Feminist Zines and an Aesthetic History of Radical Self-Publishing

Mentor: Joe Lucchesi

zine cover

Abstract: Zines are self-published handcrafted magazines with a small self-distributed print run and a low budget. They are publications that exist outside the mainstream and are created with a desire to share something with a subculture community. Even in the twentieth century alone, an aesthetic history of zines can be constructed from many sources, ranging from the 1930s sci-fi zine, to the avant-garde art zines of the 1950s and 60s, to punk fanzines and zines in the 1980s and 90s. Above all, zines and their enduring subcultures depend on the passionate community of people who create, read, share, document, and preserve the medium. My project emerged from the desire to draw connections between the complex and sometimes contradictory topics of feminism, zines, punk, and academia. In addition, my project explores how objects like zines challenge institutions, like libraries and academia, to adapt a constant dynamism when dealing with new objects. Zines are a vibrant form of communication and expression and offer meaningful resistance through radical form, content, and distribution. Fraught with contradictions and limitations, but also possibilities, zines are either directly or are inherently opposed to the corporate system and often emerge from marginalized yet vibrant subcultures. With a focus on contemporary feminist zines, my project explore how underground culture proves successful in its ability to challenge and destabilize the very structures of society that alienate it.