zines and do-it-yourself democracy witness this moment


Zines and Do-It-Yourself Democracy

Zines and Do-It-Yourself Democracy represents the explorations of the students and faculty associated with the Zines and Do-It-Yourself Democracy freshman seminar at the University of Oregon. This exhibit features examples of zines created by zinesters from around the United States as well as by students in the seminar. This exhibit is an online interpretation of a Spring 2005 University of Oregon Knight Library exhibit of the same title. (Read about the Curatorial Method here, this link opens in a new browser window.)

Zines are not about canonization, but about the possibility of universal participation. Our purpose is not to present an encyclopedic tour of the genre, but instead a response to questions such as:

  • How do zines function in a corporate controlled media environment?
  • What is the larger context in which zines are created and distributed?
  • What is the history of zines?
  • What is the effect of zines on people, culture, and society?
  • We hope that this exhibit will motivate you to explore the large and diverse world of zines.

Cometbus zine rrrl girlz zine
Left: Cometbus #26
Right: rrrl girlz v. 3 #1

Zines. There is no consensus on how to define a zine. To witness the evolving process of defining zines visit the Wikipedia definition of zines at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zines. Generally, zines can be understood as independently produced, independently circulated, non-copyrighted, self-funded, limited edition pamphlet/magazine-like publications.

Do-It-Yourself (DIY). George McKay in Party and Protest in Nineties Britain sums up DIY best as "a combination of inspiring action, narcissism, youthful arrogance, principle, ahistoicism, idealism, indulgence, reactivity, plagiarism, as well as the rejection and embracing alike of technological innovation."

Democracy. Douglas Lummis, in his book Radical Democracy, argues that democracy is more than a set of institutions or a "system." Democracy is a state of being and doing. Democracy is a performance. Zines, as spaces for communicating about issues of public and private concern are doing democracy.


"Think! Think! It ain’t illegal, yet!!" reads the first page of U Don’t Stop, a zine I picked up the other day.

It’s not an unusual request. Zines (short for fanzines, derived from magazines) are homemade pamphlets with a rebellious mission: to create an independent voice outside the mainstream. Though one could trace their roots back to the political pamphlets of the American Revolution, zines as a distinct medium were born in the 1930s. It was then that fans of science fiction, often through the clubs they formed, started producing fanzines as a way of sharing stories and ideas about a literary genre sniffed at by the cultural establishment. Forty years later, in the mid 1970s, fans of punk rock music, ignored by and critical of the commercial music press, also began publishing zines about their cultural scene. In the early 1980s these two tributaries converged with smaller streams of publications by fans of other cultural strains, as well as the remnants of printed political dissent from the 1960s, and a genuine media subculture came of age. Today, somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 different zines circulate throughout the United States and the world. What binds all these publications together is a common prime directive: DIY (Do-It-Yourself). Stop shopping for culture and go out and create your own. (Duncombe, 1999)




Best Viewed by listening to the "Democracy Mix"!

(this link opens in a new browser window)

Other Pages:

History Of
do it yourself

Pile of zines

Portland zine symposium 2005
Portland zine symposium 2005


Maria Finison, Don Stacy, Owen Smith, and Dan Beyer


Duncombe, S. (1999, December). DIY Nike Style: Zines and the corporate world. Z-Magazine. Retrieved September 13, 2005 from http://www.zmag.org/zmag/zarticle.cfm?Url=/articles/dec1999duncombe.htm

Lummis, D.C. (1997). Radical democracy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

McKay, G. (Ed.). (1998). Diy culture: Party & protest in nineties Britain. London: Verso


Congdon, K. G. & Blandy, D. (2005). Zines, diy, and critical pedagogy. Telemedium, 52, 59-63.

Congdon, K. G. & Blandy, D. (2005). Zines, democracy, and the insurgent imagination: Implications for art education. In L. R. Andrews (Ed.). Democracy and the arts: Voices and choices. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Duncombe, S. (1997). Notes from the underground: Zines and the politics of alternative culture. NY: Verso.

Wrekk, A. (n.d.). Stolen sharpie revolution: A DIY zine resource. Portland, OR: Microcosm.


Broken Pencil. (n.d.). Retrieved October 1, 2005, from http://www.brokenpencil.com/

Independent Publishing Resource Center. (n.d.). Retrieved October 1, 2005, from http://iprc.org/

Reader's guide to the underground press. (n.d.). Retrieved October 1, 2005, from http://www.undergroundpress.org/

Roll your own. (n.d.). Retrieved October 1, 2005, from http://www.zinebook.com/roll.html

Zinebook.com (Encyclopedic website devoted to zines and e-zines. Includes discussion groups, interviews with zinesters, resources, updates, critiques, and tips for distribution.) (n.d.). Retrieved October 1, 2005, from http://www.zinebook.com/


Doug Blandy is a Professor in the Arts and Administration Program at the University of Oregon. He is also the Director of the Institute for Community Arts Studies. Doug Blandy's involvement with zines links his interest in the arts of the book, indy media, and participatory democracy.

Robert Voelker-Morris is the Project Coordinator for the IMLS grant project at the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History. Additionally, Robert works for the U of O Arts and Administration Program as adjunct professor in the visual and media literacy fields. He was introduced to the world of zines in the early 1990s and has not looked back since.

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CultureWork is an electronic publication of the University of Oregon Institute for Community Arts Studies. Its mission is to provide timely workplace-oriented information on culture, the arts, education, and community. For links to other sites of interest, see the ICAS links page. For previous issues of CultureWork, visit the Previous Issues page. Prospective authors and illustrators please see the Guidelines.

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©2005 The Institute for Community Arts Studies unless otherwise noted (see above Creative Commons license); all other publication rights revert to the author(s), illustrator(s), or artist(s) thereof.

Editors: Julie and Robert Voelker-Morris                                        Advisor: Dr. Douglas Blandy. 

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