Punk Studies

19 Jan

Ryan Moore has an article in the Chronicle Review about punk studies. It seems to have been online for free for a minute, but may now be behind a pay-wall. The provocation is “Is punk the new jazz?” not in a strictly musical sense, but in the sense of a cultural form that has lost popular traction as it has gained academic credibility. Luckily, Moore immediately points out the obvious differences between punk and jazz, bringing in helpful discussions of hip hop and blues along the way.

My main quarrel with the article is its US-centrism — as intimated by the above-mentioned genres. They have the inevitable effect of placing punk in “the story of American music,” where it does and doesn’t belong. Where is a discussion of punk in relation to ska, reggae, 2-tone? And, for an article on the relationship between academic theory and musical subcultures, I was truly surprised to see Bourdieu name-checked but not Dick Hebdige.

Maybe everybody is supposed to already know their British Cultural Studies backwards and forwards by now. But somehow I can’t help but feel that the historiography of punk is being placed in a too-convenient national frame (not just in this article, but it’s a case in point). The linearity of the national frame seems to make it easier to periodize punk through generational logics (“kids these days”), a “straight time” of reproductive temporality that would be complicated by transnational frames.

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