A Starter Guide to American Punk

Daniel Makagon explains punk's community-focused culture.

Starter's Guide to Punk Rock
Associate Professor Daniel Makagon laughs when asked if he’s the punk rock professor. “Yeah, I guess I am,” he says with a chuckle. The publication of his book, “Underground: The Subterranean Culture of DIY Punk Shows,” may have made the moniker official, but his interest in punk dates to the late ’70s and early ’80s when he was a young boy growing up in Southern California, listening to records at his neighbor’s house. “From a very early age, the sounds and politics of punk resonated with me,” he says.

Punk refers to both a style of music, which is often fast and aggressive, and a cultural aesthetic. In terms of the latter, punk can be understood as a do-it-yourself (DIY) movement, one in which bands and fans reject mainstream, profit-driven economic and political systems. Instead of signing with traditional corporate music labels and playing at clubs that rely on money-making alcohol sales, the bands in Makagon’s book perform in volunteer-run spaces and residential basements. “It’s a form of community that seeks to be self-sustaining,” Makagon explains.

Makagon draws on aspects of punk philosophy in his courses on intercultural communication, audio documentary and urban communication. “Since mainstream media communication is driven by corporate profit, it’s critical that students learn how to find alternative sources of information,” he says. “At the same time, I encourage students to make culture rather than merely criticize or consume culture.”

In fact, punk’s DIY mindset and community-building focus align closely with DePaul’s Vincentian emphasis on social justice, compassion for others and caring for our world. “Within that mission, there’s an understanding that we are responsible for helping to bring about positive change,” Makagon notes. “Think about that important Vincentian question, ‘What must be done?’” Long before punk rose to popularity in the 1970s, DePaul’s own namesake tackled some of punk’s fundamental concerns—though, of course, he didn’t do so musically.

 
 
 
 



Originally published in the College of Communication's Conversations newsletter and accessible online in DePaul Magazine.