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Toward a theory of subcultural mosaic: Fragmentation into and within subcultures


Journal of Consumer Culture

Published online on


We present an integrated and more nuanced analysis of the observed tendency toward eclectic, fragmented, and paradoxical subcultures in contemporary society. Through a critical ethnographic approach, we investigate the factors contributing to the motives that impel people to seek subcultural membership, which leads to fragmentation. We interview people who are avid participants of music-based subcultures. Findings reveal that subcultural antagonism and identity politics are the two factors guiding fragmentation into subcultures in contemporary society. People seek solace in membership in multiple subcultures since each subculture provides a distinct escape from different oppressions perceived in the mainstream. This cultivates the impetus for fragmentation within subcultures. Subcultural fragmentation is voluntary, resistive, and subversive. The constant fragmentation and the multiplicity and fluidity of subcultural memberships give rise to what we call a radical subcultural mosaic referring to eclectic subcultural affiliation and composite subcultural memberships fermenting presentational discourses of resistance. Members of the radical subcultural mosaic seek agency and collectivity, creativity in heterogeneity, and propose novel alternative modes of living.