Punk Rock is My Religion

By Francis Stewart.

Published by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Social theorists of religion such as Durkheim, Evans-Pritchard, Lynch and Taylor have all demonstrated that awareness of, and engagement with, concepts of the divine, the spiritual and the community are not understood or accessed in a universal way. Nor are they expressed in universal ways, especially amongst those individuals partaking in the current trend of nomadic or syncretic religious beliefs and practices. Thus if we as researchers and theorists are to fully understand the religious beliefs and practices of such individuals and indeed the theological landscape of modern western societies, we must be prepared to explore new and expanding methodologies and means of expression of religious and spiritual identity.

My PhD is focused on the spiritual identity and practices of Straight Edge punks, a subset of hardcore punk. During field work in both the US and the UK I utilised visual methodology, primarily though not exclusively, based on the proclivity of adherents to wearing tattoos, to enable interviewees and informants to explore and express their spiritual identity and practises.

This paper will use the visual results - photographs, tattoos, flash, and video - garnered to explicit the spiritual identity and practises of Straight Edge adherents, linked strongly to the work of Gordon Lynch and Charles Taylor. From that point the work will argue that instead of focusing on a binary of religious / secular we should instead look to one composed of authenticity / profane / sacred to provide a more accurate understanding of interaction and relationship between religion and modern Western society.

Keywords: Straight Edge, Hardcore Punk, Syncretic Approaches to Religion, Religious / Secular Divide, Spiritual Identity

The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp.59-74. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.982MB).

Francis Stewart

PhD Student (Final year), School of Language, Culture and Religion, University of Stirling, Stirling, Scotland, UK

I am a final year PhD student working on the spiritual identity and practices of Straight Edge punks, a subculture I have been an adherent of for over a decade. I am particularly focused on their nomadic approach to religion and religious ideas, their willful syncretic approach to spiritual practices and how that relates to, informs and on occasion diverges from the current discussion on the relationship between religion and the secular and religion and society.