Out of nihilism to nothing outside punk: A transnational history of punk communities in Poland and the U.S.
Marciniak, Marta Elzbieta
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The present study is an oral history and ethnography of four communities in Poland and the United States that define themselves as belonging to the punk subculture. It is based on oral history interviews conducted by the author in Poland and the United States during the years 2012-2013. While a lot of attention is devoted to the philosophical roots of punk, and their longevity and continuous relevance to subsequent generations of punks around the globe, the most important findings of this study concern the process of the transnational development of the subculture in the context of the Cold War, technological progress, and the alternative economy and institutions developed by punks that undergird the everyday functioning of punk communities. It is the argument of this work that punk is simultaneously a transnational and a local phenomenon, and that the role of centers and peripheries in its cultural production is ambiguous if one observes closely the productivity and innovation emanating from the smaller and more provincial centers of punk activity, such as northeast Ohio and Upper Silesia. The methods and motivations behind establishing and maintaining transnational connections among specific punk communities across political, economic, and cultural barriers are explored, with the findings indicating that before 1989 these connections were possible due to individuals contacting each other via the mail and utilizing do-it-yourself institutions like labels and fanzines. It is also argued that performance is a crucial dimension in the understanding of punk, and that punk performance extends far beyond the stage during a given concert. This aspect of the subculture is connected with its political dimensions, which are intertwined with, but separate from mainstream and official politics of the state and societies in which punks live. It is proposed that punk offers a viable alternative living space in which members of this subculture often successfully address and resolve the problems facing post-modern societies functioning in postindustrial economies.