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Memories of Violence and Punk's Challenge to Oral History

Thu, October 5, 2:15 to 3:45pm, Hilton Minneapolis, Conrad B


When studying underground culture, both primary and secondary qualitative research methods face challenges. Much history of these scenes is contested and difficult to triangulate (verify), as is an inherent contradiction of a lack of formal documentation that renders “the use of oral histories prominent and necessary” (Turrini 2013, 61).

My dissertation studies the circulation of punk culture between Washington, DC and Paris, France, focusing on the early generations of the respective cities’ hardcore scenes (the 1980s). This chapter begins and ends with accounts of street violence aligned with punk shows, the first in Paris and the second in DC, that occurred back when the cultural landscapes first began affecting one another. In between, the projects various data sources are explained, including personal interviews, popular press books (based mostly on oral histories), as well as archival sources like fanzines and streaming video footage.

Though slow to achieve acceptance within much of the academy, punk music provides an excellent canvas for evaluating one’s methodology and epistemology within qualitative research. Sordid elements in particular encourage one to enhance interrogative methods and call attention to wider shortcomings with qualitative methods in general. As Iain Chambers wrote, “memory is also the art of forgetting... in which the poignancy and pain of the past is overwritten in the psychic release of the present” (1997, 235). Punk music and culture, this chapter argues, can make qualitative inquiry stronger and enhance conclusions drawn about the contemporary impacts of these transgressions.

Works Cited
Chambers, I. (1997). Maps, movies, musics and memory. In (Clarke, D.B., ed.) The Cinematic City, 230-240. London: Routledge.
Turrini, J. M. (2013). "Well I don't care about history": oral history and the making of collective memory in punk rock. Notes, 70(1), 59-77.