New Zealand's 'Dr. Bogan' earns heavy metal doctorate

Posted at 05/04/12 3:02 PM

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - A New Zealand researcher has earned a doctorate studying the social habits of heavy metal fans, or "bogans" as they are known in the country.

Dave Snell began his research at Waikato University in 2007, intent on using psychological tools to look beyond the stereotypical image of bogans as anti-social and potentially dangerous outsiders.

Snell, himself an avid headbanger, graduated this week after completing his thesis entitled "The everyday life of bogans: identity and community among heavy metal fans".

Backed by a NZ$100,000 ($81,000) grant, he attended heavy metal concerts to study bogans in a social setting and interviewed them to see how belonging to the group affected other aspects of their lives.

Snell found that while his subjects used similar physical cues such as long hair, acid wash jeans and a predilection for black T-shirts to identify themselves as bogans, they did not confirm to one personality type.

He said there was no evidence metal fans were less able to participate in activities such as employment than other groups, they just toned down their appearance in so-called "normal" settings.

"My research shows that you can’t just slot people into distinct personality types, like those psychometric tests that HR (human resources) people sometimes use," he said.

"Our interactions shape who we are rather than us being born a certain way.

His research found that being part of heavy metal culture was all about sharing experiences with peers.

"It really was so normal -- they go to the concert, wear the t-shirt and afterwards relive the experience through conversations," he said.

Snell's academic supervisor professor Darrin Hodgetts said the thesis, which has been presented at conferences in Switzerland and Portugal, was valuable research.

"Really he’s used bogans as a case study to investigate... our understanding of notions of identity, how we understand community and how we function within it," Hodgetts said. "He’s done some good work."

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