As a popularly conceived culture, punk is replete with conflicting imaginaries – indeed, this bottom-up, anti-dogmatic grounding has contributed to punk’s continued vibrancy, development and spread over the last 40+ years. Time is contested among punk’s imaginaries, characterised as a conflict between the nostalgic and the contemporary.
The nostalgic, or ‘retromaniac’, punk imaginary holds to a narrow time period of the mid-to-late 1970s as ‘the’ punk era, typically with a focus on a handful of iconic (and commercially successful) actors in the Anglo-American metropolises of London and New York.
The contemporary punk imaginary takes an iconoclastic tack, dismissing punk nostalgists as ‘dinosaurs’ (in a similar way to the early punks who rebuffed their musical and cultural antecedents), with a focus on utterly contemporary manifestations of punk from all over the world, typically informed by DIY production and distribution principles.
Despite a recent glut of excellent scholarship on contemporary and global punk, the nostalgic imaginary continues to dominate in mainstream academic perspectives on punk – and this also applies to the mainstream media. Contemporary punks often reject this nostalgic punk imaginary, while simultaneously drawing on the rich heritage that early punks have provided.
Hosted online by the University of Łódź, Poland, Dr Donaghey's paper will explore these conflicting imaginaries of punk, taking the Belfast punk scene as a jumping off point. The Belfast punk scene of the late 1970s has been lionised in recent years, for example with a feature film and stage production focused on ‘the Godfather of Northern Ireland punk’, Terri Hooley, and his Good Vibrations record shop and label. But, countering this Belfast punk ‘retromania’, contemporary punks associated with the anarchist Warzone Collective hosted an event titled ‘Fuck Nostalgia Fest’ in 2014, where a comical piñata effigy of Hooley was smashed to pieces, and ‘pogo’ dancing was prohibited. Video footage of the piñata-smashing stoked a fierce backlash from local punk nostalgists, and had to be taken offline. In this context the conflict between the nostalgic and contemporary punk imaginaries is readily apparent.
Dr Donaghey is participating in his capacity as a member of the Aiôn project - https://aion-project.org