Ask a punk: from informality to anti-formality and anti-authority and when to say fuck

10 February 2018

Presented at: Curating Resistance: Punk as Archival Method, Los Angeles CA

Sometimes you can’t design your research. Sometimes the city is what happens while you’re busy making plans. What are the linkages between tactical approaches to punk place-making and punk knowledge-making? As a doctoral candidate researching punk space in the city, specifically as it intersects with formal urban planning processes, I find striking analogies between my academic struggles and punk place-making. The qualitative-(re)turn in the social sciences has extended legitimacy to a variety of alternative research methods. In the process of formalization and institutionalization, in many instances the underlying conceptual and ethical arguments for the diversification of methodological approaches are buried if not entirely lost. In order to conform to institutional guidelines, to meet program requirements, or to be considered a competitive candidate for funding, alternative researchers are pressured to (mis)represent informal and even anti-formal research tactics as a rational, operationalized, progressive series of procedures—pressures that belie the positivist biases and authority of the university. Though perhaps a pragmatic approach to getting the work done, once formalized, these alternative methods become depoliticized and available for appropriation by the mainstream. I find myself increasingly looking to my own experiences in the punk scene as a guide for how to approach academic life. Auto-ethnography, phenomenological observation, and storytelling methods are re-radicalized in my research as both self-reflexive and subversive praxis. From learning guitar, to going to shows, to performing, punk life teaches me important lessons on self-care, consciousness raising, embracing disorder, being unpopular, making do, and when to say “fuck”.

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