Commercialization of Graffiti Subculture
In cultural studies, a subculture is a group of people within a culture that differentiates themselves from the larger culture which they belong to (Hebdige, 1979). The study of subcultures often consists of the study of symbolism attached to clothing, music and other visible appearances adopted by members of a subculture and also how those symbols are interpreted by the outsiders (Hebdige, 1979). Subcultures are usually opposition to the mainstream culture, so society feels a sense of uncertainty towards these minority groups. Thus, they look down upon the subculture group and hold them to the outskirts of society (Teffs,2010). However, members within those subcultural groups do not care about the opinions of dominant society and enjoy their distinctive position of outskirts by specialize themselves through their “dress, music choice, mannerisms, and recreational activities” (Teffs,2010). The dominant society, in return, is inspired by subcultural groups in some aspect despite the uncertainty and shunning (Teffs,2010). In this way, the dominant society try to find a way to access to the special subculture elements and that is consequently-consumption. As any kind of consumption is conducted by a person or a group of person, it inevitably relates to the issue of consumer behavior. While people always pursue the identity and a sense of belonging to a certain kinds of society, so cultural marketing become a popular trend nowadays. The commercialization of American west is a typical example of this marketing method. As we all know, one of the most important purposes for marketing activities is to reach as many consumers as possible, thus when business trying to marketing a subculture, the paradox will comes out. That is, in order to marketing a subculture successful, it must firstly being accepted by the mainstream society. But, most subcultures suggest some kinds of autonomy and rebellion which are reluctant by the mainstream world. Thus, the original meaning of subcultures cannot be passed to consumers exactly through consumption, to some extent, the process of commercialization of subculture can be seen as mainstream culture’s assimilation and appropriation toward subcultures. As result, just some superficial images of the subculture are reflected in the products. In this article, the author try to identify two questions by demonstrate the commercialization process of graffiti subculture. First, why such a subculture which symbolizes rebellion, anarchism and even vandalism can be commercialized, and more important, the cultural authenticity problem during the commercialization process. To begin with, the author will first give a review of former academic work, then introduce the graffiti subculture and its commercialization process as well as discuss the authenticity problem. Finally, a summary of this article will be given in the very end of this article.
Subculture is consisted by a group of people within the larger culture but often having beliefs or interests at variance with the larger culture they belong. Dick Hebdige (1979) argued that “subcultures bring together like-minded individuals who feel neglected by societal standards and allow them to develop a sense of identity”. Members of a subculture often signal their membership through using distinctive and symbolic objects and things which includes cloth, accessories, music, mannerisms, and other visible affectations or just using daily object in a completely different way from the intentions of the manufacturers (Frank, 1997). The affectations itself and the way they using common objects are hard to be understand and maybe interpreted differently by members of the dominant culture. Thus, subcultures are always seen as subversion to normalcy. People in the dominant culture tend to link it with uncertainty and the dark side of society because they do not share the...
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