3 Creative Lessons From The Amateurs, Rebels And Dreamers Of Outsider Subcultures

In her new book, Republic of Outsiders, writer Alissa Quart explores how a range of noncomformists, from filmmakers and alternative bankers to "neurodiverse activists" are working outside of traditional structures to achieve their goals.

Some of the titular outsiders featured in Alissa Quart’s new book, Republic of Outsiders: The Power of Amateurs, Dreamers and Rebels, are crazy. That’s not a judgment, it’s a self-description: Among her diverse range of non-conforming subjects, Quart explores the “Mad Pride” movement, a group of people who reject the notion that their mental illnesses are disabilities. Some of them reject psychiatric medication, and others call their bipolar disorder or schizophrenia “dangerous gifts” instead of illnesses. According to Quart, this renaming is a key “rebel rule”: “outsiders can change the language people use to describe them and thereby change the mainstream a little.”

Though Quart shows the downsides to fringe movements like “Mad Pride” (the unmedicated mentally ill can sometimes cause harm to themselves or others), she also shows how mainstream culture has been enriched and altered by these groups. Quart covers a lot of ground in just under 200 pages--from an autistic young woman who is proud of her non-neurotypical wiring, to a committed group of film bloggers and programmers who resurrected a great movie that had been buried by its distributor--the connective thread is always the Internet, and how it has enabled like-minded outsiders to advocate for change.

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