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On Hipster Hate

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If you want an academic discussion of hipsters and the problem of hipster hate, here’s one for you. Mostly it makes good points.

All jokes aside, there is a point to be made here. That is, while there are plenty of people who fit the above description, it’s a satirical construct, not a research demographic. It is perfectly acceptable for writers and scholars to deconstruct complex cultural notions of hipster semiotics and praxis, but I have serious concerns when I start seeing urban geographers, sociologists, and economists scapegoating and critiquing a media-constructed trope for gentrification, sexism, racism, and cultural appropriation. These are real issues that deserve ongoing critical research and policy development. Rather than talking about hipsters, we should look for the synergies in the research of people like Markus Moos (“generationed” space and “youthification”), Heather McLean (feminist critique of the creative city), Sarah Dooling (ecological gentrification), Phil Hubbard (“studentification”) and other scholars of the city. These academics are conducting sound demographic analysis, applying critical theory, and proposing meaningful policies. They are doing real research, but hey, maybe it is being dismissed as “too mainstream.”

In the end, denouncing hipsters as the source of all things wrong with Austin has become a lazy habit in this city, and we should think about the reasons we default to “die hipster scum” every time we see a bearded ukulele player on a fixie. When we do, we play into social media essentialization and pop-social commentary. At best, we add faux legitimacy to a modern day folk devil. At worst, we condescendingly make light of inequality, marginalization, and privilege in a city that all too frequently markets itself as a progressive utopia.

Which is a completely hipster thing to do.

It is pretty dumb for academics to actually take “hipster” seriously as a category of analysis, especially when it really means “people younger than me who do things I find weird.” On the other hand, while it’s hard for me to justify being annoyed by a bearded ukulele player on a fixie, I find him annoying nonetheless. Damn kids need to get off my lawn.

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