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Goth Culture by Dunja BrillGoth Culture: Gender, Sexuality & Style, by Dunja Brill (Berg, 2008)

One of the criticisms that can often be directed at sociological studies is that they can take a long while telling you in great detail what you already know. Dunja Brill's book, though, coming from the same series as Paul Hodkinson's study Goth (2002), bears no such charge. The Goth scene prides itself on an attitude of `genderlessness', proud of the fact that within its safe subcultural spaces people can express their individuality free of the constraints of the wider culture, especially in terms of sexuality and dress. Dr Brill, writing as a Goth insider, points out the limits of this in practice, describes the gap between ideal and reality, and marshals an impressive argument that the Goth scene is in fact profoundly 'gendered', especially and increasingly where the possibility of making a living from it allows the mechanisms of the market to penetrate, bearing with them the sexual ideologies of the mainstream. Individuals who step beyond the subtle gender codes of Goth are rarer than one might think. I wonder whether Dr Brill considers as much as she could the privileging of beauty as a concept within Goth, but her basic thesis definitely coincides with my own observations. The book is also, for the most part, lucidly written without too much clotted academic terminology (if only all the Gothic scholars who actually have English as their first language showed the same trait), and the personal accounts of visits to clubs and interactions with individuals make it all the more engaging and convincing. Very worthwhile indeed.

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