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Professor's new book explores link between punk, higher education

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3/18/2013 —

Penn State Greater Allegheny Assistant Professor of Communications Zack Furness recently published a book, "Punkademics."

"Punkademics" is a collection of essays about punk and higher education, all of which were written by college professors, and a few graduate students, who hail from the punk scene.  Furness said, “Having spent the better part of the last 15 years immersed in both punk culture and academia, I've found that there's an interesting overlap between these two worlds and I was interested in hearing about what others had to say about this seemingly odd juxtaposition.”

When asked why he chose punk music, as opposed to, say, rock or another genre, Furness answered, “My interests in punk go well beyond the music, despite the fact that I still play in bands and go to shows.  Put simply, getting involved in some of punk's splintered subcultures is what initially sparked my interests in politics, independent publishing, and the process of thinking critically about media and popular culture.  In short, it's what set me on the path to become a teacher, a writer and a political dissident.”

A book description on Amazon.com states, “In the 30 years since Dick Hebdige published Subculture: The Meaning of Style, the seemingly antithetical worlds of punk rock and academia have converged in some rather interesting, if not peculiar, ways. A once marginal subculture documented in homemade 'zines and three chord songs has become fodder for dozens of scholarly articles, books, Ph.D. dissertations, and conversations amongst well-mannered conference panelists. At the same time, the academic ranks have been increasingly infiltrated by professors and graduate students whose educations began not in the classroom, but in the lyric sheets of seven-inch records and the cramped confines of all-ages shows. 'Punkademics' explores these varied intersections by giving voice to some of the people who arguably best understand the odd bedfellows of punk and academia. In addition to being one of the first edited collections of scholarly work on punk, it is a timely book that features original essays, interviews, and select reprints from notable writers, musicians, visual artists, and emerging talents who actively cut & paste the boundaries between punk culture, politics, and higher education.”

Furness plans to use exerpts from the book in his classes.  “I primarily teach courses in media studies, so I will likely use a few of the chapters in my lesson plans. There are some interesting and very teachable essays about the intersections of music, politics and culture that are ideal for any of my communications classes,” he said.

This June, Furness will be taking part in a panel on punk music and identity at the 2013 "Console-ing Passions" conference in England, and he’s hoping to start the process of editing a book (tentatively) called More Than a Scene: The Spaces, Places, and Cartographies of Punk. “Most of my academic work, including my first book, One Less Car, has been focused around the politics of transportation and car culture, so doing a book on the cultural geography of punk is merely another way to expand my interest in urban spaces and places. In fact, my next big research project is going to be investigating the cultural politics of gentrification in Pittsburgh,” said Furness, adding,  “But then again, I'm a rather unorthodox researcher and I don't like to pigeonhole myself.  For example, I'm currently co-editing the first collection of critical/cultural scholarship on the National Football League, which will be published by Temple University Press later this year.”

Clearly, Furness has a lot of enthusiasm about both his book projects and teaching.  He tells students to enjoy their work as well. His advice? “Get up, get into it, get involved.”

Zack Furness is an assistant professor of communications at Penn State University, Greater Allegheny and author of the book, "One Less Car: Bicycling and the Politics of Automobility" (Temple University Press, 2010). He also is editor of Punkademics (Minor Compositions / Autonomedia, 2012), co-editor of "The NFL: Critical/Cultural Perspectives" (Temple University Press, 2013), and contributor to several edited collections, journals, and nonacademic publications including Bitch, Souciant, and Punk Planet. Furness was a longtime editor and contributor to Bad Subjects, one of the pioneering publications on the Internet, and has played in punk bands since 1997.  He currently sings in BARONS, a punk band based in Pittsburgh, Pa.  "Punkademics" was recently reviewed by the Los Angeles Review of Books.

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