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Richard "Dick" Hebdige (born 1951) is an expatriate British media theorist and sociologist most commonly associated with the study of subcultures, and its resistance against the mainstream of society.
Life and career
Hebdige received his M.A. from the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies in Birmingham, United Kingdom. He is best known for his influential book in subcultural studies, Subculture: The Meaning of Style, originally published in 1979. He has been teaching in art schools since the mid-1970s, having served as the Dean of Critical Studies and the Director of the experimental writing program at the California Institute of the Arts before going to UCSB. He is currently a professor of film and media studies and art at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Hebdige's Subculture: The Meaning of Style builds on earlier work at Birmingham on youth subcultures. But whereas much of this research was concerned with the relation between subcultures and social class in postwar Britain, Hebdige saw youth cultures in terms of a dialogue between Black and white youth. He argues that punk emerged as a mainly white style when Black youth became more separatist in the 1970s in response to discrimination in British society. Whereas previous research described a homology between the different aspects of a subcultural style (dress, hairstyle, music, drugs), Hebdige argues that punk in London in 1976-77 borrowed from all previous subcultures and its only homology was chaos. In making this argument he was drawing on the early work of Julia Kristeva who also found such subversion of meaning in French poets such as Mallarmé and Lautréamont.
His book Subculture has been criticized for offering a semiotic reading of punk and adopting an omniscient position in relation to it. Dave Laing in One Chord Wonders (1985) provides more of a sociology of punk. For example he shows that many punk musicians actually came from middle-class families (43%) and that there was a strong influence of art school students.
Hebdidge also wrote Cut'n'Mix (1987) on Caribbean music and identity, and Hiding in the Light (1988) a book of essays that includes some further thoughts about punk.
He recently contributed a chapter to Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture (The MIT Press, 2008) edited by Paul D. Miller a.k.a. DJ Spooky.
- Profile on the UCSB Film and Media Studies Department site
- The Mutated Child of Punk by Jason Lawrence Fulghum (Spanish translation)
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