Article Title

Performing and Interpreting the Straightedge Identity: The Intricacies and Variances Within A Subcultural Community


Samantha Lunger


By conducting research within the straightedge community, the goal was to portray the construction and performance of identity of participating individuals who self-identified as ‘straightedge’, and to illuminate the dynamics of the individuals performing within the straightedge subculture. In doing so, commentary on the importance of understanding that different individuals have correspondingly different understandings of what exactly it means to be an authentic straightedger was created by examining the various degrees of straightedge identity, along with the levels of abstaining enacted by the straightedgers themselves.

The ways in which the straightedge identity has evolved temporally and spatially, what it means for straightedgers to ‘fall in and out’ of their identity, and questions of interpretation of non-community members and their lifestyles were also addressed and utilized in order to further understand contemporary straightedge identity, along with how the identity is performed and interpreted by its own participants.

To achieve these ends, in terms of research procedures, a variety of anthropological tools were employed based in participant observation, interviews rooted in life histories, and the analysis of music and symbolism within the straightedge community. These methodological approaches were appropriate primarily because they allowed for immersion within the community in order to understand how the straightedge identity itself carries monumental value to the individuals who identify as such, and allowed us to understand that this meaning is echoed and vocalized in the music and symbols utilized by the members.

As a result of completing the research, it is understood that interviewed and observed individuals that self-identify as straightedge do so of their own accord, for reasons based both in moral belief and life history experiences. Although the sense of identification did not vary, the degree of abstinence did, and this degree was determined by each individual’s personal morals and beliefs.