Anthropology and the emerging Hipster Culture

Quirky clothing, Indie music, an altogether alternative lifestyle: our country is experiencing the rise of the Hipster.  This new age conduct can be found in youth across the world, and can be attributed to the rejection of mainstream cultural trends.  For many youth, western consumerism seems to lack sincerity and originality.  While some find this movement innovative and inspiring, others see it as “the end of culture” (Mullins).  Anthropologist Christy Wampole has accurrately identified the flaws among this rapidly growing group.  According to Wampole, from an anthropological perspective, in openly devaluing a common social norm, we relinquish the capability to comprehend it.  “It is very difficult to fathom understanding a social group or their broader sociocultural context without some fundamental respect for those people and their voices, yet that is precisely what we see missing in most hipster commentaries” (Wampole).  Hipster culture primarily manifests itself externally, through television, clothing, and marketing; however it has failed to create true social and political reforms.  Wampole criticizes HIpster culture in saying that it faces the struggles of individuality with material possesions, rather than substantial concepts.

As Paul Mullens points out, “Anthropologists are committed to critical reflection and honesty with our subjects, but genuine understanding of people unlike ourselves always starts with empathy, curiosity, respect, and a willingness to listen”. Hipsters may point out valid flaws within our consumerist society, but they lack respect and genuine understanding of the culture which provided them with a foundation for their beliefs.  We are all entitled to personal opinions, but true knowledge means understanding and respecting the alternative to your views.

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