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This must be the place: Venues and urban space in underground music scenes

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Art subcultures, and music scenes in particular, have featured prominently in academic discourse on gentrification in the neo-liberal city. Although scholarly accounts have done much to clarify the process through which music scenes become implicated and entangled within wider patterns of urban transformation and redevelopment, these studies often leave us with a flattened and undertheorized picture of the scenes themselves. Departing from David Ley’s conception of the ‘cultural field of gentrification’, I sketch out an analytical framework for understanding the heterogenous and contested character of music scenes in the face of urban change, focusing on a case study of the underground music scene in Rome’s Pigneto neighbourhood in 2017. As variegated waves of scene participants drift into new spaces, scenes coalesce into distinct territories, administered by venues and delineated by ‘scene ideologies’ ‐ matrices of ethical and aesthetic values and judgements constituting a collective scene habitus. This complicates any facile conception of artistic communities as either unwitting agents of gentrification or isolated underground enclaves; rather, premised on collective rituals of aesthetic judgement and differentiation, music scenes constitute a continuum of cultural production whose spatial practices both generate and subvert conditions for their eventual appropriation by market forces.
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Keywords: Bourdieu; aesthetics; gentrification; habitus; music scenes; urban space

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Independent Researcher

Publication date: March 1, 2020

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  • Cities have been increasingly at the forefront of debate in both humanities and social-science disciplines, but there has been relatively little dialogue across these disciplinary boundaries. Journals in social-science fields that use urban-studies methods to look at life in cities rarely explore the cultural aspects of urban life in any depth or delve into close readings of the representation of cities in individual cultural products. As a platform for interdisciplinary scholarship from any and all linguistic, cultural and geographical traditions, the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies prioritizes the urban phenomenon in order to better understand the culture(s) of cities.
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