Dept of Sociology University of Delaware
Right Side

The search for collective identity through electronica (or electronic lifestyle) is the result of latter 20th and early 21st century social, economic, historical and cultural forces. The subculture took shape in the late 1980s and early 1990s at underground rave parties. Numerous social changes have, however, occurred since then to transform this subculture into a mainstream movement, youth-oriented lifestyle and global activity.

As electronica has expanded, it has attracted new groups of people and created new genres of music, identities and behaviors. Who and what are they? What explains the subculture's wide appeal? What are the new subcultural divisions and around what principles are they organized? How does electronica benefit the lives of those involved? When do consequences arise? How are they managed? What can the electronica lifestyle teach us about social change, young adulthood and collective/group identity?

These questions comprise the focus of the proposed research project. Answers to them are becoming increasingly important as the media profile of electronica edges closer to center stage. Major news publications have featured stories about various aspects of the scene (e.g., popularity of the scene, public health concerns, civil rights, and new legislation), especially those related to substance abuse and increased social control by the state.

The proposed study will take a preliminary look at these questions in Philadelphia, PA. Philadelphia has a vibrant electronica scene, characterized by numerous, diverse venues that attract Djs from across the country and around the world. Participation is exploding. I will use a variety of qualitative methods to collect relevant information. These methods include interviews (with Djs, promoters, producers, and fans of electronica) and direct observation of local dance parties in Philadelphia and interaction at a leading dance music store.

As such, locating the present study at a leading dance music store will help define the local parameters (values, behaviors, identities, symbols, lifestyles) of the subculture and will provide opportunity to learn about matters of collective identity, youth-oriented interaction and social and personal benefits and consequence. However, since electronica is a global movement, it will also help locate the Philadelphia scene in the subculture's larger national and international context. I expect to produce a book-length manuscript form this project and to also use it as a source of "pilot" data to fund a much larger, international project sponsored by a major foundation or governmental agency.

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