Nicole Cross Wins Undergraduate Research Award
Nicole Cross, a senior sociology major at Occidental College, is the recipient of the American Academy of Political and Social Science’s Undergraduate Research Award for her paper titled “Youth Subculture in Los Angeles: A Comparison of Rave and Hardcore.”
Cross, of Havre de Grace, Md., will travel to Washington, D.C., in April to be honored by the Academy for her work and to be recognized as a Junior Fellow. She is one of 10 undergraduate award winners from across the country whose theses raised important sociological insights and illuminated how public policy might better achieve its ends. Winners were chosen from a field of 49 applicants.
Recipients met three criteria specified by the academy: an outstanding grasp of a discipline’s theories and methods, an enthusiasm for understanding social issues, and the promise of making substantial contributions to the social sciences. The honor allows Cross to attend AAPSS’s annual symposium and her paper will be posted on the organization’s web page.
In her research, Cross researched hardcore and rave subcultures at Los Angeles nightclubs. Hardcore adherents, she reported, unite in a social scene borne of pain, disappointment, frustration and angry energy. In contrast, rave participants circulate in a “friendly, fun, social atmosphere.” “Despite their differences, both subcultures reflect to me something about contemporary society, the struggles we face and the way we deal with them,” Cross said.
Hardcore participants are typically working- to lower-middle class white, heterosexual males between 18 and 25 years old. The subculture, which sprouted from the punk scene of the 1970s, abides by a code that resists mainstream consumerism.
Surveyed members of the rave subculture varied in age from 13 to 30, Cross reported. The subculture emerged after the demise of disco, and gives participants an “ethos of anonymity.” “Identity is not what ravers attend raves in search of, but rather a loss of identity,” Cross reported. “The participants of raves do not represent one cohesive social group, but embody different races, classes, ages and sexualities.”
“For those that are searching for something else, for those that have a different dream, subculture can be a way of making that dream come true, even if only temporarily,” she added. “Through this study, I have attempted to find out who these people are, what they do, and what it means to them in relation to the huge, sprawling, and quite alienating city of Los Angeles.”
Cross collected data through a questionnaire she administered in person or via e-mail. Participants were asked to detail the nature of their involvement with hardcore and rave subcultures, and highlight the meanings they ascribe to their subculture.
“Nicole is one of the more exceptional ethnographers that has come through our department in the last few years,” said Jan Lin, associate professor of sociology. “Her work reveals that subcultural musical scenes have a power to create new identities and communities for their youthful adherents, countering the anonymity of modern metropolitan life. At the same time, she helps us to transcend traditional understandings as to what constitutes a community and a culture in contemporary society.”