Media & Communication Department

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Laurie Kamens

We Want the Airwaves: How the Underground Press

Constructs Identity

Defined against the monolith of the mainstream, subcultures privilege nominal status through a locally organized system of "subcultural capital," which lends credibility both to individuals in the community and to the group as a whole, "glorifying their loserdom." The alternative press gives space for these subcultures to define and actively construct a negative identity, one which is not mainstream, yet remains tied to what it is rebelling against, based on notions of authenticity, exclusivity, and "hipness." An analysis of Punk, a significant publication in the history of the alternative press, reveals how these media help construct subcultural identity in opposition to the mainstream by subverting traditional journalistic conventions, employing techniques such as subversive or crass language, and a subjective first person voice. As the press is an outward manifestation and documentation of culture, identity is reflected and created with words. In ascribing itself with subcultural capital, the alternative press not only constructs, but in fact perpetuates and legitimizes the culture it represents.