What are some good books/documentaries about oppressed subcultures?
August 8, 2014 4:16 PM   Subscribe

What are some good books/documentaries specifically about members of a subculture appreciating the fruits of that subculture while realizing that it was created as a reaction to oppression?

OK bear with me here, because I've been wanting to post this one for a while now but I have been struggling with the phrasing, since it can be a delicate subject.
Basically what I am interested in commentary, from someone living in it if possible, on a subculture that is aware that the only reason it exists is from being forced underground and into the shadows and how people in that subculture reconcile their love for that culture while realizing it was born of circumstances they would just as soon as rather have not happened.
To choose an example, say perhaps the gay leather culture. I could be wrong, but my estimation is that that culture arose from homosexuality being "other"ed out of sight, and then all this codification and culture arose from that. Assuming that is true, it would be interesting to read or hear points of view from people in the culture that love the facets of it while realizing that it was created out of a crap situation.
Am I making any sense?
This can be about a subculture, art form, anything. It's just a topic that fascinates me.
posted by Senor Cardgage to Society & Culture (6 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Bessie Head A question of Power. It's a story of a recovery which is also a nervous breakdown and 'othered out of sight' is a good description of her condition.

Bessie Head’s A Question of Power has been read as “Mariner’s Guide to Paranoia” (Evasdaughter 1989), Lacanian psychosis (Hogan 1994) and an example of ancestral communication (Bhana 2004). Regardless of the interpretative framework we employ to understand the madness it depicts, it offers a raw and powerful account of a painful subjection to powers beyond the protagonist’s and the reader’s control. Despite its emphasis on growth and gardening as counterforces to madness, A Question of Power lingers in the reader’s mind as a narrative of pain.
posted by glasseyes at 4:42 PM on August 8, 2014

Hmm. Would Swing Kids fit the bill at all? Or Cabaret? Although on reread, I'm thinking maybe you mean nonfiction... But these kind of get at that notion, just from a fictionalized perspective. Maybe the part of Ken Burns' Jazz that talks about speak-easy culture would be good for this. There was a lot to enjoy in speak-easies and jazz clubs in the '20s and '30s, even if people were driven there by oppression, whether from Nazis or Prohibition.
posted by limeonaire at 5:28 PM on August 8, 2014

I think Paris is Burning is a quintessential example of this. It's a look at the ball culture of New York City. It's available streaming on Netflix.
posted by HonoriaGlossop at 5:31 PM on August 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

This syllabus for a course called "Avant-garde, Tango, and Identity in Argentina and Uruguay" also appears to have a number of good book suggestions regarding dance subcultures that were born of oppression.
posted by limeonaire at 5:35 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

How about Genet? The Thief's Journal, Our lady of the Flowers and The Miracle of the Rose are all about finding identity and belonging outside of society.
posted by Middlemarch at 9:46 PM on August 8, 2014

Sorry I read the question wrong
posted by winterportage at 3:27 PM on August 9, 2014

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