Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Donileen Loseke, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Spencer Cahill, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Laurel Graham, Ph.D.


Authenticity, Cultural capital, Ethnography, Meaning, Social construction


This thesis is an ethnographic examination of a local punk subculture. Its focus is the processes of meaning construction and subcultural identity formation and maintenance. Through in-depth interviews and on-site observations, the meanings of punk emerge in acts of social co-construction. An empirical analysis of the ways by which individuals define and explore what is involved and valued in a punk identity provides insight into this subculture. The concept of punk as a social practice is investigated discursively through interviews and documented discussions. My goal is to uncover thematic ideas, beliefs, and values in these interactions that form a matrix of interlocking cultural expressions, collectively creating a shared subcultural identity.

As with any subculture, punk appears to be governed by a set of cultural codes and norms. The research reported here indicates that these themes are dominated primarily by knowledge displays and symbolic boundary maintenance. Accordingly, my study seeks to build upon previous work on identity display and subcultural boundary contests. Though one of punk's few "universal principles" is a purported anti-capitalism, consumerism and consumption play a pivotal role in the initiation, development, maintenance, and display of subcultural identity. Certain goods garner varying amounts of status, thus reflecting their position on a "hierarchy of goods" inside the subcultural system of meanings. In this way, my research illustrates and extends Bourdieu's concept of cultural capital and Baudrillard's analysis of the meaning conveying importance of commodities.