Dr Vlad Nicu

Postgraduate research student
BA Hons in History & Criminology, University of Essex (2012) MRes in Social Research, University of Aberdeen (2013)
+44 (0)1483 686983
39 AD 03


My research project


Research interests


Vlad Nicu (2017) Subcultural Resistance: Moving Beyond the Modern/Postmodern Schism?, presented at the Punk Scholars Network Conference, Bolton, 12-13 December 2017

My PhD project proposes an examination of subcultural resistance through music-related practices inside the punk and minimal techno music scenes of Bucharest, the capital of Romania. Since there have been almost no studies conducted on subcultural spaces in this geographical region, this approach could present a new perspective on resistance from a non-Western viewpoint. Additionally, this would be an excellent opportunity to see whether or not Western conceptions can be successfully applied to subcultural activities outside of the Anglo-American sphere of influence, and to attempt to go beyond the modern-postmodern debate in order to formulate a more cohesive picture of a complex sociological phenomenon. In this presentation, I will reflect upon some of the challenges encountered while trying to identify the theoretical gap in relation to the issue of resistance.

In the past two and a half decades, the sociology of youth culture has treated the concept of subcultural resistance as a specific case of a more general conflict between modernism and postmodernism. On the one hand, the modernist paradigm of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) defines resistance as a distinct phenomenon of working-class origins which is representative of the struggle between the hegemonic, dominant middle class culture and the oppressed working class. On the other, the era of post-CCCS studies has re-focused the analysis on mundane, fragmented, and heterogeneous subcultural formations (Gelder, 2005). In the so-called ‘post-subcultural’ framework, resistance is seen as an ambiguous notion with limited empirical support, separated from the ‘heroic’ working-class rebellion theorized by the CCCS. Thus, it is argued that subcultures can be interpreted as a form of ‘depoliticized play’ in a postmodern society fixated on hedonism and spectacle (Muggleton, 1997).

Vlad Nicu (2018) ‘The punks started it’: crossover and conflict inside the punk and metal scenes of Bucharest, presented at the Punk Scholars Network Conference, Leicester, 13-14 December 2018

As part of my sociological investigation into the issue of subcultural resistance, I will engage in a tentative analysis of the crossover phenomenon inside the punk and metal communities of Bucharest, Romania. Using excerpts from qualitative face-to-face interviews collected over a fieldwork period of seven months, I will attempt to argue that, in spite of a number of clear differences, symbolic boundaries and conflicts between the two subcultures (conflicts which occasionally escalated into physical violence in the recent past), young people who are or were involved with both punk and metal are ultimately able to identify a series of key elements that indicate the existence of a hybrid cultural space. At the most important points of intersection in the narratives, respondents who came in contact with both scenes demonstrate a keen sense of shared cultural history and an awareness of a common legacy with regards to social values, while acknowledging punk and metal’s similar contribution to the development of their identity, their individual ethics, and their personal beliefs. In addition, for those more actively involved in subcultural life as up-and-coming musicians, the complex interplay between punk and metal also generated a synthetic approach to understanding and making music, opening up new avenues for artistic expression and creativity.

Vlad Nicu (2019) Political resistance, discourse, and praxis in Bucharest’s punk subculture, presented at the Punk Scholars Network Symposium on Researching Subcultures and Aesthetics, Galway, Ireland, 10 September 2019

In this presentation, I will examine the major types of political resistance that characterise young people’s participation in the punk subculture of Bucharest, Romania. Using fieldwork data collected in 2018, I will show that the existence of political resistance is embodied by a set of narratives and practices defined by a conscious opposition to the political class and various state institutions in Romania, as well as a more general rejection of hierarchy and authority. This joint adoption of ‘discourse and praxis’ (Muggleton & Weinzierl, 2003: 13) frequently involves a conspicuous display of disdain for politicians and state structures by means of cultural production, with punks appropriating cultural symbols and inscribing their own meanings on cultural artefacts in order to articulate a common political and ideological stance. In addition, they also employ diverse and sometimes complex forms of what Nikola Božilović terms ‘symbolic aggression’ (Božilović, 2010: 45) in an attempt to challenge authority and underline their subversive attitudes through music; namely, a combination of ‘contempt, defiance, ridicule, irony, parody, and sarcasm’ (ibid: 50).

In a style reminiscent of Božilović’s own study of the subcultures of Serbia, Macedonia, and Bulgaria, the narratives and observations in Bucharest are strong indicators of a ritualistic and politically-minded kind of resistance that seeks, at least metaphorically, to ‘undermine the existing institutional dynamics’ by engaging in ‘“impudent games” of ridiculing authorities, declining obedience and shocking opponents’ (ibid: 53-54). On a broader theoretical level, they are also consistent with a number of insights offered by the work of academics who emphasised the essential and continual use of cultural texts as an effective technique of political confrontation, and the role of subcultural spaces as sites of political agency (Best, 1997: 33).

Vlad Nicu (2020) Subcultures, Counterculture, and Society in Communist Romania: A Short Introduction

This concentrated historical overview of Romania’s subcultural milieu and socio-political conditions under Nicolae Ceaușescu’s communist leadership (1965-1989) is part of my PhD thesis on the transgressive discourses and practices articulated inside two notable subcultures in contemporary Romania: the punk and electronic music scenes of Bucharest. The goal of this introduction is to familiarise readers with the distinct political, social, and cultural context which led to the emergence of vibrant and diverse subcultural spaces in Romania after the collapse of communism in 1989. These spaces continue to occupy an important position inside Romanian culture as a whole, and establish a sense of continuity between the country’s comprehensively traumatic experiences of a totalitarian regime and the more uncertain and fragmented identities of present-day youth cultural formations.