Over at Maximum RocknRoll, Golnar Nikpour has penned a searing review of White Riot: Punk Rock and the Politics of Race, which was the subject of my first ever post on this blog. Nikpour has a much keener sense of punk history and a more incisive pen than I and puts both to good use ripping apart the editors’ delusions that have they written something “definitive” about punk and race.
Nikpour rightly states that Duncombe and Tremblay (two white dudes) would have been better off limiting themselves “to a study of, say representations of racial difference in the U.S. punk scene in some given era…” In fact it is this more limited version of their project which I mostly addressed in my review. In that sense, I still think the book has valuable points about how racism and oppositional whiteness operate in mostly American, but also UK, punk scenes. However, as Nikpour points out, the book itself becomes an example in its own exposition of how white privilege works.
Nikpour’s problem with the editors then has a lot to do with their hubris in declaring their book, which is mostly about white people’s difficulty in not being racist, something more than it is. It would have been less offensive if the last chapter, which finally addresses punk scenes that are (gasp!) thriving outside the U.S. and Europe, didn’t rely on anthropologists’ and ethnomusicologists’ “expert” (a bad word in punk speak) opinions. The move is condescending, as if these punk sub-cultures are so strange, we couldn’t understand them in their own words, and lazy. I mean if your gonnna make “the definitive collection on punk and race,” you should be willing to spring on some translators and get some foreign language zine or song lyrics in there.
I don’t want to go much more into Nikpour’s arguement because she says it best, and reviewing a review seems a bit gratuitous, so you should go read it…right now!