chapter  6
18 Pages

“Don’t call me white” (or middle-class)

Constructing an authentic identity in punk subculture
WithPhilip G. Lewin

Researchers who are influenced by postmodern theory tend to construe subcultures as collective expressions and celebrations of individualism. Rather than embracing social identities that are based on shared beliefs and experiences, they claim that youth mix and match identity components in the solipsistic pursuit of self-expression. This chapter challenges this interpretation of youth cultural activity. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in a punk scene, I show that being punk is not just about being an individual; it is also about proving that one is a specific type of person – a person who is marginalized by society, critical toward normative institutions, and indifferent to the judgment of others. Furthermore, I show that labeling oneself as a punk and other people as “mainstream” solves a series of problems for white youth who have failed to achieve popularity in high school. Labeling undesirable newcomers to the punk scene with terms like “poser,” “mall punk,” and “Mr. Punk Rock” relates to these problems as well.