Ryan  Burns, phd
September 29, 2015

Hipster Geographies

Jesse McClelland, Cristina Temenos and I have put together a fun panel. We’re pretty excited to see where this goes!

#Hipster Geographies: Socio-spatial practices, politics, and economies of one of culture’s most maligned figure.#

AAG 2016, San Francisco, CA

Organizers: Ryan Burns, Temple University; Cristina Temenos, Northeastern University; Jesse McClelland, University of Washington.

Call for Papers

Both hailed and maligned, the figure of the ‘hipster’ plays a prominent role in the administration, spatial configuration, and narration of consumption in contemporary cities. The hipster has been blamed for many social ills in popular discourse including gentrification, the dissolution of political activism, and the expression of race and class privilege (Cowen 2006, Rayner 2010, Oluo 2010). Yet just what the hipster is remains loosely mapped and poorly articulated. Though some have already pronounced the death of the hipster (Greif et al. 2010), it continues to haunt urban imaginaries, akin to ‘chavs’, ‘dandies’, ‘welfare queens’, ‘yuppies’ or other figures of urban lore.

By deflecting attention from the structural forces and struggles around injustice and naturalizing a state of ironic detachment, the figure of the hipster may help to depoliticize the workings of capitalist urban governance. These workings include economic incentives designed to promote specific kinds of consumption (Barry 2013) and differential policing of racialized, classed, and gendered bodies and behaviors (Smith 2014) - many of which Neil Smith (1996) identified as the new drivers of gentrification. In this sense, the hipster is at once thought to be conferring ‘new’ energies and possibilities on urban spaces, while ratifying decades-long tendencies of commodification and dispossession. Some even trace the hipster’s origins back to the Antebellum U.S. South (Leland 2001). On the other hand, the hipster’s positioning within current digital and creative economies indicates new political-economic transformations (McWilliams 2015, Omidi 2014). Further, some scholarly accounts have suggested that the hipster is less a figure than a new sociology and cultural force with unknown implications (Greif, Ross, Tortorici 2010; Schiermer 2014).

The figure of the hipster remains remarkably nebulous and its spatialities, political-economic transformations, and cultural significance remain underexplored, particularly from a perspective that prioritizes its geographic conditions. This session calls for papers addressing these gaps and contributing to geographers’ theoretical and empirical understanding of the ordering of cities today. Along these lines, papers could address the following issues, and more:

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words to Ryan Burns, Cristina Temenos, and Jesse McClelland by October 10. Information about conference fees, registration, etc can be found at: http://www.aag.org/cs/annualmeeting


Barry, D. (2013). So Hipsters Aren’t The Economic Boon Some Urbanists Thought They’d Be. Jezebel. March 13, 2013

Cowen, D. (2006). Hipster urbanism. Relay: A Socialist Project Review 13: 22-23.

Greif, M., K. Ross, D. Tortorici (2010). What Was the Hipster? A Sociological Investigation. New York: n+1 Foundation.

Leland, John (2001). Hip: The History. New York: Harper Perennial.

McWilliams, D. (2015). The Flat White Economy: How the Digital Economy is Transforming London and Other Cities of the Future. New York: Duckworth Overlook.

Oluo, I. (2015). Uncomfortable Fact: Hipster Racism is Often Well-Intentioned. The Guardian. Feb 13, 2015.

Rayner, A. (2010). Why do people hate hipsters? The Guardian. Oct 14, 2010

Schiermer, B. (2014). Late-modern hipsters New tendencies in popular culture. Acta Sociologica, 57(2), 167-181.

Smith, C.B.R. (2014). Harm Reduction Hipsters: Socio-Spatial-Political Displacement and the Gentrification of Public Health. In Nadya S. Columbus (Ed.) Harm Reduction: Principles, Perceptions and Programs. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers, Ltd.

Smith, N. (1996). The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City. New York: Routledge.

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