However we encapsulate the Sixties radical generation, it was undeniably different than the generation of the late Seventies and Eighties. Something happened in 1977. The contemporaries were keenly self-aware of articulating a new movement and, in retrospect, they historicized it in their narratives. One distinctive difference between punks and hippies lies in their urban commitment. Punks found the hippies idealistic, deluded and soft. Replacing escapism with nihilism, the punks embraced urban blight and tailored their identities to fit within the physical spaces of abandoned urban form. Rather than communing with nature, punks squatted in the city; they literally inhabited abandoned buildings and shaped an aggressively edgy existence out of domestic ruins. Growing up at the heights of suburban flight and the demise of the American city, the punks were the first post-industrial generation. Hippies, on the other hand, grew up at the heights of industrialism, benefiting from America’s postwar prosperity. The same industrial might that won World War II had been redirected to domestic social realms: cheap suburban houses, comforts, appliances, social conformity and streamlining. The American dream of the Fifties was a dream of victory. The hippies grew up in a prosperous, although socially constraining environment. Coming of age within the coherence of the Fifties household, they accumulated a profound social confidence. If their parents could reinvent—and rule—the world so could they, except that the world they desired was different. Living the optimism of the American dream, deceived them into unreachable goals, such as creating an equally universal alternative.
The punks emerged at the tail end of economic prosperity. In the words of Jon Savage, they came together “in a network of relationships as complicated as a the rabbit-warren London slums of Dickens’s novels” (England’s Dreaming, New York, 1992, p. 3) Their internalized sensibility was one of coping, resisting and collapse. The punks experienced abandonment the way that the hippies experienced flight. Whether conceived as a music movement, a youth movement, or a cultural movement, they created a pervasive ethos with various characteristics, including an archaeological one. I will explore the connection between punk and archaeology in a series of case studies. For me, the connection is obvious at a visceral and deeply personal level. Generally speaking, I belong to Generation X—I even read the manual as soon as it came out, Douglas Coupland’s Generation X: Tales of an Accelerated Culture (1991). My formative youth experiences (high-school and college) fit comfortably within 1981-1991. More specifically, however, I grew up in cities. My attraction to the post-punk music and social culture began inColumbia, South Carolina, and flourished when my family moved to Philadelphia, which at the time was one of the most devastated cities in the East Coast. As a teenager immigrant, I never quite fit in main stream youth culture (Michael Jackson, proms, malls) but was attracted to the intellectual sophistication, public sphere and sensual character of the musical underground. The punk/post-punk scene manifested itself in multifarious musings and gatherings within the urban fabric. Punks squatted in the abandoned houses of West Philadelphia, where they also formed bands and performed; these were my friends, this was my dilapidated neighborhood. The movement’s superstars (like the Clash, Black Flag, Hüsker Dü, Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat) had such a limited audience that they performed at small venues, church basements, rotary clubs, bars, houses. There were no “concerts” only “shows.” To get the full historical flavor of the scene read, Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991 (2001). Having grown up around an underground that lived and breathed the abandoned city, I hope to articulate what I can only describe as an archaeological. It is not a surprise to me that the punk ethos directly cultivated in me an archaeological predilection. The punk ethos has caused much conflict in its generation by its sheer negativity. How do you continue to fight the power when you accumulate power as a mature member of society. Professionally, I translated punk’s spirit of abjection into archaeology, which I practice academically. Thus, the case studies that follow are exercises in self-reflection if not self-validation. The archaeological manifestations of punk are clear to my friends who shared these formative experiences during our teens and twenties. Not surprisingly, many are now academics. More importantly, they have shaped their respective intellectual inquires according to some feature of this shared punk ethos (whatever it might be). I didn’t fully realize the poetic significance of this generational experience until reading Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost (2005); of course, we all knew that we were part of something larger from Greil Marcus’, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century (1990). I owe many of my ideas to the critical discursive culture that the punk scene generated. I will probably bring their stories to bear, so I will enumerate those friends as a preliminary expression of gratitude. They are Jennie Uleman, Stephanie Camp, Elias Markolefas, Laurel Taylor, Emily Hage, Jules Dingle, Jenn Ball, Bill Caraher .