It’s only fair to start this review stating that the author of Global Punk, Kevin Dunn, is a contributor to Razorcake, although I’ve never met him. The title may be somewhat misleading, as there’s no possible way (short of a multi-volume encyclopedia) that one can make a comprehensive look at punk around the world. The subtitle gives the reader a better understanding of where Dunn is headed with the material. He believes that, “DIY punk provides individuals and local communities with resources for self-empowerment and political resistance.”
Despite an academic press putting out this book, don’t be discouraged from picking up Global Punk. While there is some theory involved in the discussion of punk as a source of rebellion and defiance, much of this book strikes the right mix of intellectual and accessible. During the academic analysis of punk, I struggled to be engaged, but an engaging narrative rescued me, telling the stories of riot grrrls, punks in Indonesia, or even this here zine. Dunn has performed an incredible number of interviews with individuals involved with music scenes around the world. Their first-hand accounts give Global Punk legitimacy. While I normally dislike hearing the author inject themselves into a book, Dunn’s energy and excitement—as well as his personal experiences—come through and give the reader encouragement and hope that punk is still strong.
Dunn argues throughout the book that punk’s power isn’t so much its ability to change the world, but rather its ability to change an individual. He paraphrases anarchist author Hakim Bey in writing “perhaps success should be measured by the degree to which people are knocked out of a trance.” While Dunn relates this to zines and specifically punk zines, I’d argue that punk, in general, does just that. One of the messages of this book, intended or not, is that punk has the power to transform and change lives. During my time reading Global Punk, I was surprised at how uplifted and empowered I felt. I’d guess that Dunn wasn’t thinking he was writing a self-help book, but reading stories of how punk has given agency to people—and continues to do so—of all sorts of backgrounds throughout the world gave this reader some hope in the midst of an all too depressing world. –Kurt Morris (Bloomsbury, 1385 Broadway, NY, NY 10018)