4 November 2018

Africa: Why Hipsters Could Be Seen As Modern-Day Colonisers


From Maboneng in Johannesburg to Bandra in Mumbai, Neukölln in Berlin to Gulou in Beijing, and Crown Heights in Brooklyn to Hackney in London, hipsters are everywhere.

Their distinctive look - (beards for the men and ironic retro cardigans for the women) and very particular consumer tastes (most recently, a combination of cream cheese and food colouring that's called unicorn toast. Yes, really; it looks good on Instagram) - make them a highly visible subculture.

Hipsters are often associated with art, makers, other creative fields and the tech industry. They're mostly millennial middle-class professionals.

They are also, as I've found in my research, considered socially progressive. That's because they're often affiliated with progressive political and cultural movements built on socially liberal ideals like anti-racism.

They are environmentalists. They champion women's rights and queer rights. Many follow vegan diets.

But, my fieldwork also shows that hipsters are a paradox. They appear progressive, but they actually demonstrate some parallels with the practices and ideologies of the settler-colonialism of earlier centuries.

My research on global hipsterification - hipster-led gentrification - focuses on what happens when hipsters move into lower-income urban neighbourhoods. When these areas are "regenerated" by hipsters, real estate developers come too. These areas become more expensive and the original residents are pushed out often causing controversy. This is happening in both developed and developing countries.

Melissa Tandiwe Myambo, University of the Witwatersrand


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