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By medium: underground film - underground literature - underground press - underground music

"Ideas enter our above-ground culture through the underground. I suppose that is the kind of function that the underground plays, such as it is. That it is where the dreams of our culture can ferment and strange notions can play themselves out unrestricted. And sooner or later those ideas will percolate through into the broad mass awareness of the broad mass of the populace. Occulture, you know, that seems to be perhaps the last revolutionary bastion." -- Alan Moore

Related: alternative - banned - censorship - clandestine - controversial - counterculture - crime - cult - drugs - economy - forbidden - grotto - hidden - illegal - illicit - independent - a glossary of the non-mainstream - overground - prohibition - resistance - secret - subculture - subversive - taboo - transgressive - underworld - The Velvet Underground

Contrast: mainstream

Underground mining station, image sourced here.

A basement or cellar is an architectural construction that is completely or almost below ground in a building. It may be located below the ground floor.

The mainstream comes to you, but you have to go to the underground. - Frank Zappa

Interconnected underground stems are called rhizomes

Bibliography: Lipstick Traces, a Secret History of 20th Century (1989) - Greil Marcus - Outsiders as innovators (1998) - Tyler Cowen - Notes from Underground (1864) - Fyodor Dostoevsky


It is not easy to define the underground. Zappa's quote "The mainstream comes to you, but you have to go to the underground." gives us an idea. The definition of underground culture I use, is, culture that has not reached the mainstream but that has gained popularity amongst a small and loyal audience [a subculture]. Actually, that is the same definition I give to cult as in cult movies.

One should not forget that underground has a connotation of the illegal, the clandestine, the illicit; and a link with the adversary guerilla activities of the oppresssed.

To conclude::

Underground as an adjective commonly refers to something that is either below the ground or outside of public consciousness. As a proper noun, the underground refers to subcultures.

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Underground


Underground culture

Underground culture, or just underground, is a term to describe various alternative cultures which either consider themselves different to the mainstream of society and culture, or are considered so by someone. The word underground is used because there is a history of resistance movements under harsh regimes where the term underground was employed to refer to the necessary secrecy of the resisters. For instance, the Underground Railroad was a network of clandestine routes by which African slaves in the 19th century United States attempted to escape to freedom. Also "The underground" was a common name for World War II resistance movements, by extension, the term was subsequently applied to counter-cultural movement(s) many of which sprang up during the 1960s. The phrase "underground railroad" also turned up again in the 1970s being used in reference to the clandestine movement of people and goods by the American Indian Movement in and out of occupied Native American reservation lands.

These 1960s and 1970s underground cultural movements had some connections to the "beat generation" which had, in turn, been inspired by the philosphers, artists and poets of the Paris Existentialist movement which gathered around Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus in the years after World War II. Sartre and Camus were members of Combat a French resistance group formed in 1942 by Henri Frenay. Frenay, Sarte and Camus were all involved in publishing Underground newspapers for the resistance. The French underground culture which inspired Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsburg in America in the 1940s was steeped in socialist thinking before the cold war began, but this wasn't the monolithic socialism of the totalitarian Soviet state, but rather the free-thinking and expressive socialism of artists and dreamers attempting to re-think society.

Since then, the term has come to designate various subcultures such as punk rock culture, and mod culture and underground hip hop.

Applied to the arts, the term underground typically means artists that are not corporately sponsored and don't generally want to be. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Underground_culture [Aug 2005]

Underground resistance

The underground is sometimes a nickname for a resistance movement: "the underground" is also a common name for World War II resistance movements. By extension, the term was also applied to counter-cultural movement(s) many of which sprang up during the 1960s. In a similar sense, the Underground Railroad was an United States anti-slavery movement which helped slaves escape. Underground Resistance is also the name of a techno formation from Detroit.

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