Re-imagining zine culture: Tenacious, a prisoner-made zine, and the People of Color Zine Project

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As an alternative form of media, zines are low-budget, do-it-yourself publications. Produced by individuals as well as collectives, these publications vary from photocopied pamphlets exchanged with friends to slick magazines circulating within alternative distribution networks (see Figure 1). As alternative media scholar Stephen Duncombe has suggested, “In an era marked by the rapid centralization of corporate media, zines are independent and localized.” For Duncombe, however, these publications exert a limited political capacity, being “merely a form of political catharsis” and “a rebellious haven in a heartless world.”

This essay presents two US zine projects that challenge conventional understandings of zine production as leisure-based or politically sublimated activities typically carried out by white, middle-class youth. These projects are Tenacious, a zine made by and for incarcerated women, and the People of Color Zine Project, a network which seeks to place people of color’s grassroots publishing firmly on the critical radar. To provide the theoretical framework for this essay, I draw upon Adela C. Licona’s conceptualization of zines as “third spaces” to elaborate how zines are mobile, dynamic sites of articulation, and Alison Piepmeier’s consolidation of feminist zines as sites of intersectional analysis. My intention here is to emphasize some under-recognized spatialities of zine production and reception: the mobile and regulated sites where these media forms are made and accessed, and the critiques of power and privilege carried out within their pages and broader communication channels.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMedia Fields: Critical Explorations in Media and Space
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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