Survey Update – Week One!

Survey Update

To all of you wonderful people who responded to my call for survey participants  – a heartfelt thank you.

I have been genuinely overwhelmed by your positivity, generosity and openness and your intelligent and articulate responses.    Collation and analysis of the data is going to take considerable time.

I am determined to present a thorough, authentic and detailed study of the subculture reflecting on the key themes of the research and hopefully incorporating as many of your contributions as possible.

To everyone who indicated that you are interested in participating in interviews, meetings or contributing through other means, thank you!  I will contact you in the coming weeks to discuss interview options.

Thank you all again.

Emma.

Whitby Spires Through Window Arch

World Goth Day

Happy World Goth Day!

This post is dedicated all those who have invested time, effort, thought and feeling

to improving understanding of the Goth Subculture.

Express your belief in love and tolerance :

Please donate to the Sophie Lancaster Foundation.

 


I have been involved in the Goth scene for more than 25 years.  It is fair to say it is not an incidental part of my life, but a jolly significant one.

Undertaking this research project has required me to reconsider what the subculture – and even the word – really means to me.

How has it informed, shaped and influenced my life?  How do I feel about Goth now that my forties are marching by?  How has my relationship with Goth changed?  How was I labelled Goth in the first place?  For years I skirted around the word, denied it, smirked at it… but really there was no denying it… I had to admit…

I am a Goth 

Once that unpleasantness was behind me, I asked myself – well, why Goth?

It may not look like much to some, but it's ours...

It may not look like much to some, but it’s ours…

To my mind, my musical preferences have never been that extreme, I don’t worship Satan (maybe satin a little), I have never thought of myself as a darkling and negative commentary about dangerous youth cultures seemed unrelated to me.

For me, being involved in the Goth scene has taken many forms over the years:  from pretentious teenager (ok, I can admit it now, the velvet cape in the Australian Summer was too much), to serious art-school student, to Goth-Industrial dance-floor devotee, to incognito manager (yes, Goth to Boss), and back to Trad Goth university researcher waxing lyrical about the Goth subculture.

With this reflection has come the realisation that the very characteristics which prevented me from fitting in to mainstream youth culture and originally propelled me towards Goth when I was young have, over time, become very important to me indeed:   bookishness, scholarly debate, rejection of vacuous and syrupy pop culture, curiosity and acceptance of the slightly weird, rejection of narrow-mindedness …

For me, the experience of being in the Goth scene – participating in Goth events – has always been comfortable and for me that is the core of it.  I enjoy the intimacy of the smaller venues, the familiar faces, indeed even the familiar set lists.  I never cared what people called us, I knew we were having a ball, we loved the fog machines, the (feigned!?!) melancholia, the audacious and poetic clothing with its inferred antiquity and the layers allusion in the music.

So, this year I have chosen to celebrate World Goth Day and be proud.

To everyone celebrating World Goth Day today – however you choose to do it – be proud and have a fabulous day!

Celebrate with me - here, have some bat cake.....

Celebrate with me – here, have some bat cake…..

Thank you for the survey contributions, keep them coming!

 

Goth Subculture Survey


Take the Survey!!!

What better way to celebrate World Goth Day than by taking a survey all about Goth Subculture!!

Follow the links below to take part or contact me directly if you wish:

                   

                   CONTACT WEB MINI Whitby BLUE

Surveys are now closed – Please contact me if you would like to be involved.

Is Goth Just a Phase?

To find out I am conducting research at Curtin University.   You are all welcome to take the surveys, however I am particularly interested in Goth identity in Australia & for those of us over 40.

How did Goth come to be part of your life… Did you think it was just a phase…How would you describe Goth… Is there a strong Goth population where you live???

Thank you for your contributions.

Curtin University Project Number 5251 Approval Number RDHU-17-15

Goth – A Very Visual Subculture

Goth: A Very Visual Subculture

Goth is an unashamedly visual subculture.  The visual impact of Goth identity remains one of the core characteristics which attracted me (and many others) to the scene and which generates curiosity.  Where other subcultures such as Hippies or Skinheads adhere to a social or political ethos, Goth for the most part relies on its spectacular[1] visual representations and aesthetics to express its culture.

Studio3

C.1992

Goth music undoubtedly plays a vital role in the scene, a topic which I will discuss in future posts, however the visual elements of Goth hold significance for subcultural identity in isolation from music, and influence a broader spectrum of mediums independent of musical connections[2].

Moreover, non-Goths are often familiar with the various visual characteristics of Goth without awareness of the nuances within the diverse musical styles and subgenres of the subculture.

For outside observers, the striking appearance of Goth is what sets it out as a subculture in its own right; typified by a visual language reminiscent of the melancholic decadence of the Victorian era, with primarily black clothing accented with lurid hair colour and opulent, heavily ornamented footwear and accessories.  To undertake any discourse on the Goth phenomenon without first reflecting on this very visual nature would be to devalue its primary cultural signifier and give a partially occluded view of the style, design and preoccupations of the subculture.

As a starting point for this research, I have been collating a library of imagery intrinsic to Goth as a point of visual reference and as a catalyst for discussion.  Using the social networking image site Pinterest I have sourced indicative images from all over the world under various categories (boards) to articulate the preoccupations of the scene; some themes are very familiar to me, others are entirely new which in itself is exciting.

www.pinterest.com/just_a_phase/

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Is it really just a phase?

Is it really just a phase?

For some people, I am sure it is, and that is as it should be.

But for those of us who have continued to be Goth (yes, even when we said we were not) there must be compelling reasons for this ongoing connection: this is the primary focus of my research.

My research project will undertake an examination of the phenomenon of the Gothic youth subculture (Goth) in Australian and European contexts, engaging with participants whose connection with the Goth community has extended beyond the transitional phase of youth into adulthood.   This post provides a brief introduction to my study, how this research evolved, its personal significance and the foci of investigations to come.

Goth: How I first experienced the subculture

In the early 1980s as punk was subsumed by mainstream culture and exploited by the mass media, the language and representation of youth culture changed; commodification of the once extraordinary “big” hair, torn fishnets and icon-laden T-shirts synonymous with the punk era diluted the anarchic impact of radical fashion so much so that Goth – the slightly more polite voice of ‘teenage rebellion’ – could thrive.  It was at this time I first encountered the pale, interesting fellows in music press articles that loitered like ghosts under a mane of black back-combed hair and velvet frock coats, their lyrics apparently misunderstood and their dark theatrical style a media confection.  Though I had been too young to experience Punk, Goth immediately connected with my own sensibilities and the historic influences promised a deeper cultural link I felt was missing in my suburban Australia.

By 1990 Goth had traversed the post-punk rebellion of the 1980s, emerging globally, in the UK, Europe and Australia in particular, replete with its own brand of dark, collective non-conformist individuality that somehow embraced this difficult relationship with the media (and labeling) and emerged as an intact subculture.  The foundations of Goth identity became standardised and the scene progressed sufficiently as to allow further diversification, resulting in varied style sub-sets which reflected other subcultural groups and celebrated otherness as distinct from mainstream pop-culture.  The idea of otherness and the acceptance of social and aesthetic difference in identity formation will form significant themes within this research.

Goth is the Word

During the early 1990s, Goth experienced a brief and incongruous period of mainstream popularity, with the Goth style influencing pop music videos, Goth characters appeared in television programmes and films, and the term Goth* began finding its way more frequently into conventional media and social discourse.   A seemingly resultant quirk in the Goth scene is the almost universal custom of self-denying of the label Goth [1]From Jaspers’ experience of the Dutch Goth scene, here in Australia as well as in Britain: it seems none of us liked to be labelled.  Through surveys, this paradox is an element of the subculture  I hope to discuss with other Goths in order to provide insight into the social etiquette of belonging in a subculture where authenticity and identity are seemingly visually apparent and yet naming it remains taboo.

Belonging & Social Connections

Connecting with other Goths, developing a sense of place within the subculture and understanding the basis of belonging within Goth will form recurrent themes within this research.  When I first began writing about the subculture  in the 1990s Goth was just beginning its life with the internet and my research at the time used the fledgling networks of online communities and forums to connect with the now globally linked Goth scene.  Through the use of the internet, from my desk in Perth Western Australia, I was able to connect with places, groups and individuals to a greater extent than ever before; replacing old methods of postal correspondence between Goths via NME (and other music press), tape/music exchanges and  fan-based zines.  Only a few years previous the social networks within Australia were tenuous at best and joined to the parent Goth culture in Europe only by our music and  mail-order catalogues and supported by limited personal exposure.  For the Goth scene in Perth, one of the most isolated capital cities in the world, the internet could not happen soon enough and it appeared to promise the subculture longevity.

A Diverse Subculture

In addition to the emergence of genuine commercial opportunities allowed by the internet (which I will explore in future discussions) it also created an environment in which the Goth subculture could evolve with increasing rapidity, developing maturity and complexity as it transitioned from fashion fad to true subculture and in so doing refining and defining the parameters of Goth style, music and identity.  Goth now encompasses a range of subcultural aesthetics which have been absorbed from diverse sources which would perhaps not have occurred without the benefit of our global connection.  Traditional Medieval and Victorian historic periods hold enduring influence on Goth aesthetics, especially High Victorian couture, these sit alongside the pre-imagined futuristic realities of Cyber Goth and hard-edged and militaristic Goth Industrial.  Goth  has incorporated the risqué fashion from other outsider subcultures (Punk, Bondage and Discipline/BDSM, fetish and erotic-horror) and conversely, appropriated elements of the cute and the kitsch from Japanese Harajuku and the 1950s-reminiscent Rockabilly styles[2].

…And  yet somehow Goth maintains its own cohesive style and Goth remains easily recognisable as a distinct subculture, despite these aesthetic shifts.

As a subculture then, Goth is as diverse as any other community; since the early 1990s it has dramatically changed and adapted to expand the basic tenets of the style; it has diversified from the traditional Gothic Rock influences (Trad-Goth) of its’ early years to include a wide variety of ‘looks’ and a breadth of styles which enable it to reach a broader, more committed audience.  My research seeks to explore if this is a result of the collective will of participants or if the changing patterns of social interaction in broader society have enabled this evolution through improved understanding of inter-cultural/inter-generational tolerance.  Discussion on the reduced importance of geography on social connection and how this has transformed the subculture over time will provide insights into the changing character of Goth from the early 1980s to today.

Revisiting this topic, nearly twenty years after my first research project, the profound changes in how the world now connects offers a new way in which to research and interact within the subculture and allows a deeper, more holistic understanding of the value Goth holds for participants  – myself included.


[1] ‘I am not a goth!’: The Unspoken Morale of Authenticity within the Dutch Gothic Subculture Agnes Jasper Etnofoor, Vol. 17, No. 1/2, AUTHENTICITY (2004), pp. 90-115Published by: Stichting Etnofoor  http://www.jstor.org/stable/25758070 Accessed: 26/06/2013 23:27

[2] Brill, D. 2008 Goth Culture: Gender, Sexuality and Style, Oxford: Berg.

Curtin University Project #5251, Ethics Approval RDHU-17-15 see About for more info

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Just a Phase?

Welcome

This website is where I will be documenting my research project:

Just a Phase? Goth Subculture as an identity constant beyond youth.   

This PhD project is being conducted via Curtin University of Technology Western Australia:  Project Number 5251 Approval Number RDHU-17-15

My name is Emma, I have been involved in the Australian Goth scene since I was about thirteen.  Now in my early 40s, I continue to be connected to Goth and consider it an integral component of my identity.

 

What does this mean?

Essentially – Goth is more than hairspray, crimpers and eyeliner…

My connection to the Goth culture has taken me all over the world following bands, visiting Goth events and places.

As Goths we can visit clubs, go to gigs or events (such as the Whitby Goth Weekend or Wave Gotik Treffen) and feel like we belong – sometimes without even talking to other attendees.  We even have our own day!   It is my belief this connectedness – this sense of place – benefits us in a variety of ways and is a key factor which supports the overall longevity of the subculture.

 I am particularly interested what being a Goth means for those of us over forty – did people think it was Just a Phase (like your parents insisted) – how did Goth come to be part of your life and why is it important….

The Goth subculture is fascinating, it has endured for more than three decades after its first emergence in the late 1970s, and it continues to morph and transform.  Over this time, Goth subculture has developed a mature sense of itself: it is aware of its own irony – of its very conformity as a group who proclaim individuality.

Goth has a sense of humour about itself – it is quite normal for Goths to insist I am not a Goth  ( ….but we are).

I will use this site to write about various aspects of the Goth subculture and seek input from others.  I will also publish links to surveys for those who wish to participate.  By doing this, I hope to improve understanding of the subculture, to  share thoughts and experiences with other Goths (and researchers) especially those, like me,  who have continued to be involved with Goth well beyond youth!