Our moment has seen the resurgence of an anarchist sensibility, from the uprisings in Seattle in 1999 to the Occupy movement of 2011.
Against the vacuity and drift of financialized capitalism, proclaiming “There is no Alternative,” these insurgent movements have insisted that an alternative is possible. In The Ballerina and the Bull Johanna Isaacson explores the occult history of US punk, hardcore, queercore, and riot grrrl, DIY culture, and alternative subcultures to trace a new politics of “expressive negation” that both contests the present order and gives us a sense of the impasses of politics in an age of depoliticization. “Expressive negation” registers the contradictory politics at the heart of these projects: the desire for negation that must be positively expressed. Drawing on first-hand experience, interviews, and discussion of the ludic, spatial, and sexual politics of anarchist subcultures, Isaacson maps an underground utopian politics of style and develops a radically new history of the present moment.
Johanna Isaacson teaches at the University of California, Santa Cruz and Cabrillo College. Her work on politics and aesthetics in contemporary literature, DIY culture, social movements, and cinema has appeared in Criticism, Liminalities, Counterpunch, Reconstruction, Viewpoint, Lana Turner, Cesura//Acceso, and Blind Field.
“Johanna Isaacson s book is a vital testament to the fragile utopias that inhabit our precarious present. Exploring the ‘expressive negations’ of punk through the 80s and 90s, Isaacson beautifully reconstructs the prehistory of current revolts in these attempts to rupture the banality of capitalist life. The Ballerina and the Bull is a salutary call to refuse calls to ‘maturity’ and ‘realism, ‘ which sanction things as they are, and instead to return to those supposedly ‘childish’ refusals, which are our real utopias.”