Science Fiction. In the original series the networks believed the conservative public would not want to see women in positions of power and these fan writers are attempting to ” repair the damage” caused by Star Trek‘s “inconsistent and often demeaning treatment of female characters” (457).

 An important concept that one must keep in mind is that while fans have points of contention within the original text they continue to have respect for the original creators of Star TrekWhile they redesign the text to fit their personal interpretations they attempt to “stay true” to the characters and remain “faithful” to original vision. Fan writers also see their involvement as a means of “keeping Star Trek alive” in the face of consumer and capitalist ideology. Jenkins argues that “fans are not empowered by mass culture; fans are empowered over mass culture” (469). They utilize certain aspects of mass culture to “explore their subordinate status, envision alternatives, to voice their frustrations and anger, and to share their new understandings with others” (469).

 To learn more about Henry Jenkins visit his personal website: http://henryjenkins.org/aboutmehtml

 

Documentary Summary:

 Roger Nygard’s 1997 documentary Trekkies hails viewers to witness the Stark Trek phenomenon and the passionate and committed “geeks” that make up the fandom. The film’s narrative is stationed primarily in a number of national Star Trek conventions but does offer a range of other secondary locales – a Star Trek themed dentist’s office, the future birthplace of Captain Kirk, a burger joint that is a hot-spot for Klingons – in a seeming effort to demonstrate the expansive reach of the fandom. As the documentary progresses and the viewer becomes increasingly familiar with the many aspects of the Star Trek fandom subculture, there is a degree of transition of from spectator to convention attendee. We are contemplating how accurate to the show the collar stitching on our Starfleet uniform is. We are witnessing the exciting auction battle for the Klingon “turtle” prosthesis. Ultimately, we get to experience, for the 86-minute run of the film, what it means to be a Trekkie.

 Before delving into the specifics and functionalities of the documentary, it is useful to consider how or how not the film conveys the Trekkie fandom as a subculture in relation to Gelder’s 6 characteristics of a subculture.

 1. Negative Relation to Work: Though the film notes that some fans have been inspired to pursue professions in the science field, the Trekkie fandom as portrayed in the documentary seems overwhelmingly categorized as “play,” separated from the “real world,” and somewhat of an interest and hobby.

2. Transcendent of Class: The variety of fans included in the show range in profession, age, gender, and sexuality, therefore highlighting the transcendence of mainstream class. Still, the film examines some of the hierarchies that develop within the fandom subculture (Trekkies vs. Trekkers) that are separated from mainstream class distinctions.

3. Territoriality: The focus on national conventions as community hubs is quite exemplary of the Trekkie subculture establishing a territory of operation and community.

4. Existing outside of the Domestic Sphere: With the example of Gabriel and his father, it is evident that the fandom subculture can exist within households and be a fundamental aspect of family. The majority of the subculture, though, involves strangers coming together and forming their own community and “family” structures.

5. Characterized by Excess: This is a major focus of the film. The focus on numbers of conferences attended, the amount of money spent on costumes and memorabilia, and the demonstration of the fandom interacting with the fans’ mainstream lives are just a few of the examples of the portrayed excess.

6. Refusal of massification: Images of the elaborate costuming, speaking in Klingon, and the element of role-playing and adaptation in the documentary all contribute to the understanding that the Trekkie fandom is acting in accordance to its own rules rather than those of the mainstream.

The application of Gelder’s characteristics of a subculture to the film’s portrayal of the Trekkie fandom solidifies our understanding of the fandom as truly subcultural.

The Technicalities and Function of Trekkies

The multi-perspective nature of the film- which includes accounts from Star Trek fans, former actors, executive producers, writers, and many individuals connected directly or indirectly to the fandom- works well to immerse the viewer into the fandom’s dynamics and the incorporation of the fandom into the lives of the fans. The inclusion of the actors’ account of past conventions and the Trekkie subculture acts as a voice of testimony. This gives the film significant credibility because it is utilizing actors – people who participate in the subculture but not seen as extreme fanatics – to contribute to the work and message of the film. The dominant force moving the film is that of Denise Crosby who played Security Chief Tasha Yar in Season One of Star Trek: The Next GenerationIt is through Denise and her interviews with fans, actors, etc. that the filmmakers access a more genuine and personal look into the subculture. It is someone who knows the show and knows the culture around it prompting fans to discuss what the show means to them personally. In this way, what may seem like a film of expository modality at the start comes to incorporate a more interactive modality. Further, it is not just the host that comes face to face with the fans, but the viewer as well- in a more representational sense, of course.

The documentary is edited in such a way that pseudo-monologues are the main structure for fans to talk about their experiences, passions, and adaptations of Star Trek into their lives. The viewer is routinely faced with a close-up shot of a fan talking about how much they’ve spent on Star Trek memorabilia or an actor talking about their craziest convention story. These close-up shots ultimately interpolate the viewer and make him/her feel as if they are the ones engaged in the dialogue. This works to make more intimate the connection between the viewer and the fans as the subjects. There is a greater understanding of the nuanced and complex persons who make up the fandom; they become more human than was expected at the start of the film.

                                Image

And what is it that we expect at the start of the film? What is the objective of the filmmakers in creating a documentary about the seeming fanatical subculture of Trekkies? The film’s poster, as shown above, frames the film as a sort of comedy, guiding the viewer towards a prejudiced gaze that will lead them to understand the fans as excessive, immature, and hilarious in their delusion. Before even engaging with the narrative, the viewers expect to laugh. Let’s be honest: they will. The filmmakers don’t hide the fact that they are portraying the character and quirks of the Trekkie subculture in a humorous light. Their attention to the excess of time and money required to be a fan, their focus on the role-playing to which the fans commit, and their inclusion of Star Trek fandom seeping into quotidian life are meant to make viewers chuckle and shake their heads. Yet the image of Trekkies we have at the close of the film is much more complex than the naïve and fanatical image that we start with.

The narrative is a development towards an image of Trekkies as not only humans but humans that are able to draw significant moral values from the show. The trajectory of the film covers the subculture’s implications in the fans’ lives from the trivial – like how many figurines a fan had collected over the years– to the more profound and endearing – like the ways in which the show helped foster feelings of confidence and self-acceptance in those who were without. In considering the development of representation of the fans as the film progresses, it becomes more appropriate to see the film as operating with a humane gaze. The final scenes are more emotionally charged in their depictions of the fans and convey some of the more transcendent qualities of the subculture as providing the fandom with a sense of community that they don’t feel in mainstream society. The camera acts as an extension of the filmmakers as they aim to demonstrate that Trekkies are not the immature, disillusioned, obsessive fanatics that the film took to portraying at the start. Rather, they are real, relatable people who have manifested their passions for Star Trek into positive outlets their personal and professional lives, something admirable by any social standard. Though the documentary opens with a seeming trivialization of the Trekkie subculture, it takes the viewer on a logical progression of looking past the superficial into the subculture’s deeper values – a process common to any confrontation with something foreign.

Discussion Summary:

Comparing Trekkies to Jesus Camp 

The first topic that come up in our class discussion was how greatly Trekkies differed from Jesus Camp.  Trekkies framed the subject of the documentary in a completely different light and had a much lighter hearted and feel-good tone throughout the film’s narrative.

There were several key factors that distinguished Trekkies from Jesus Camp;

  • Framing

  • Tone

  • Structure

  • Variety of Subjects and perspectives within the film

  • Exposure to Subjects’ Lives outside the Subculture

 The Star Trek subculture was framed as an unaggressive, all accepting, and non-controversial group.  In essence they lived by their motto of “IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations),” where being different was not only tolerated but appreciated. Trekkies weren’t illustrated as trying to convert the world to “their motto,” they weren’t even trying to force the greater world to engage with their Star Trek world.

We also discussed how Jesus Camp introduced the conflict between Evangelicals and the general public at the beginning of the film. The director’s use of the radio host instantly created a hostile ‘us vs. them’ narrative. While Jesus Camp depicts Evangelicals as pushing their beliefs on others the Trekkies were depicted as simply wanting to freely live their Star Trek lives and did not seek to impose on anyone’s political/religious views. This documentary angle gave Trekkies had a much funnier, lighter and more relatable tone than Jesus Camp throughout the film.

                                    

The documentary structure of Trekkie followed a simple dialogue between the interviewer and the film subjects.  It was very easy to see the ways that the subjects of the film were being prompted and we were also aware that it was Star Trek actress Denise Crosby who was doing the prompting. This transparency gave the documentary a much more natural and relaxed feeling, as opposed to Jesus Camp where we were thrown into extreme religious situations and dialogues without an understanding of the interviewers framing. Additionally, in using actual Star Trek actors as interviewees they allowed a credible and semi-removed yet familiar source to speak on the subject. In allowing these seemingly logical voices to chime in and support the subculture, the directors allowed trekkies and the culture as a whole to gain some credibility and an approachable quality, whether the audiences understood or participated in the subculture itself.

                          

Another important aspect of Trekkies was the objective manner in which they exposed the audience to a wide variety of Star Trek subculture members, and showed that these Trekkies had a wide variety of skills, jobs and hobbies outside of their subculture.  In Jesus Camp we were provided with a one note extreme evangelical narrative, while in Trekkies we saw a variety of faces and heard from a variety of voices. We saw trekkies outside of the convention center at their jobs or in their homes and got a better look at their lives as a whole. This allowed the audience to potentially see themselves in the culture or rationalize why someone might want to get involved at varying levels. In accurately representing the diversity within the subculture it helped to break down some stereotypes or biases audiences may bring with them to the film.

                       

 Trekkies integrate their individual identities into the Star Trek culture in order to personally flourish within the fandom culture. They bring their different talents and skills to serve different purposes at the conventions, whether it be at their individual Star Trek clubs or on the web. Whether it be writing a script or fanzine, creating costumes, or coding online they all contribute different things to the fandom individually.

                          

As illustrated by this text, many individuals in the class noted that Trekkies were also able to be successful members of society outside of their subculture.  On several occasions the audience was shown the variety of skills and intelligence that many trekkies have.

Documentary Elements

Bill Nichols assumes three main ways for constructing reality through representation that are expository, observational, and interactive. We see Trekkies as combining expository and interactive modes of documentation because it addresses the viewer, puts forth a fairly distinct argument and utilizes interviews as evidence. Additionally, we can see the filmmakers influence throughout the overarching narrative of the documentary and within the face-to-face interviews with Denise Crosby. Overall it appeared clear to the class that the filmmakers wanted the audience to walk away with a positive view of the Star Trek subculture and the interviews conducted were fundamental to the creation of this argument. It is important to recognize that no matter how hard documentarians try their media form arguments about their subjects as depicted by the “supposedly” objective filming of Jesus Camp.  A documentary will frequently contain a certain amount of bias, whether intended or not.

Fan Culture and its Relation to Popular Culture

The class discussion then moved on from the comparison of the documentaries to the relationship of fan culture to consumer culture.  We came to the conclusion that all subcultures are inescapably linked to the ideology of consumer culture in one way or another.  No matter how “deviant” they are, subcultures define their identities by what they do or do not consume and thus their communities inescapably function in a manner based on their relationship to popular culture.   In the end in a capitalist society producers will seek to capitalize on the public regardless of their interests, tastes or ideology.

                               

On Twitter the class also became very interested in how popular culture framed and represented fan cultures in general.  Is it possible for a fandom to exist in the media and not be stigmatized?  Does the stigma end once the fandom is brought into the mainstream?

It quickly became apparent to the class that most of the time in order to even become a fan of something you needed to watch, see, or hear it, which normally involves buying or consuming something.  Consumption as identity becomes increasing important in fan subcultures leading to  a strong sense of hierarchy among those involved.

                                  

Trekkies were constantly bragging about how many conventions they’ve been to, what model space craft their building, how much merchandise they have, what their replica costume looks like, and how much they’ve spent on all of it.

Identity and Fandom

 But even in this fan culture consumption we see that there is a hierarchy involved in not just what you consume but how you consume it.  There is definitely a merit won for a Trekkie who is able to create something completely from scratch that pays homage to Star Trek. The DIY phenomenon definitely has a place in this fan culture, as it does in many subcultures that speak to an idea of authenticity and commitment to the culture.  In consuming the series and then making it their own, trekkies have achieved the ultimate authenticity as a fan.  This idea of individualization is described as ‘poaching’. They simultaneously can recite the show and then go online and create their own script respectfully enhancing the brand of Star Trek according to their individualized needs.

An important point we came to in class was that fan culture is not a means of passive consumption but of media adaptation and active consumption as fans independently and creatively interact with the media text.  In this way they absorb the media and transform it to suit their own needs

                            

 Another important aspect of subcultures and fan cultures especially those that are directly involved in mainstream consumer culture is that often times when a subculture gains popularity it is brought out of the fringe into the mainstream in order for producers to capitalize on their trends/tastes.  Bringing a subculture into the mainstream waters it down so that it can be appropriated and desirable for the average consumer as depicted by the tweet below.

                         

The overall class and twitter discussion revolved around this idea of subcultures in relationship to consumer culture at large, and what ways these two things play off, disobey, and enhance each other. Regardless of how “deviant” a subculture is they exist in a capitalist/consumer culture.  Defined by the distinct and individual ways they consume, members of subculture are often times defined even more strictly by their patterns of consumption and behavior.

A large majority of the discussion also was based around how framing, subjects, editing, and structure are all decisions made by documentarians that directly dictate a film’s narrative and the audience’s relation to the subject.

 

Works Cited:

Gelder, Ken. “Fans, Networks, Pirates: Virtual and Media Subcultures.” Subcultures.

        London: Routledge, 2007. 140-58. Print.

Gelder, Ken. “School of Culture and Communication.” Professor Ken Gelder : Culture and  Communication. The University of Melbourne, 2013. Web. 27 Sept. 2013.

         <http://culture-communication.unimelb.edu.au/about/people/academic/kengelder&gt;.

Jenkins, Henry. “Who the &% Is Henry Jenkins?” Confessions of an AcaFan.

         N.p., 2013. Web. 27 Sept. 2013. <http://henryjenkins.org/aboutmehtml&gt;.

Jenkins, Henry. “Star Trek Rerun, Reread, Rewritten: Fan Writing as Textual Poaching.”

        Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture. New York: New

        York UP, 2006. 448-71. Print.

Kozinets, Robert Z. “Utopian Enterprise: Articulating the Meaning of Star Trek‘s Culture

        of Consumption.” JSTOR. The University of Chicago Press, June 2001. Web. 27

        Sept. 2013. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/321948?journalCode=jcr&gt;.

Kozinet, Robert V. “Brandthroposophy: A Marketing, Social Media, and Research Blog.

        “Brandthroposophy: A Marketing Social Media and Research Blog. N.p., n.d.

        Web. 27 Sept. 2013. <http://kozinets.net&gt;.

Kozinets, Robert V. “Robert V. Kozinets; Professor of Marketing, Schulich School of

        Business, York University.” Google Scholar. N.p., 2013. Web. 27 Sept. 2013.

        <http://scholar.google.com/citations?user=_TUaYW4AAAAJ&hl=en&gt;.

Portwood-Stacer, Laura. “Fandom.” Senior Media Seminar: Representing Subculturs and

        Social Movements. New York University. Bobst Library. 25 September 2013. In

        Class and Twitter.com Discussion.

Wilkins, Brian. “Google Images.” Google Images. TrekNews.net, 14 Aug. 2011. Web. 29 Sept.    2013. <http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=&gt;.

Trekkie. Dir. Roger Nygard. Bakersfield California, USA: Neo Motion Pictures, 2002.

        Documentary Film.

#repub13. Twitter.com. 27 September 2013.

        <https://twitter.com/search?q=%23repsub13&src=hash&f=realtime&gt;.