History Original Blipsters
posted by January 31 at 14:25 PMon
All of yesterday’s talk about hipsters and “blipsters” got me thinking about a book I read maybe a year ago, John Leland’s Hip: A History. Leland traces the origins of modern hipness back to the slaves imported to America in the 17th century, beginning with an anecdote from Jonestown about “the new crop” coming in, and working his way through jazz, the Beat poets, and Looney Tunes all the way to hiphop and Williamsburg. Leland paints hipness as a kind of byproduct of American race relations, a state that exists where boundaries are crossed and identities borrowed or exchanged (he discusses minstrelsy, the creative alliances of Jews and African Americans, and the white suburban reach of hiphop). Hip is also inextricably tied to capitalism and consumerism in his book, as identities are used to sell product or are products themselves, and the demand for newness, for hipness, becomes a motivation to consume beyond one’s needs. It’s a fairly fascinating book, encompassing history, economic analysis, cultural studies, and all sorts of other fun shit. It gets somewhat academic at times, and some chapters are inevitably more interesting than others, but it’s a good read.