What it means to be true: youth cultures in search for authenticity





youth cultures, youth studies, scenes, goths, anarchists, punks, authenticity, dark scene, subcultures, (sub)cultures)


Ways of conceptualizing the authenticity of (sub)cultures have been changing over time. (Sub)cultural authenticity/identity had long been understood as radical stylistic exclusivity: mohawks and leather jackets were emblematic of belonging to a certain (sub) culture. As the Internet and market developed, (sub)cultural images became publicly available for investigation and copying, which in turn exacerbated the questions of distinguishing between “genuine” representatives of (sub)cultures and posers, copies, wannabes. Certain (sub)cultures have paid a price for such mainstream attention: cooptation of protest, commercialization of music and style, moral panics in the media, persecution by authorities, constant rotation of new participants. In order to survive some (sub)cultures (such as punks) had to simulate their “death”, while others (goths, emos) were on the brink of extinction, but still attempting to reanimate their culture after the intervention of mainstream.

The paper explores the ways of (re) production of authenticity in youth (sub)cultures/solidarities/scenes. The empirical bases of the research are two ethnographic case-studies: anarchistic solidarity and dark scene. Both case-studies were conducted using qualitative methodology (in-depth interviews, participant observations) in St Petersburg. Through the prism of narratives of young people identifying themselves with anarchists, punks, goths, neformaly or antifascists the author examines what it means to be authentic (where lies the boundary between “true” participants and “posers”) and how external factors (such as Internet and market) influence transformations inside youth (sub) cultures.

Author Biography

Daria A. Litvina, European University at St. Petersburg

  • European University at Saint Petersburg, St. Petersburg, Russia
    • Junior Researcher
  • National Research University Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg, Russia
    • Post-Graduate Student