Muggleton, D.

Sitting in bed after a wonderful weekend at 'Splendor in the Grass'. Karen O for PM...

I recently spent a (happy) week in Sydney, taking adavntage of the State and Mitchell libraries. It was a wonderful change of scene. And I got to to gulp down a few Max Brennar hot chocolates!

Lately, I've become a little obsessed with the whole concept of 'subculture', so at Baden's encouragement, I've been doing a bit of exploration about the way the term is defined in broader academic literature.

My problem with the use of 'subculture', is that I've seen it as a way to put down cultures that aren't conservative or constructive in any traditional way (I know, I know... define traditional). By denoting something as sub, I felt that it was a way of dimishing the meaning of the culture and the identity in a broader social context. How are 'subcultures' secondary to another culture, and which culture are we talking about? A national identity? If it's a national identity, then I can cope. In this context every culture becomes a subculture and thus it's less problematic and exclusionary. But I also think this is a perfunctory way of defining what consititutes a major personal identity and my issue with the word continues...

As I trawled through the (slightly useless) State Library catalogue, I came across a book called Inside Subcultures: The Postmodern Meaning of Style by David Muggleton (2000). This book has been wonderful for me and I'm excited to hunt it down again and go through it a bit more thoroughly.

Muggleton's study into subcultural identites is inspired by his frustration with a particular scholarly representation of his own historical experience with representations of punk. His work emphasises that subcultures cannot be examined as a whole. All cultures (sub or otherwise) are composed of individuals who each have their own specific motivations and identites within the group, and who each contribute to the development, support, continuation and change of that culture. Individuals embody their culture and these identies can be conflicting - between the need to belong, and the need to assert their own individuality. He proposes that the kind of ethnographic research being undertaken has been inadequate to recongnise and explore these individual identities and what this implies for subcultural identities more broadly.

I found this book and its propositions interesting as Muggleton attempts to escape the shackles of generalisation and to find a more inclusive way of discussing subcultural membership and meaning. Surfing is one of those 'subcultures' that is broad and non-specific in its membership, so hopefully Muggleton's work will be able to help me clear up some of these issues.

Now where are those notes...


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