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Accepted Paper:

Teen Idle Worship: Punk’s Dogmatic Legacy and Resistance in a Neoliberal Washington DC  
Tyler Sonnichsen (Central Michigan University)

Paper Short Abstract:

Though long ignored in the decades-old veneration and mythologizing of Washington DC’s hardcore punk scene, dogmas (religious and secular) and related places of worship have both long played a central role in its perpetuation, providing ongoing modes and spaces resistance to Capital neoliberalism.

Paper Abstract:

Like many legacy-driven scenes, Washington DC’s punk history is nominally secular and politically far to the left, yet a strong undercurrent of religious dogma has permeated, and ironically, kept DC punk relevant and perpetually active. Minor Threat’s song “Straight Edge” codified singer Ian MacKaye’s anti-drug beliefs, lending its name to a global movement that became analogous with punk movements in Muslim and Mormon societies. Bad Brains, who had members with Jamaican backgrounds, fervently embraced Rastafarianism, driving their activism and philosophy while pushing fans and friends away with anti-LGBT attitudes.

Perhaps most significantly, St. Stephens and the Incarnation Episcopal Church, similar to the First Unitarian Church up the road in Philadelphia, has provided a steady habitus for punk resistance longer than many participants have been alive. Outside of hosting gigs for decades, the church has hosted innumerable radical workshops and charitable drives in support of DC’s elderly, unhoused, and other groups disproportionately targeted by the city’s aggressive neoliberal development.

Some recent music scholarship, like that of Sangheon Lee (2023), has traced the influence of religious popular culture in the 1970s (e.g. ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’) in the DNA of the punk movement. This paper seeks to reframe and expands that perspective in light of punk’s ongoing transformation and growth as resistance in the face of DC’s aggressive neoliberalism of the past three decades.

Lee, S. (2023). American Values And American Hardcore Punk In The Crisis Of The 1970s. Paper presented at the IASPM International Meeting, Minneapolis, MN, June 26.

Panel P192
Rituals against gentrification: drama, performance and religious practices in spaces of urban conflict
  Session 1 Friday 26 July, 2024, -