My thesis contributes a sociological perspective on the practice of feminist zine production and distribution in the UK. Feminist zines facilitate the development of ‘feminist zine subculture’, a trans-local subcultural space that centres on a relatively collectivised adherence to DIY feminist subjectivity. The main objective of the work is to show how this subculture is characterised by its own aesthetics, geographical organisation, internal politics and wider subcultural affiliations.
Through the utilisation of an Integrated Textual Analysis (ITA) of 74 ‘feminist zines’, interviews with 29 zine creators, and on-site observations of zinefests, this work argues for a revised perspective on the study of subculture. Feminist zine creators’ recognition of the limited ways in which feminist history has been documented, and their investment in DIY lifestyles, motivates their involvement in the subculture. However, participants also embody ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ subjectivities within this space, meaning that many experience a form of ‘peripheral participation’, caused by their geographical location or the extent to which they subscribe to the dominant values of DIY subculture.
This thesis situates the spatial negotiations, embodied subjectivities, and cultural production practices of the participants within a broader understanding of subculture as the product of multiple ‘fields of reference’. Utilising an adaptation of Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of ‘field’, ‘habitus’ and ‘capital’, this work develops ‘subcultural cartography’; a method of data presentation that shows how feminist zine subculture is internally characterised, and how this characterisation is influenced by a variety of different cultural fields. Ultimately, this work argues for a more nuanced perspective on how structural inequalities and hierarchies manifest within subcultures themselves.