My thesis is an exploration of cultural life in the city part Äussere Neustadt in Dresden, capital of the former East German state Saxony. The city part hosts a lively and youthful scene of a range of subcultural practices and lifestyles that, in local and emic discourses, are broadly termed as “alternative”. Although strongly interwoven with the dissenting youth movements in the west in the 1960s/-70s, vast systems of “alternative” signification have developed, and today “alternative culture” circulates as a global cultural conception thanks to the development of transnational mediation technologies. I presuppose, though, that “alternative” culture only makes sense to real, living and sensing human beings when embedded in local life worlds. Thus, the thesis seeks to illustrate various ways by which the “alternative culture”-idea is made real through practices of ‘locality production’ (Appadurai 1996), that is, in social forms of remembering and co-memorating local history, in neighbourhood festival-spectacles, in amateur art-practices, such as street art and musical jamming, and in various ‘carenvalesque’ (Bakhtin 1968) street parades.
I furthermore discuss the broader implications ideas and practices of “alternative” culture have on the organisation of urban spaces, treating them as vehicles of cultural heterogenisation (Hannerz 1992). The thesis refers to such particular localities where social systems are integrated through the cultivation of ideas and practices of sociocultural dissent, a phenomenon that is especially relevant in modern urban situations. The field case is used as an example in a discussion of why such localities are produced, and how they persist, in spite of housing highly transitory populations. I argue that the key factor is the investment of sociocultural dissent as an imagined substance of the locality itself. Thus, place is presented as the prime referential medium by which processes of shaping and reproducing stable relationships of meaning and identity are mediated.