‘Just can’t go to sleep’: DIY cultures and alternative economies from the perspective of social theory

Paula Guerra


This article explores the modalities of involvement of young people in underground punk music scenes, as they forge do-it-yourself (DIY) careers through applying skills in production, promotion, composition and performance, acquired through long-term immersion in these scenes. In each such career, we can see an illustration of how youth culture can be seen as a platform through which young people acquire practical skills and competence in an era of risk, uncertainty and precarious living. Working with a corpus of over 200 interviews, we propose an analysis of the representations of Portuguese punk scene members with regard to the DIY experience, demonstrating and specifying scene knowledge, networks and skills, which are crucial to the location of these subcultural entrepreneurs in the larger labour market. We will also attempt to demonstrate the importance of DIY ethics, aesthetics and praxis in the constitution and dynamics of the Portuguese punk scene from the late 1970s until today, highlighting its role in the lives of the participants. Moreover, we will look at DIY as an expression of the symbolic capital of punk, enabling careers, pathways, trajectories and roles, as well as functioning as a specific (sub-)cultural capital present in most underground musical events, and with particular intensity in the case of punk. Finally, the feud between the mainstream and the underground is a key issue in the discussion of the DIY ethos, taking us into the core of the question of authenticity.


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