The Oxford Handbook of Punk Rock

This quite large-scale new international publishing project was contracted with Oxford University Press in 2017: The Oxford Handbook of Punk Rock. I had been gestating and working on the idea for a couple of years or more, on and off, but things really started happening when I invited music journalist and scholar Dr Gina Arnold to be co-editor, and she was so enthusiastic about and engaged with it.

Our wonderful and patient editor at Oxford (NY), Anna-Lise Santella, has been committed and fully supportive since practically the day my initial tentative exploratory email landed in her inbox. Further information about the more than 40 Oxford Handbooks that deal specifically with music is available here.

The punk project has had support also from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, as part of a 12-month post-doctoral position working on DIY Cultures and Participatory Arts (2017), within my Connected Communities Leadership Fellowship role. Dr Lucy Wright, Senior Research Associate, undertook an initial literature review for the book, about the scope and state of the art of punk studies today, and we also organised a Punk in the Provinces symposium at Norwich Arts Centre, which sold out.

We contacted key researchers and writers in the field, both well-established ones and more recent ones with something new to say, to invite them to be involved by contributing a chapter. We plan that we will be working with 30-35 authors in total. We are at the end phase of editing chapters, receiving revised final drafts back from our authors, sorting out images, and sending digital packages off to OUP.  When they have been copyedited, gone through the production process and been proofed, each will be published online first and then the hard copy of the book will be out in we hope late 2020.

Below is some further information taken from our proposal.

The further [punk] recedes into the distance, the more important it seems. (Severin, bassist in Siouxsie and the Banshees, 1994) 

Now forty+ years after punk rock, rather than the twenty of Severin’s observation, the ‘explosion of negatives’ that Jon Savage described punk as in England’s Dreaming still demands critical attention. From ‘White riot’ to Pussy Riot it has marked or stained our musical and cultural history.

Or should that be not ‘forty years after’ but ‘forty years of punk rock’? It seems that, in spite of the Sex Pistols’ bold declaration, ‘No future’, the musics and scenes of punk have had a future, after all. We can think of punk’s high period as c. 1976-1984, and then with revivals and longer-term influence and legacy. It has a longevity and visibility, which may be as much on account of its DIY practice, its anti-authoritarian attitudinality as on its actual music and sounds.

While there are now dedicated punk journals, a wide number of academic publications, and funded research networks and projects, there is we think no comparable book like this proposed. Punk continues to fascinate across disciplines and generations of academics, yet a definitive set of writings has still to be produced. An outstanding opportunity.


Indicative Table of Contents

In terms of the intellectual organisation of the book, punk has been a movement that rewires artistic, aesthetic, ideological and political boundaries, influencing its practitioners and its critics alike. This book thematically separates punk’s strands of influence not along geographical or chronological lines but by interrogating its significance in music, style, performance, identity formation, cultural impact, politics, and theory, as well as arguing for its lasting influence, its regenerative possibilities, and its currency.


How much longer will people wear … / Safety pins and spray their clothes? / Talk about anarchy, fascism and boredom? (Alternative TV). In this detailed and authoritative introduction the editors chart and assess the significance of punk rock across its musical, cultural and political spheres. This includes looking at the ‘high’ punk years (c. 1976-1984), with also a focus on what Social Text has called punk’s ‘afterlives’, its enduring presence and legacy developed over four decades. The approach is interdisciplinary, drawing on the now quite extensive scholarship about punk and related scenes and movements from media and cultural studies, music, history, sociology, art. Music and sounds, attitudinality and identity, culture and media/film, fashion and design, DIY and ‘indie’ modes of (self-)organisation, protest, youth and ageing, documentary and memoir, cultural theory—these are fields in which punk’s enduring impact can be traced. The aim is to set the cultural and research contexts for the chapters that follow.

Part One. Blank Generation: Punk Roots

I will never return to burn out in this piss factory. Watch me now (Patti Smith). Essays in this section look at original and subsequent punk sounds and recording—noise, new wave, punk-pop, electronica, emo, grunge, hardcore, crossover, techno, jazzpunk; individual acts and their lasting significance, contributions;  also DIY / indie music production and distribution networks.

Part Two. Oh Bondage, Up Yours: Punk, Race, and Identity

Identity is the crisis, can’t you see? (X-Ray Spex). Essays here look at the relation between punk and identity formation, and at its contribution to a key set of identity markers: queer, disability, gender, race.  Punk’s relation to race—including through its early links with reggae music—is pivotal to understanding its wider resonance and significance.

Part Three. No Future for You: Punk and Politics

A remarkable array of political movements, gestures, discourses is evident in punk.  Anarchism, punk and fascism, anti-war, anti-nuclear, Rock Against Racism, DIY, autonomy and self-organisation….

Part Four. Neat Neat Neat vs. Ripped and Torn: Performance, Fashion and Art

[P]unk fashion itself was iconographic: rips and dirt, safety pins, zips, slogans, and hairstyles (Vivienne Westwood). This section interrogates questions of punk’s most spectacular and resilient feature, its style and fashion, as well as intercultural aspects of performance (dance and movement), art and media:  music press and alternative media; magazines, zines, punk cinema, punk bodies and ‘gobbing’.

Part Five. Safe European Home: International Punk Movements

Don’t want to be an American idiot (Green Day). This section traces some of the spread of punk scenes as global / hemispheric culture (including significant or surprising national scenes, in which often punk’s anti-authoritarian reputation appeals to young non-conformists in strict societies).

Part Six. Lost in the Supermarket

Cromer, Norfolk, 1977

Yes that’s right, punk is dead (Crass). Essays in this section discuss the cultural impact and legacy of punk, including the significant 40th anniversary events of 2016: punk and counterculture, post-punk, youth and ageing in subculture, nostalgia, re-formed bands, punk in theory.