Nostalgia, symbolic knowledge and generational conflict

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Much of what is written about northern soul treats it as a historical subject and phenomenon of the past. This chapter explores how fans have retained a longterm commitment to northern soul by continuing active involvement in the various scenes that exist in the UK. It also considers some of the ways the past and present interrelate and manifest in fans’ lives. Exploring commitment illustrates the meaning and socio-cultural experiences of sustained fandom. This chapter argues that nostalgia, memory and familiarity clearly play a role in northern soul as the acquisition of symbolic knowledge demonstrates an understanding of etiquette, cultural activities, and ultimately cements a fan’s position as a genuine ‘soulie’. This is not to suggest that older fans are ‘clinging onto’ their youth, rather, they look back on their past involvement often with fondness and, in turn, this informs their present involvement. Symbolic knowledge also highlights the male-dominated nature of northern soul. Cultural distinctions alongside concerns with credibility and rarity lead to a sense of solidarity and belonging for fans, which is amplified and extended through long-term involvement. This chapter concludes by exploring generational tension amongst original members of the scene and younger newcomers as issues of ownership and status result in contention between traditionalists and those that feel the scene should progress.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Northern Soul Scene
EditorsNicola Smith, Sarah, Elizabeth Raine, Tim Wall
ISBN (Print)9781781795583
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019

Publication series

NameStudies in Popular Music


  • Northern Soul
  • nostalgia
  • generational conflict


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