Agnes Jasper, Cultural Anthropologist, Subcultures Researcher, Amsterdam, Netherlands



Welcome to the homepage of Agnes Jasper, Cultural Anthropologist.

The Title of her Master-Thesis for the University of Amsterdam is:

'Mysts of the Gothic Underground: An Endo-Ethnographic Perspective on Gothic Subculture; Identity, Consumerism and the Gothic Aesthetic from the Inside Out.'

Attached is also a short film by Chris Relleke.

Agnes' topics of interest are Underground Subcultures, Authenticity and Identity, Consumer-behaviour and Dark Aesthetics, Fieldwork and Participant Observation, and the aproach to research material and fields typical for Sensuous Scholarship.

Summary of 'Mysts of the Gothic Underground':

This thesis starts with a paragraph on my insider-position: on how I entered the field, as insider and later also as researcher, a reflexive approach to my motivation to study 'my own group of people', and my ideas and goals for anthropological writing. With participant observation being the key of anthropological research, I shall devote a paragraph to this particular practice, and my 'schizophrenic' or ambiguous position of being a cultural producer and cultural researcher at the same time. I also reflect on how I selected my informants, when and where I did research, how I gathered my research-data, and so forth.

Chapter I deals with notions of authenticity and identity in Dutch gothic subculture. I focus on the paradox of being a subcultural insider, i.e. being simultaneously an individual and a member of a homogenous group. This paradox also triggers the problem of authentic identity. Gothic insiders emphasize that they are not Goths, but that they identify with what they describe as gothic, only to explain later that that is not authentic gothic. I will argue that this denial is a subcultural strategy, a way to 'ward off' classificatory strategies of dominant, non-subcultural culture. Namely, as soon as criteria for sub-cultural identity are conceptualised, they can be copied by outsiders, and this should preferably be avoided. Empirical material will display how gothic subcultural identity is practiced within the monitoring and conceptualising processes prompted by outsiders like the media, and how authenticity seems to be a void, nothing but an abstract, unspoken, sub-cultural morale.

Chapter II is concerned with notions of subculture and dominant culture, alternative culture and mainstream culture, underground culture and upper-ground culture, and their inherent dichotomy, that contains power-structures and power-struggles. I argue that insiders to Gothic culture see their cultural position, as it were, placed on a battlefield between their 'safe haven of Goth' and a bright lit commercialised world of profit-oriented business of which they both cannot do without. In order to come to terms with this view, insiders feel the urge to reason subcultural or personal autonomy and independence from this world that seems to change and distort what they perceive as 'Gothic', or 'as their culture, party, music, identity, clothes', precisely because their raison d'Ítre, their subcultural identity, as being different from the mainstream, is threatened. There is a paradox inherent in this cultural practice, found in the battle that is subculturally reasoned to be won each time, and the dependence on the established system (jobs, subsidies, venues and so on) for external resources.

Chapter III is moves away from more traditional anthropological and ethnographic themes, and turns to a more sensuous and interdisciplinary form of scholarship, in order to come to better turns with the Gothic aesthetic. The Gothic, decadentist perspective has always been used as a medium to express the darker sides of culture. Modern culture's context of mass-production and commerce as it is experienced by gothic subculture, shall be mirrored to the worldview, social psychology and dark romanticism of a late 19th century group of darkly inclined people: the Decadents, the Bohemians, the Dandies. Subcultural expressions of being 'dead' and 'buried' reflect a way of coping with, or living in modern leisure times. Being, or playing 'dead' points to the practice of incorporating only things that are culturally denied and tabooed, and being 'buried', hidden, underground, implicates practicing a lifestyle away from a culture that has no aesthetic similarity. It is within the poetic realm, the world of aesthetics, that Gothic seems to find its 'truth', its home, its freedom. It seems that this poetic realm is the solution to the subculture's problem with the economised world it is living in. A short film by Chris Relleke is attached to this thesis.