Subcultures, scenes or tribes?: none of the above

Hesmondhalgh, David (2005). Subcultures, scenes or tribes?: none of the above. Journal of Youth Studies, 8(1) pp. 21–40.



The concept of subculture has been criticised a great deal in recent research on youth and popular music. Two concepts have emerged as offering new ways of conceiving musical collectivities, particularly among young people: scenes, and tribes (or neo-tribes). I offer criticisms of the work of advocates of both terms. I also argue, however, that there is no possibility of a return to the concept of subculture in any adequate sociology of popular music, even if the concept may have some residual use in the sociology of youth. I discuss the potential advantages of the concepts of genre and articulation as a way of at least beginning to address some of the problems raised in the literature on subcultures, scenes and tribes, concerning the politics of musical collectivities. The common feature of the three terms under discussion is that they have been discussed by those concerned with the relationship between youth and popular music, and I close by reflecting on the relationship between the study of these two entities. I suggest that the assumption that there is a close relationship between youth and popular music was the result of particular historical circumstances and I argue that, while the study of young people's relationships with popular music remains a topic of interest, the privileging of youth in studies of music has actually become an obstacle to a more fully developed understanding of music and society.

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