Date of Award

December 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

William W. Wood

Committee Members

Ingrid Jordt, Thomas M. Malaby


This thesis will examine how the DIY punk scene in Chicago has utilized secretive information dissemination practices to manage boundaries between itself and mainstream society. Research for this thesis started in 2013, following the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s meeting in Chicago. This event caused a crisis within the Chicago DIY punk scene that primarily relied on residential spaces, from third story apartments to dirt-floored basements, as venues. The scene became vulnerable to closures by law enforcement, who were directed by Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel to crackdown on activities taking place at potential locations for radical activity prior to the NATO convention. This case of mistaken identity and its effects on the Chicago DIY punk scene were echoed in the information dissemination practices of the scene as promoters called for more secrecy to reduce the risk of further police detection.

This study focuses on how the DIY punk scene in Chicago “stays punk” without stagnation and dissolution by addressing the tension between secrecy and exclusivity that increased after NATO 2012. Though academia has often turned its gaze towards the punk scene, such as the incredibly popular work of Sara Thornton on subcultural capital and Dick Hebdige’s focus on punk style, attention has primarily been given to the style and exclusivity perceived to be dominant within the punk scene.

This thesis seeks to examine the underlying processes at work within the DIY community utilizing the observed themes of authenticity, performance, subcultural capital and power to explore how the DIY punk scene in Chicago manages the tension of maintaining boundaries between it and the mainstream while gaining the participants essential to its survival.

Authenticity is a useful boundary marker because it allows participants to be properly vetted before joining the scene as they have proven they will support the community. Authenticity helps in both hard and good times within the Chicago punk music scene, as it allows promoters to more directly market their idea of punk. The importance of performance is seen in the way promoters use their expectations to define punk behavior and participation within the scene. Promoters’ expectations for members “being there” helps them to cultivate a supportive scene. Without members the scene ceases to exist, and the particular brand of punk being promoted can no longer sustain itself. Subcultural capital and power are how promoters maintain control over aspects of the Chicago DIY punk scene. Post-NATO 2012 promoters were able to practice the role of scene shapers, which allowed them to influence what bands played, where they played, and rules to be followed. All three themes within this thesis interweave and relate to how the Chicago DIY punk scene balances its efforts to remain autonomous from the mainstream while trying to keep the scene alive. Closing out this research, the Chicago DIY punk scene hosted a show for the band G.L.O.S.S. whose popularity challenged the post-NATO information dissemination practices causing a shift away from secrecy in the scene.