The Use of ‘Insider’ Knowledge in Ethnographic Research on Contemporary Youth Music Scenes

  • Andy Bennett


Following two decades of research on music and style-based youth cultures centred around narrative analysis, the 1990s saw a shift towards empirical work. This ‘ethnographic turn’ in youth and music research was in many ways a response to the predominantly theoretical accounts of previous work in which, as Stan Cohen (1987, p. iii) commented, ‘the actors themselves just flitted across the screen’. At the same time, however, this interest in carrying out empirical work has also been motivated to some degree by the raw enthusiasm for the topic of the researchers themselves. Many of those pursuing field-based research on music-based youth cultures have backgrounds in those same youth cultural settings (see, for example, Malbon, 1999; Muggleton, 2000; Weinstein, 2000; Hodkinson, 2002), some retaining that connection and becoming, in effect, fan-researchers. As such, this new body of youth and music research generates its own epistemological problems. While, at one level, empirical studies have done much to address the absence of insider accounts for which earlier youth and music research has been criticised, little attempt has been made by researchers to critically assess how their own involvement in and/or tiedness to the subject of their work impacts on their research, both in terms of relations established with informants and nature of the data which is generated (Bennett, 2002).


Youth Culture Ethnographic Work Attendant Sensibility Dance Club Musical Taste 
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  1. 1.
    1. Parts of this chapter are based on an article previously published in the British Journal of Sociology (see Bennett, 2002).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    2. ‘Blades’ is the nickname given to fans of Sheffield United. The name originates from Sheffield’s industrial history as a steel making town.Google Scholar

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© Andy Bennett 2003

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  • Andy Bennett

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