Goth: Identity, Style and Subculture Paperback – 1 Oct 2002
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"I would recommend it as a valuable text that should be included on undergraduate reading lists for courses dealing with fan, music and popular cultures." --Garry Crawford, "BSA"
"While most of us might have moved swiftly on and started wearing baggy jeans, there remains an enormous goth subculture, which Hodkinson, proud to count himself a part of it, analyses stylishly in this "ethnographic study." --"The Guardian"
"Engaging." --"The Daily Telegraph'"
"A scholarly yet accessible text [that] successfully conveys what it means to be a Goth." --"Sonic Seducer"
"The first major anthropological study of UK Goths is a priceless work. [It is a] fascinating read that I found very difficult to put down." --"Kaleidoscope"
I would recommend it as a valuable text that should be included on undergraduate reading lists for courses dealing with fan, music and popular cultures. "Garry Crawford, BSA"
While most of us might have moved swiftly on and started wearing baggy jeans, there remains an enormous goth subculture, which Hodkinson, proud to count himself a part of it, analyses stylishly in this "ethnographic study. "The Guardian"
Engaging. "The Daily Telegraph'"
A scholarly yet accessible text [that] successfully conveys what it means to be a Goth. "Sonic Seducer"
The first major anthropological study of UK Goths is a priceless work. [It is a] fascinating read that I found very difficult to put down. "Kaleidoscope""
About the Author
Paul Hodkinson is Lecturer in Sociology, University of Surrey.
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Top Customer Reviews
Although an insider, he has the ability to stand back, giving it reflective qualities. As well as examining what Goth means to participants of the scene, Paul asks how strong the sense of the individual is, how consumerism is demonstrated, and the negative or positive aspects involved. And so it goes on - weighty matters, handled well, made reasonably easy to follow. He establishes the sense of belonging, as well as the contradiction of open-mindedness set against the occasional feelings of superiority. He covers many areas including shared identity and the chosen elements to Subcultures (Identity, Commitment, Consistent distinctiveness, Autonomy) and the emergence and development of Style, as well as online community. It isn't warts and all, because that isn't the intent, but there are a few minor skin rashes, as he gets interesting responses/admissions from people in his study.
If you're looking for a modern guide to what's around, think again. This is a serious study of what it's all about. He examines the substance, so if you're interested in more than just surface this will be of great interest. Anyone seeking depth with find their faith amply rewarded.
This book is more like an actual case study, much like one would do in a degree but on a much more indepth level. For anyone taking a degree in Music, or Cultural Studies and is interested in the gothic culture and possibly planning to write their essays/dissertation on the gothic culture, this book would be used frequently and makes for a very interesting read.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
From the academic perspective Paul Hodkinson attempts to disprove post-modern claims that media and commerce break down substantive cultural groupings. It covers UK Goth from the mid to late 90's, concentrating on the Birmingham, Plymouth and Leeds area, where 72 interviews were conducted, with over a hundred people completing a Whitby questionnaire.
Although an insider, he has the ability to stand back, and show an overview. As well as examining what Goth means to participants of the scene, Paul asks how strong the sense of the individual is, how consumerism is demonstrated, and the negative or positive aspects involved. He establishes the sense of belonging, as well as the contradiction of open-mindedness set against the occasional feelings of superiority. He covers many areas including shared identity and the chosen elements to Subcultures (Identity, Commitment, Consistent distinctiveness, Autonomy) and the emergence and development of Style, as well as online community. It isn't warts and all, but there are a few minor skin rashes, as he gets interesting responses/admissions from people in his study.
He may often write in a way which anyone hoping for a jolly read will not find easy, but anyone seeking some depth with find their faith amply rewarded. He examines the substance, so if you're interested in more than the surface this will be of great interest.
But looks can be deceiving. Goth: Identity, Style, and Subculture is a scholarly book, written by an academic in a academically correct language, put together for an academic audience. It's a book that's difficult to read, filled to the brim with references and footnotes referring to earlier works in sociology, anthropology, and ethnography. In other words, anyone attempting to read all of the 198 pages while not having the required skills is in for a real challenge. However, it can be a challenge worth taking.
Hodkinson, who is both a goth and an academic, has written a book where he analyses the British alternative scene known as Goth during the latter half of the 1990s. Whatever music, fashion, thoughts, ideas, life styles, and more that can be classified as parts of the "gothic subculture" are thoroughly and subjectively analyzed by him. What early bands are seen as founders of gothic music? How are you "supposed" to dress if you want to be part of it all? What clubs and social events are there to be found, and how do you walk and talk the right way once you're there? What in the world are the pros and cons of taking part of a subculture where the great majority dress in black, has a fascination with death and the darker sides of life, spend hours every day putting on make-up, dress in bizarre fetish clothing, while all the time having to endure being harassed by the "normal" people?
This, and more, is dealt with by Hodkinson, but Goth is still not a "manual" of how to become gothic. It's a scholarly book, no doubt about that, even though bands such as Cure, Bauhaus, and Sisters of Mercy are mentioned and different gothic fashion is shown (in low quality black and white photographs). If one's interested in this particular subculture, or indeed happens to already be a goth, then Goth is a definite must, but one must also be aware of the fact that large parts of the books are made up of difficult texts where lots of sociological phenomena and theory are discussed. In case you've never taken a class in sociology, well, then this book might not be the right choice for you.
People with more of a casual interest in the gothic way of life should try to find other, more easily understood books. Still, Goth is not a bad book, provided that you're able to understand it.
First off, this book investigates how Goth culture works from the standpoint of sociology, and uses all its methods. If you are interested in sociology, it is an interesting book, and one that delves into some very intrigiung points about the inner workings of Goth culture. However, this meticulously researched and solidly argued book has one major flaw: it is indeed dry reading. For that reason, it is best for academic uses. If you want to know about Goth culture in general there are other books on the subject now-I'd highly recommend "Goth Chic: A Connoiseur's Guide to Dark Culture" by Gavin Baddely and perhaps also "What is Goth?" by Voltaire-but only if you can take that one with the proper grain of salt.
Neither of those books has any color plates either, and for good reason. Color plates are quite expensive and most non coffee table books have few or none for good reason, given the realities of the publishing industry!
I do agree with the complaint about the cover picture-I wish they had used a different picture-but you know what they say about not judging a book by its cover.It's also true that authors are often not given much say about the cover art of their books. As a further note of the scholarly nature of this book, I'll add that there are not all that many pictures in it anyway-it is mostly text. So, the bottom line: as a scholarly work it is greatly recommended, but for general reading it is rather dry.
Hebdige argued that a subculture's only viable as long as it appropriates and subverts everyday goods. Think of the cut-up art of the punk era. This 2002 study challenges this widespread theoretical assumption, that for sale means selling out. Hodkinson deftly deflates Hebdige with a reminder of Malcolm McLaren & Vivienne Westwood. Without their "Sex" shop on Kings Road, Chelsea, how would punk have been peddled, and where would John Lydon have been "discovered"? As a participant-turned-observer, sociologist Hodkinson adapts his Ph.D. thesis (at Birmingham) into the first mass-market study (at least that I know of) of this off-shoot of the (post-)punk era.
The result dutifully follows the conventions of the genre, and plenty of social scientific references sometimes document what commonsense already proves. The book as true to its origins is meant for a seminar rather than a settee. But, as an insider, Hodkinson enriches this dense, sober, academic treatise with valuable insight into a misunderstood, stereotyped, and feared lifestyle. For, as he finds, the visually prominent identification of Goths makes them hard to hide. They share their communal identity as their primary bond. Politics, beliefs, gender, race, class: these as the author argues mean little compared to the key affiliation. Not an outward style that can be donned and discarded, but a mutual support system forms for Goths. Although I suppose this could be said for any visually apparent faction in our society, as its members find camaraderie and sustenance among those they choose to bond with and mate with and stay with.
Ideals form "cultural substance." Hodkinson breaks this down into identity, commitment, consistent distinctiveness, and autonomy as four "indicative criteria" for Goth subculture. (29) In passing, he notes a crucial factor. Hostility by outsiders towards Goths reinforces Goth "holier than thou" reactions towards who's in and who's out, within the subculture according to its arbiters and gatekeepers, as well as in a more black-white fashion (as it were) between the hip and the square.
"Subcultural capital" accrues. Selflessness in supporting bands, making products, selling records, providing services may add up to dividends not tallied up financially so much as in terms of status within the Goth world. He examines clubs, conventions, shops, mail-order, online discussion lists, and fan sites to explain how contrary to previous critics of subculture, the "capital" is not diminished as it spreads but it is enriched, as fans use the media to enhance participation, widen contacts, and expand the impact locally and globally that Goths, as with any wired subculture, tap into and make their own.
He notes sensibly that "the likelihood of an individual without an initial interest subscribing to a mailing list with 'goth' in its title was surely only slightly higher than that of the same person deciding to spend the evening in a goth pub as the result of having coincidentally having walked past it." (179) That being said, in a hipster neighborhood near me, there's now a "Goth pizzeria" that attracts celebrities. Perhaps the past decade (this book's research stops about 2000) has found the term-- as with purveyors of its accoutrements and couture for teens at malls worldwide-- more loosely applied than before?
Although relatively underground, Goths rely on the wider world for materials, distribution, technology, and transportation. I would have liked attention paid to how Goths make a living if they cannot do so in the subculture, and how appeals to femininity & gender ambiguity in fashion translate into sexual and personal behavior. Did Goths share any values, any beliefs, any philosophy? The answers are not part of the questions asked for the dissertation, I guess.
The music gains attention, if often secondarily to what is after all an installment in a "Dress, Body, Culture" series. Yet this overlap appears often elided in Goth studies, and merits coverage. Similarly, the heritage Goth inherits from aesthetic and literary Romantic, Victorian, and Edwardian periods in Britain deserved much more context alongside fashion trends and social theory.
Still, any thesis able to sneak in a passage like this earns my nod: "Slimness of body and face, were, on the whole, also valued for females-- consistent with more dominant fashion-- although the ability to show off an ample chest with the help of a basque or other suitable low-cut top often seemed to more than compensate for those with larger general proportions." (54)
P.S. The author's made his career out of his passion, and for that I admire him. He's now at the University of Surrey. I hope he follows this up with a look at the past decade of the Goth scene. A slightly more updated, if textually slighter, but tonally lighter read can be found via "Gothic Charm School" by Jillian Venters. See my review.
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