The Culture of Urban Violence, Regression, and Subversive Individualism: Global Generation X and their Identity-Making Practices

    • Presentation speakers
      • Valerie Anishchenkova, University of Maryland, USA


    “Violence is one of the most fun things to watch” – famously said Quentin Tarantino, the maker of Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. Indeed, violence appears to be a shared quality of much of the pop cultural production created from the late 1980s onwards by those who belong to the so-called Generation X. This artistic violence went far beyond the showy ferocity of Tarantino’s films or Fincher’s/Palahniuk’s Fight Club. In fact, it has become a discourse in its own right, largely dictating the development of many pop genres, including film, music, popular literature, graffiti, and many more. Violence was not simply an act of rebellion, but an art method that informed the rise of alternative distortive music genres (grunge), literary disruptions (Palahniuk), and highly subversive cinematic genres. I argue that this subversive production articulated the deep identity crisis experienced by the generation whose formative years coincided with the end of the Cold War and subsequent massive geopolitical shifts. Notably, violent art-making was not exclusive to North American culture, but characterizes much of the pop culture of that period in other parts of the world. For instance, the taboo-shattering literary works created by Egypt’s so-called “generation of the 1990s” and the Russian chernukha cinema of the early post-Soviet period certainly belong to the same mode of artistic expression. This paper theorizes the Global Gen Xers’ pop culture as an important identity-making discourse that transcends national and cultural boundaries and is largely a product of global anti-establishment and anti-consumerist movements.