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Zines: What Are Zines?

Intro to Zines

"While zines span many topics and physical forms, the social justice and do-it-yourself aspects of zines are what make them such an important scholarly tool. Informed by the Second Wave feminist slogan of 'the personal is political,' the feminist zinemakers of the 1990s established zines as a form of creativity, connection, and meaning-making that challenged dominant conceptions of girlhood, sexuality, and power. In academic settings, zines allow students to learn from others and create knowledge on their own terms. Consequently, zine librarianship provides a framework to influence and transform the hierarchy of knowledge and, more broadly, the inequalities inherent in higher educational institutions."  Credit: Simmons College

Zines in the US: A Timeline

  • 1930s - Science fiction fanzines get their start and are "published" for the first time
  • 1930s-1960s - Zines are produced with mimeographs, a machine that pushes ink through a stencil. While not ideal for large circulation, more pulp sci-fi magazines are created and shared.
  • 1960s - Further developments in printing technology (photocopiers and copy shops) make zine fabrication and distribution easier. At the same time, a counter-cultural scene emerges that challenges the status quo.
  • 1970s-1980s - The punk subculture scene brings a grungy DIY aesthetic to the table. International political movements and underground presses print zines as a method of communication
  • 1980s - Photocopiers and risographs are more readily available to artists
  • 1990s - The Riot Grrrl movement - an underground feminist punk movement - began as a zine scene based around the women and their music, but transitioned to a political movement of third-wave feminism with zine communications at its heart.
  • 1990s-2000s - The rise of the internet and desktop publishing see blogs emerge, and create the potential for e-zines and digital art to be shared widely.
  • 2010s-2020s - Rise of zine fests, online zines, and zine artist collectives. Libraries begin to collect zines and more bookstores begin selling zines. Diverse communities embrace zine-making (POC Zine Project, Queer Zine Archive Project) and the ZineWiki is established.

Credit: Mount Saint Mary's University

Photo of San Fransisco Punk Zines

Prelinger Library

Lindsay Eyink, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons