Rave Culture wins the Charles Horton Cooley Award

Tammy Anderson received the Charles Horton Cooley Award from the Society for Study of Symbolic Interaction for her book Rave Culture. Excerpts from speech congratulating Anderson on her scholarship are below. 

To give you a taste of our admiration for the winning book, here are some representative comments we shared about the work.  “This is a book that makes artful use of multiple methods.”  “This book takes me into an unfamiliar subculture and by that standard does what good ethnography should.”  “The amount of material collected by the author is really prodigious.”  “I liked how the author framed both personal and collective identity issues, and especially how [the author] extended the ethnography trans-nationally.”  “Analytically, this book has ‘legs’.”  “This book’s findings offer insights that can be applied to studies of all sorts of cultural change.”  “This is a terrific book.  It is also a product of extensive, careful fieldwork.”

The author deserves more than one round of applause.  So, let me tell you right now that the book that garnered our mutual praise and approbation is entitled Rave Culture: The Alteration and Decline of a Philadelphia Music Scene, written by Tammy L. Anderson.

Professor Anderson’s book details the rise and decline of the electronic music scene that thrived especially during the decade of the nineties.  Using a combination of auto-ethnography, penetrating participant observation, and strategic interviews, she explains the factors responsible for the decline of this “cultural scene” and the different efforts made to resurrect it.  Her analysis reveals the range of stakeholders in this particular subculture and how each group reflects the different individual and collective identities produced by the rave culture phenomenon (and by extension, any subculture).  Moreover, Professor Anderson shows how various social factors, beyond the commercialization of the rave culture scene, contributed to its erosion.  The generalizations offered, based on “thick description” and multiple interviews, are strengthened by corresponding analyses of the electronic music scene in London and Ibiza, Spain.

While those who read Professor Anderson’s book will enjoy learning about a particular cultural scene during a particular historical moment, her effort has much wider significance.  It reveals the potential power of an interactionist approach to move well beyond a micro-sociological focus.  We certainly learn how persons behave at electronic dance music events and how both the music and events shape their identities.  Equally, Professor Anderson illuminates the social organization of this scene and the bases for cultural change.  This book teaches us how cultural scenes expand, evolve, wither, and take on different forms.  One committee member summed up the contribution of the book this way: “While she never forgets that she is writing in the interactionist tradition, and remains focused on the ways people assign meaning to their activities, Anderson’s ambitious attempt to confront issues of scale, time, and geography make Rave Culture a model for how interactionist analysis can address sociology’s largest questions.”

This brief overview only hints at the richness of Professor Anderson’s accomplishment for her exceedingly valuable contribution to our collective enterprise.

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