From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
A Youth subculture is youth-based subculture with distinct styles, behaviors and interests. According to subculture theorists such as Dick Hebdige, members of a subculture often signal their membership by making distinctive and symbolic tangible choices in, for example, clothing styles, hairstyles and footwear. However, intangible elements, such as common interests, dialects and slang, music genres and gathering places can also be an important factor. Youth subcultures offer participants an identity outside of that ascribed by social institutions such as family, work, home and school.
Social class, gender and ethnicity can be important in relation to youth subcultures. Youth subcultures can be defined as meaning systems, modes of expression or lifestyles developed by groups in subordinate structural positions in response to dominant systems — and which reflect their attempt to solve structural contradictions rising from the wider societal context. The study of subcultures often consists of the study of the symbolism attached to clothing, music, other visible affections by members of the subculture and also the ways in which these same symbols are interpreted by members of the dominant culture.
The term scene can refer to an exclusive subculture or faction. Scenes are distinguished from the broad culture through fashion; identification with specific (sometimes obscure or experimental) musical genres or political perspectives; and a strong in-group or tribal mentality. The term can also be used to depict specific subsets of a subculture, habitually geographical, such as the American drum and bass scene or the London Goth scene. A quantity of scenes tend to be volatile, imprudent to trends and changes, with some participants acting elitist towards those considered to be less fashionable, or oppositional to the general culture although others do endow with mutual support in marginalized groups. In-group behavior can sometimes elicit external opposition.
Features of youth subcultures
Youth subcultures tend to be defined by style and fashion, which play a role in most subculture groups to varying degrees. All classes place great emphasis on fashion - clothing and hairstyles. Where means permit, there may be an emphasis on artifacts such as homes, vehicles, and electronic equipment. In this vein, modes of transportation and recreational activities play an important role, for example automobiles, motorcycles (bikers), motor scooters, skaters and surfers. Some 1950s/1960s youth subcultures characterized by fashion, recreation, and music include mods, rockers, surfers and greasers.
Apart from fashion and activities, most youth subculture groups can be associated with a specific music genre, and in some instances music has been the defining characteristic of the group, as with ravers, metalheads, hip hoppers, gangsters, goths, emo kids, and punk rockers. Will Straw describes a music scene as "that cultural space in which a range of musical practices coexist, interacting with each other within a variety of processes of differentiation, and according to widely varying trajectories of change and cross-fertilization."
High school subcultures
A high school subculture is a group of students in a secondary education setting, which acts as a subculture. Group members share a distinct set of behaviors, beliefs or interests that differentiate themselves from the dominant culture. These subcultures, (sometimes called cliques) habitually identify with a larger subculture in the out-of-school world, where they may mix easily with or have traditional animosities. High school subcultures that show a systematic hostility to the dominant culture are often seen as countercultures in their schools.
Theories of youth subculture
Early studies in youth culture were mainly produced by functionalist sociologists, and focus on youth as a single form of culture. In explaining the development of the culture, they utilized the concept of anomie. Talcott Parsons argued that as we move from the family and corresponding values to another sphere with differing values, (e.g. the workplace) we would experience an "anomic situation." The generalizations involved in this theory ignore the existence of subcultures.
Marxist theories account for some diversity, because they focus on classes and class-fractions rather than youth as a whole. Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson (1993) describe youth subcultures as symbolic or ritualistic attempts to resist the power of bourgeois hegemony by consciously adopting behavior that appears threatening to the establishment.
Interactionist theorist Stan Cohen argues youth subcultures are not coherent social groupings that arise spontaneously as a reaction to social forces, but that mass media labeling results in the creation of youth subcultures by imposing an ideological framework in which people can locate their behavior.
Post-structuralist theories of subculture utilize many of the ideas from these other theories, including hegemony and the role of the media. Dick Hebdige describes subcultures as a reaction of subordinated groups that challenge the hegemony of the dominant culture. This theory accounts for factors such as gender, ethnicity and age. Youth can be seen as a subordinate group in relation to the dominant, adult society.
- Youth culture
- Internet Generation
- List of subcultures
- List of youth subcultures
- List of UK youth subcultures