Elevate Difference

Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture

I’ve always thought of indie culture as the marriage of individuality and community, and of course, a celebration of the do-it-yourself (DIY) morality that is ingrained in our society. However, some of our most creative pioneers are often obscured from mainstream art, music, and literature. Kaya Oakes’s Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture offers a well-researched history and analysis of the DIY movement and the creative brilliance this community has generated. An engaging and remarkably informed cultural survey, the book examines the development of independent culture in the United States from the Beats and the Diggers through the current explosion of user-created content on the web.

Oakes presents indie culture as a deserving slice of American cultural history, offering an accessible academic portrait of icons such as Mike Watt of the Minutemen and poet Alan Ginsberg. She defines the often hard-to-peg genre of indie culture skillfully and provides major examples in the fields of art, literature, and music. A historical overview of indie culture is followed by chapters surveying the different areas of indie culture including independent publishing, music, zines, and crafting.

As someone who grew up in the post-punk years, I appreciate the detailed background Oakes provides because it gives me a better understanding of how the indie rock bands I love today, as well as their labels and distributors, progressed from the independent communities of earlier decades. And, as a crafter, I enjoy learning how independent culture has given rise to the online crafting communities and knitting collective I participate in today. My favorite quote from the many personal stories Oakes shares throughout the book comes from Handmade Nation’s Faythe Levine. When asked to reflect upon her first forays into independent culture, Levine refers to zine making as “my gateway drug to realizing that I would do whatever I wanted, and by myself.” This perspective really sums up DIY culture for me, as it is empowering to take the reigns of creativity into your own hands and realize you can truly participate in the independent cultural community.

Written by: Meg Rayford, October 3rd 2009