Javascript is not activated in your browser. This website needs javascript activated to work properly.
You are here

Performing Punk: Subcultural Authentications and the Positioning of the Mainstream

  • Erik Hannerz
Publishing year: 2013
Language: English
Document type: Dissertation
Publisher: Uppsala universitet

Abstract english

This thesis is about how and in opposition to what punk is defined and lived out by punks in Sweden and Indonesia. Arguing against the previous research’s presumption that subcultural meaning constitutes a single set of meaning, this study points to two patterned sets of meanings, each constructed out of several different definitions of the mainstream as well as the subcultural authentic. Consequently, a central research question concerns how to theoretically account for similarly structured and structuring heterogeneities across and between the Indonesian and Swedish cases. Drawing from extensive ethnographic fieldwork and interviews in which a variety of interpretations of punk have been explored, six different definitions of the

mainstream are outlined. Each of these refers in turn to a particular script through which subcultural styles and identities are performed and authenticated as set apart. These different definitions are then combined into two patterned sets of meaning through a consistency in terms of how the binary subcultural/mainstream is worked and extended: A convex pattern, involves a boundary work to what is defined as external to punk, bending outwards. A concave points instead bends inwards, a boundary work against mainstream internal to punk. By showing how these patterns are interrelated spatially and symbolically, it is argued that subcultural meaning as well as the authentic have to be approached from within the subcultural. The mainstream is thus released from having an inherent meaning as “the outside,” “the dominant,” or “the commercial,” and more so, so is the subcultural and the subcultural authentic. Consequently, the same object can be performed differently, drawing upon different binaries, or through working the same binaries differently, to extend the subcultural through the use of analogies and metaphors. The total similarity between how punk is performed in Sweden and Indonesia, as well as the consistent differences between the two patterns,

point to a relative autonomy of the subcultural. Different definitions of the subcultural authentic and the mainstream are therefore not a matter of commitment, or degrees of authenticity, but rather different means to communicate, interpret, and act upon the subcultural.


  • Philip Lalander


  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
  • subculture
  • punk
  • mainstream
  • authentication
  • style
  • identity
  • cultural sociology
  • ethnography
  • convex
  • concave
  • patterns of meaning


  • ISBN: 978-91-506-2375-8
Erik Hannerz
E-mail: erik [dot] hannerz [at] soc [dot] lu [dot] se

Senior lecturer


+46 46 222 88 81



Department of Sociology
Lund University
Visiting address: Paradisgatan 5, House G, Lund
Postal address: Box 114 , SE-221 00 LUND, SWEDEN
Telephone: Student Office +46 46-222 88 44, Lund University Switchboard +46 46-222 00 00

Faculty of Social Sciences