"Remember That We Are Still Ultras": Dynamics of Recognition and Resistance in Youth Subcultural Styles of Participation 

Wednesday, 18 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Ilaria PITTI, Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden
Since the ‘70s, the concept of subculture has been used to highlight youth capability to criticise common cultural norms through daily practices of participation in communities sharing a "focal concern", that is a specific interest and cultural taste around which a given life-style is developed. Commonly defined in terms of new forms of collective identification emerging within a mainstream culture, subcultures are communities that are enough homogeneous on the internal level and heterogeneous in relation to the outside world to be able of defining consistent distinctiveness and identity. Distinguish themselves from “the outside” through the elaboration of a specific “style”, subcultures engage in a relationship with the external world through which both instances of resistance and recognition are expressed. Aiming at reflecting on the interplay between these opposite dynamics in youth subcultures’ strategies of action, the paper presents the findings of a qualitative study conducted between 2015 and 2017 within an Italian ultras group composed of young people aged between 18 and 30. In 2015 the group has opened a self-managed social centre where different social projects and leisure activities (i.e. free gym, kindergarten, free concerts) are carried out with the aim of promoting a dialogue between the ultras community and the external world. Following the process of progressive “opening” of the subculture, the papers explores the evolution of: a) the internal relationships between the young individuals and the ultras community; b) the interactions between the group, the neighbourhood, and the local institutions. Multiple identities expressed through different styles of participation are adopted by the young ultras in order to foster a dialogue with "the outside" while preserving their antagonistic, subcultural identity. Data have been collected through ethnography and biographical interviews with young ultras conducted within the projects Youthblocs (Horizon 2020 –MSCA) and Partispace (Horizon 2020 – Excellent Science).