Ageing and Youth Cultures: Music, Style and Identity
Hodkinson, Paul and Andy Bennett
London/ New York: Berg
pp. ix + 196
Ageing and Youth Cultures seeks to backtrack what happens to people engaged in music-based youth cultures once they have passed through adolescence. The volume comprises twelve chapters based in empirical studies from a number of different countries and is arranged into four sections. These are preceded by a short introductory text setting the stage that is provided by the editors. The first part is concerned with 'Ageing, Image and Identity' and the chapter on ageing queers proves to be particularly convincing as the author's findings and other subject-relevant studies are knowledgeably juxtaposed. Its central message is that scene-specific age performance potentially challenges heteronormative concepts of what is deemed appropriate demeanour at a given biological age. The constraints of the ageing body and the implications these may have for the active participation in a given youth culture are explored in the second part of the book. The outstanding chapter in this section is, to my mind, 'Slamdancing, Ageing and Belonging', a Durkheimian reading of ageing punks who need to balance the deep seated desire to belong to the scene and all that this implies with the restrictions the ageing body imposes.
Section three explores how ageing youth culture adherents manage to combine responsibilities typically emerging in an adult life with the active participation in their respective scene. In the fourth and last part of the book the focus of attention shifts from ageing individuals to the broader context; examining scene participation as a means for intergenerational bonding in- and outside of families and the repercussions the changing needs and demands of scene members may have on their community.
All studies rely on a qualitative approach, seeking how the researched understand themselves. The authors partly pride themselves being, or having been an active participant in the scene looked at. In some cases this might not only have helped to unlock the research setting, but also to elicit information that would otherwise not have been possible to obtain. The degree to which the research process is made transparent varies from chapter to chapter, with a study on alternative women appearing to excel in this aspect. A slight methodological flaw can be discerned in the otherwise carefully crafted article on ageing punks as it builds on interviews realized and published by fan magazines as the main data source. Whilst the rationale for using back issues of these magazines is laid out clearly, the implications this might have for the quality of the data are not discussed. This would have been helpful, though, as the societal developments that took place since the interviews have been carried out and the filtering of prospective sources according to the magazines' selection criteria can be expected to have influenced the overall picture transmitted as are the decisions on in- or exclusion of the interview fragments.
As far as the formal presentation of the chapters is concerned an alphabetical glossary on scene-specific terminology would have been helpful to make the reading more palatable for a non-specialist audience. This is particularly true for the one on ageing break dancers. The tables with pseudonyms and basic information about their interviewees that some authors thankfully provide allow contextualizing the information put forward. A short concluding section pulling all threads together, either in a comparative perspective or from a given theoretical point of view would also have been a nice round-off.
However, these rather technical glitches don't compromise the book's value in suggesting alternative conceptualizations of ageing; whilst the empirical material focuses widely on individuals between 25-45 years, the key message is that a new take on growing older is inevitably emerging and points beyond that age bracket. The organiser of a Goth festival, for example, envisioned how the festival participants having jointly moved one generation up the age-scale will continue attending even after retirement with, of course, adequately decorated wheelchairs and motor scooters. The continuously increasing life expectancy combined with the general diversification of lifestyles during the last couple of decades, has led very naturally to more diverse forms of ageing. This seems not to be too farfetched but rather a timely revision of what is commonly understood as 'ageing gracefully'. In other words, slamdancing and support stockings must not necessarily be a contradiction, neither are b-boying and bifocals. The question is rather how the belonging to a given scene is individually enacted. The adoption of mentoring roles for younger members of the scene or choosing breadwinning occupations that allow for continuous meaningful involvement are examples of this.
All in all, this volume appears to be a well-structured collection of interesting and thought-provoking articles, widely written in clear and accessible language. Therefore it might be of interest to scholars from a variety of disciplines as well as to a non-academic audience from scene-related fields.
University of Essex