In Search of the Indian Hipster


Aastha Atray Banan and Gunjeet Sra in Open the Magazine:

None of those who use the term ‘hipster’ seem entirely clear about what it means. According to the aggregate wisdom of Wikipedia, to which Sharma turned for clarity, ‘hipster’ refers to ‘a subculture of young, urban middle class adults and older teenagers that appeared in the 1990s… associated with independent music, a varied non-mainstream fashion sensibility, progressive or independent political views, alternative spirituality or atheism/agnosticism, and alternative lifestyles’. This is such a wide definition, it sounds like a complicated way to say ‘non-conformist’.

The hipster emerged as a cross-subcultural figure in the late 1990s out of ‘neo bohemia’ which was defined by sociologist Richard Lyod as a culture of artists who primarily work in bars, coffee shops and rock clubs while providing an unintentional milieu for ‘late capitalist’ commerce in design, marketing, web development and the so-called ‘experience economy’. It has now turned into a movement influenced by a range of subcultures—from hippie to punk to beatnik to grunge.

In his essay What Was the Hipster? A Sociological Investigation, Mark Greif, professor of literary studies at New School university and founder-editor of the magazine n+1, writes that the contemporary hipster ‘emerges out of a thwarted tradition of youth subcultures, subcultures which had tried to remain independent of consumer culture, alternative to it, and had been integrated, humiliated and destroyed.’

Books have been written about this phenomenon in the West, but based on observation, a hipster is a person who sneers at Dan Brown, wears vintage clothing, doesn’t care who forms the government, doesn’t care if God exists, who eats organic food and drinks chamomile tea.