F&M College Library

SOC 475: Gender, Social Justice & Transnational Activism

A research guide to help you with Professor Shokooh Valle's SOC 475 course. Module 4, Spring 2021.


What are zines again?

ZINE: pronounced zeen

Derivative of magazine or fanzine

Zines are "...noncommercial, nonprofessional, small-circulation magazines which their creators produce, publish, and distribute themselves." [Stephen Duncombe, Notes from the Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture]

A short history of zines

Keep in mind that the short history you're reading here is largely focused on the Western world. Of course, zines exist elsewhere, but the largely studied history of them focuses on the west. 

The Beginning

  • There is argument in the field about the origin of zines. Some say that zines began with the history of the printing press, and the emergence of broadsides
  • Others say that it started in the 1950s with... 

1930s: Science Fiction Fandoms

  • This is where others argue that zines got their start. Science fiction fandoms created their own "fanzines" -- short for fan magazine -- where they would publish original writing and artwork inspired by science fiction. 

1950s: Beat Generation 

  • Counterculture movements of the 1950s and 60s, especially the Beat Generation, meant that more underground presses emerged, giving folks voices outside of the mainstream media. 

1970s: Democratizing Art 

  • Tied into artists' books (which F&M also collects!), as well as the art and literary magazines of the 60s and 70s. These were books or zines printed cheaply and spread through small, niche networks. 
  • Combination of all different kinds of ideas -- art, politics, culture, and activism -- and really redefined what a magazine could be. 
  • Zines have their own history in Asia, which isn't largely researched and written about in English, including China during periods of temporary liberalization, like the 70s and 80s. A particularly famous one is Wei Jingsheng's account of his time in prison, titled "Q1: A 20th Century Bastille."

1980s: Punk Scene

  • Emerging as a revolt against authoritarianism, punk subculture originally started out in the UK in the mid-1970s, though there are folks who disagree on exactly where in the UK it originated first. 
  • There were many zines dedicated to the musical genre of punk, representing the aesthetic and ideals of the subculture. 

1990s: Riot Grrrl Movement 

  • The riot grrrl movement was an underground, feminist, punk culture that developed in the Pacific Northwest in the 1990s. Zines in the era created by riot grrrls focused on feminism, sex, the patriarchy, female empowerment, and more. 
  • They were reactions against the sexism in punk culture, to the rise of third wave feminism, and the emergency of DIY lifestyles. 
  • Here were get the idea of sharing personal experience as a community-building tool, which rises out of second-wave feminism and consciousness-raising


Special thanks and credit to Laura Van Leuven's blog post, A Short History of Zines, and to Zines! by V. Vale for the information in this short history. 

Zines at F&M

The F&M Zine Library is a browsing collection, meaning that you can browse and read zines at Shad-Fack. Located by the Reference Room, the Zine Library was founded by former librarian Louise Kulp in 2012. We currently collect zines on topics discussed curricularly at F&M, as well as zines by students, faculty, and staff at the College. 

To see what's in the collection, make an Advanced Search at library.fandm.edu for:

  • Subject=zines
  • Format=book
  • Location=Franklin & Marshall College

How to Make a Zine

Zines can be whatever you want to be! 

Zinesters use a variety of methods of construction for their zines, from one page zines to thick, staple bound zines. You'll want to think about your assignment, and what you'll need to create in order to meet your goals and objectives for the assignment. If you have questions or concerns about your zine structure, size, or method, please reach out to Anna! 

Want to learn more?