subcultures and countercultures

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Page 1: Subcultures and countercultures
Page 2: Subcultures and countercultures

After today…

• You should be able to tell the difference between subcultures & countercultures

• You should be able to identify the purpose of subcultures within dominant society

• You should be able to identify the qualities of sub/countercultures

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What is a subculture?

• Any group that exists within dominant, mainstream culture…a world within a world– Shared ideology…values, norms, beliefs– Shared aesthetic…dress, pastimes, music,

blogs, etc– Shared vernacular…specialized language

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• Vocational subcultures

• Recreational subcultures

• Ethnic subcultures

Types of Subcultures

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Job Jargon: Truck Driving

• "Reefer" ... refrigerated trailer

• "Big Road" .... Highway

• "Flip Flop" ... return trip

• "Chicken Coup" ... truck scales

• "Bear" ... Police

• "Back Door" ... Behind

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Purpose of both sub and countercultures

• Gives people a place where they are empowered

• Connects likeminded people• Makes invisible people visible• Allows people to escape the identity

they are born into• Gives people a place to construct


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Otherkin• Subculture of people, primarily Internet-based,

who identify in some way as other than human

• Believe themselves to be mythological or legendary creatures, explaining their beliefs through reincarnation, having a nonhuman soul– Angels, demons, dragons, elves, extra-terrestrials,

fairies, kitsune, lycanthropes, and vampires

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Bōsōzoku• “Violent running gang”; a Japanese subculture

associated with motorcycle clubs and gangs. – First seen in the 1950s as the Japanese automobile industry

expanded rapidly. 

• Engage in dangerous or reckless driving, such as weaving in traffic, not wearing motorcycle helmets, and running red lights– composed of people under the legal adult age, (20 yrs old)

– Weapons of choice: wooden swords, metal pipes and Molotov cocktails.

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• Sukeban --"suke" means female, while "ban" means boss in Japan; girl gangs

• Wear sailor uniforms; pleated skirts that went down to their feet, and custom embroidery

• Know for glue sniffing, stimulant use, shoplifting, theft, prostitution and violence

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Girls dress like their favorite manga, anime, or

video-game character.

Harajuku district of


Wamona, cyber, decora , or


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• Based on science fiction literature blended with Victorian Era culture…– Think H.G. Wells and Jules Verne– Clothing: gowns, corsets, petticoats and bustles;

suits with vests, coats and spats; or military-inspired garments. 

• Example: Panic at the Disco’s “The Ballad of Mona Lisa”

• Music – industrial dance/synthpunk

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LARPers• Participants physically act out their characters'

actions as decided by the game master – May last hours or days– May be in public or private– Most characters dress up and have alternative

personas– Horror, zombie, fantasy, post apocalyptic,

assassin, etc.

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What is a counterculture?

• A group who’s values and norms deviate from or are at odds with those of dominant culture:– Usually viewed as negative/dangerous, but not

always (e.g. women’s lib groups in the 70s or the Civil Rights movement of the 60s)

– Hippies, KKK, early punk, Satanists, Hells Angels/Pagans, Anarchists, Cults

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Why do people join countercultures?

• Members of countercultural groups are…– Usually outsiders– Alienated– Freaks, geeks, nerds and losers– Marginalized people with little power over their

status in the world– Don’t fit the mold of what cultures says is


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Punk Subculture

• Emerges in London and NYC in the 1970s– Max’s Kansas City & CBGBs

• Backlash against the hippy counterculture

• Values: nihilistic, rejected materialism, anti-establishment

• Music: Sex Pistols, The Ramones, Blondie, Television, Talking Heads, Patti Smith

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What is a “cult”?

• A group whose beliefs seem bizarre or abnormal

• Can be religious or secular:• Modern cults include large group-awareness

training, psychotherapy, business (pyramid schemes), political (militia), and "New Age" groups:– Westboro Baptist Church?– Scientology?

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• Independent Baptist church in Topeka, Kansas

• Headed by Fred Phelps; 71 members

• Stage anti-gay protests at military funerals, celebrity funerals, Catholic & Episcopalian churches, deaths of 9 Mennonite children who died in a fire…the list goes on!

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Cults in American Society

• Some estimates suggest there are over 5000 cults in the U.S. (including militia groups, extremist religions, and new age sects)

• The turn of the century rekindled interest and membership in cults.– Some estimates suggest upwards of

185,000 converts per year to various cults

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Problem with Defining “Cults”

• One person’s cult is another’s religion

• What is the difference between a “cult” and a “social movement”?

• What is the difference between an “extremist group” and a “club”?

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Cults: 8 Commonalities1. Authoritarian: central leadership in one person or small

group of individuals. 2. Oppositional: values, beliefs or practices at odds with

dominant culture.3. Exclusivistic: only the group has ''the truth,'' usually

based on new insights or revelation. 4. Legalistic: a tightly structured framework which governs

spirituality and the smallest details of daily life. 5. Subjective: undue emphasis on experience and emotions

often resulting in anti-intellectualism. 6. Persecution-Conscious: the belief that their group is

singled out for persecution. 7. Sanction-Oriented: stern sanctions issued for anything

less than total obedience. 8. Esoteric: an emphasis on secret, hidden or inner truth.

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Characteristics of People Who Join Cults

• A desire to belong• Unassertiveness • Gullibility (impaired capacity to question critically)• Low tolerance for ambiguity • Cultural disillusionment or alienation• Idealism• A lack of self-confidence• A desire for spiritual meaning

Page 37: Subcultures and countercultures

Heaven’s Gate Cult

• Founded by Marshall Applewhite AKA “Do”, and Bonnie Lu Truesdale AKA”Ti”

• Mid 1970’s – West Coast

• Beliefs – Aliens a “ Level Above” humans – Earth was a “ Garden for Souls” – Jesus was part of this. Applewhite was the same as

Jesus – Earth was being “Recycled” – Comet Hale-Bopp was signal to leave

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All wearing the following:

•Identical blue shirts and sweatpants

•Nike Widerunners

•Armbands reading “Heaven’s Gate Away Team”

•Each had a $5 bill and 3 quarters in their pocket

Star Trek reference

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Marshall Applewhite &

Bonnie Lu Nettles Trusdale

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Jim Jones: The People’s Temple

• Founded in 1955 by Jim Jones• By 1959 = over 900 members (mid-70s

3,000)• Preached imminent end of the world in a

nuclear war and that the survivors would create a “new socialist Eden” on earth

• Would travel around the country performing fake healings and fund raising

• San Francisco - police suspicion• Jones leases 4,000 acres of land in


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Jonestown Massacre

• November 17, 1978: Congressman Leo Ryan goes to Guyana to investigate

• November 18, 1978: Ryan attempts to help potential defectors– Temple guards open fire, kill Ryan, 3

journalists and one defector– Jones orders mass execution– Cyanide-laced, grape flavored Kool-Aid

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• 918 dead

• 270 children

• Greatest single loss of American civilian life before 9/11

• Only Congressman to ever be assassinated

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Youth Subcultures Task• In your groups make a list of 5 youth subcultures

we have here at the high school:– Identify what shared values/ideology the group


– Identify what shared aesthetic the group embraces (music, dress, hairstyles, body modifications, pastimes, etc.)

– Identify what shared vernacular the group uses (slang terms or specialized language)

– Create a poster to visualized that subcultures