Main research areas
sociology of youth and youth cultures; social media and identity; contemporary fathering; media and society; approaches to 'insider research' in sociology
I am currently supervising 6 PhD students in a range of areas. I have acted as external examiner for 12 students. I welcome communication from prospective PhD students in any of the areas above or related areas. For more details about the Sociology PhD programme at Surrey please see here.
Media, Power and Control (level 5 undergraduate); Popular Music and Society (level 6 undergraduate); Understanding Youth Culture (level 6 undergraduate); Dissertation and PhD supervision
Director of Postgraduate Research, Department of Sociology
External examiner for BA Media and Communications at Demontfort University.
Previously, external examiner for the MA in Popular Music Studies at the University of Liverpool from 2008-11.
External examiner for PhD students at University of Liverpool, University of Glasgow, London School of Economics, Brunel University, University of Essex, University of Warwick, University of Bolton, Canterbury Christ Church University, University of Wollongong, Macquarie University and University of Adelaide.
Recent debate on the conceptualisation of youth cultures has been characterised as an irreconcilable stalemate between materialist defenders of a version of subcultural theory derived from the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies and post-subcultural theorists who favour more individualised understandings. This article suggests that, beneath this façade lies a more complex and reconcilable debate and that it may be time to move beyond the polarising presence of the CCCS as primary reference point for the discussion. Turning to substance, I go on to examine how enduring areas of disagreement within the debate can be resolved, establishing ways forward with respect to the interplay between spectacular groupings and individual pathways and the contextualisation of youth cultures, including with respect to material and structural factors. I advocate greater emphasis on the study of collective youth cultures as part of broader biographies as a way forward that can reconcile these substantive strands and draw together insight from across the subcultures/post-subcultures debate.
Greater Manchester Police’s categorisation of targeted attacks on ‘alternative subculture’ members as hate crimes prompted extensive debate about whether such incidents are comparable to those of recognised hate crime groups. Hate crime experts have contributed to this debate but there is a lack of detailed empirical research on the subject. Drawing on qualitative interviews with twenty-one respondents mostly affiliated to the goth scene, this paper uncovers extensive experience of verbal harassment and, for some respondents, repeated incidents of targeted violence. The nature and impact of such experiences, we argue, bears comparison with key facets of hate crime. Such evidence informs and underlines the importance of conceptual arguments about whether hate crime can or should be extended beyond recognised minority groups.
‘Youth’ music and style cultures, such as the punk, goth, metal and club scenes, often are regarded as opposed to the institution of the family and the values it symbolises. Yet significant numbers of the participants of such groups are now remaining actively involved into their thirties and beyond alongside the taking on of permanent cohabitation, marriage and parenthood. This article explores the increasing importance of family life for ageing members of ‘youth’ cultures in relation to the case study of the goth scene, a dark-themed grouping whose average age is rising. I emphasise the collective nature of the embrace of family among older goths and the implications of this for the values and environment of the group itself and the trajectories of individual members. Amongst other things, I explore whether the drift towards family and parenthood amongst goths might be understood as a collective assimilation into dominant adulthood.
For decades, research on the subject of music and style subcultures has presented participation in such groups as a temporary manifestation of adolescence. More recently, sociologists have begun to examine the lives and identities of those who remain involved in so-called 'youth' subcultures beyond their teens and early twenties. This article examines the ways such work has begun to illuminate the role of enduring subcultural identities as part of the developing lives of older participants. Such work, I suggest, rejects simplistic understandings of older participation as a refusal to grow up in favour of a detailed focus on the relationships between continuing participation and other aspects of developing adult life, including career, family and the ageing body. Identifying core themes and debates while identifying areas for further work, I argue that this developing field of research addresses one of the primary criticisms of youth cultural research in the past, which is that such research has tended to examine leisure related affiliations in a fixed period of time and in isolation from the rest of participants' lives. © 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
This paper asks how much we can learn about youth music and style groupings from the detail of the spectacular content and practices which most obviously distinguish such groups. First, I consider an apparent revival in theoretically driven interpretations of subcultural style, music and content in recent work on the goth scene, arguing that, for all their sophistication, such studies seem liable to reproduce some of the difficulties of earlier studies of spectacular symbolic meanings unless their findings are connected with other kinds of evidence. The paper then examines recent calls for greater focus on the minutiae of participants’ sensory experience of distinct subcultural practices. I discuss case studies of promising work in the area, while emphasising the need to avoid reducing subcultures to the specificities of selected spectacular experience. Drawing the two parts together, I suggest many elements of subcultures are neither imprinted in spectacular sounds and texts nor discernable from the immediate sensations spectacular practices give rise to. In order to enhance our overall understanding it is important, therefore, that our examination of the distinct and extraordinary features of subcultures is contextualised in relation to broader understandings a range of other properties and patterns which may be less distinct, unique or extraordinary.
This article explores the continuing involvement in youth music and style cultures of older participants through examination of the case study of the goth scene. It does so in the context of a widespread neglect, until recently, of what happens to participants of ‘youth cultures’ as they move beyond adolescence and also of a growing consensus about the broadening of youth itself as a life course period. Drawing on recent work on older participants in other music and style related groupings, the article uses original qualitative research to examine the developing lives and identities of goths as they become older. Rather than regarding continuing participation as a simple extension of youth, the focus is on the ways participation accompanied and was reconciled with material, domestic and physical elements of developing adult lives. Through reference to the case study, I emphasize the ways the experience of ageing for long-term music and style culture participants can constitute a collective experience.
This paper considers the increasing importance of personal, individualized spaces in the lives and identities of young people through a comparative examination of the contemporary use of the physical space of the bedroom and the ‘virtual’ territory of the online journal. Particularly popular among those in their teens and early twenties, online journals constitute an interactive form of web log whose content tends to be dominated by reflections upon the everyday experiences, thought and emotions of their individual owner. We propose here that such online journals often take on for their users the symbolic and practical properties of individually owned and controlled space – something we illustrate through a comparison with young people’s uses of the primary individual centred physical space in their lives – the bedroom. This discussion is informed by research by each of the authors, on young people’s bedrooms and on the use of online journals respectively. The paper identifies and explores understandings and functions of these two spaces for young people, identifying a number of apparent similarities in their use. Through doing so, we illustrate the potential value of the bedroom as a prism through which to understand online journal use at the same time as helping to illuminate the general significance of personal space to the lives and identities of contemporary young people.
Over recent years, politicians and social commentators in many countries of the world have become concerned with what is perceived to be young people’s declining engagement within the political sphere. There is certainly strong evidence that turnout in national elections has fallen markedly among the youngest age groups. In the UK, for example, between 1997 and 2001 the percentage of 18-24 year olds who voted fell by 29 per cent to 39 per cent, a much greater drop than was witnessed among other age groups (Phelps 2005; Wattenberg 2003). Moreover, in 2005, when turnout in general rose slightly, it continued to decline for the 18-24 age group and remained the same for 25-34 year olds (Phelps 2005). Similar trends have been observed in other countries. Indeed, a previous special issue of the Journal of Youth Studies, on Youth and Politics (volume 6, number 3, 2003) has shown how concern about youth disengagement is driving public debate in countries as far apart as Canada, Germany and Australia.
Some of the work featured in this book focuses on longstanding participants who form a significant but smallish older minority within music and/or style communities which remain somewhat dominated by younger people. In these examples, we might argue that the scenes or communities themselves remain fairly clearly within the category of youth cultures in the traditional sense. In spite of their overall longevity, the membership of such groups has a substantial age-related turnover, through the falling off of many participants during their twenties and their replacement by waves of younger recruits. As many studies within this volume and elsewhere have shown, the continuing participation of a minority in their 30s, 40s and beyond within such longstanding youth cultures provokes important research questions and conclusions. As the first of three chapters on the subject of ageing scenes, however, this chapter considers a related but distinct scenario, one in which whole scenes or subcultures gradually become older. In this situation, ‘continuing scenes’, as Smith puts it, remain, at least to an extent, populated by ‘the same body of continuing participants’ (Smith 2009: 428). Here the tendency for participants to fall away during their twenties is less marked, with substantial numbers remaining involved well into adulthood and towards middle-age. In some cases this may combine with a reduction or arrest in the recruitment of new teenage participants. Rather than finding themselves in a small minority within primarily adolescent cultures, an adult critical mass of participants may find themselves growing up together. This chapter explores a case study of such a scenario in the form of the goth scene and, more specifically, a particular twice yearly goth festival which has been taking place in the seaside town of Whitbyi in the North East of the UK for approximately fifteen years. The goth scene emerged in the early 1980s and has, during its three decades, been centred consistently on distinctive and recognisable forms of dark, macabre music and fashion – most obviously in the form of black hair and clothing. Notwithstanding apparently similar yet somewhat separate recent adolescent developments such as emo, the established goth scene has undergone a substantial increase in its average age, especially since the late 1990s when I first conducted research on the subculture (Hodkinson 2002). This broader change has manifested itself in a particularly concentrated fa
The ways young people use clothing and other forms of bodily decoration as a means of expressing themselves has been an important focus for researchers of youth culture. There is a degree of agreement among scholars that style offers a means for adolescents to explore and express identity within a transitory period of the life course in which the dependencies of childhood gradually are relinquished without yet having fully been replaced by adult routines and responsibilities. Yet the details of how and why style is used and how this should be theorised and understood are the subject of considerable debate. This chapter outlines key elements of such debates, beginning with the influential work of a well known group of theorists from Birmingham, UK and developing a number of points of discussion which continue to dominate contemporary research of the subject.
This chapter focuses upon the principles and procedures associated with grounded theory, which has become the most well known approach to inductive social research. Having distinguished between inductive and deductive approaches to the development of theory through research in a general sense, the chapter goes on to outline the key features of grounded theory, including the notions of theoretical sampling, coding, constant comparison, and theoretical saturation. The focus here is partly on providing practical information and examples on how to carry out grounded theory research but also on understanding the justifications and arguments offered by proponents for adopting this approach. Having set out such procedures and arguments, we will examine some of the criticisms which have been levelled against grounded theory. It is suggested that, although highly influential, grounded theory is not very often followed to the letter and that – for better or worse – it is more common for researchers to adopt one or more elements associated with approach as part of their efforts to develop theory through research.
Hodkinson, P. (2015), 'Goths, Depression and Self-Harm: Some Reflections on Bowes et al's Study', Department of Sociology Blog.
Hodkinson, P. (2015), 'Shared parental leave - Can it be made normal?', Department of Sociology Blog.
Hodkinson, P. and Garland, J. (2014), 'Hate Crime Victims? Goths and Targeted Victimisation', Department of Sociology Blog.
Hodkinson, P. (2012) 'Leveson and Press Freedom: Is an Unregulated Press Free?', Blogspot
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