Queer(ing) Popular Music Culture
Queer(ing) Popular Music Culture
- Doris LeibetsederDoris LeibetsederInstitute for Educational Science, University of Vienna
Queer(ing) popular music culture is a diverse field. It focuses, on the one hand, on the adjective “queer” and describes and analyzes what makes certain music queer. On the other hand, there is a strong emphasis on the verb “to queer,” on the doing, on how music culture can be made queer. Queer music is directed against not only norms concerning gender and sexuality, but also other intersectionalities correlating to the body and desire, such as disability, race, ethnicity, class, religion, and so forth. Early on, queer music culture stood for “homosexual” musicians, performances, taste, or audiences, but has now opened up toward other identities and queering practices showing the construction of identities in an interplay of dominant power mechanisms (e.g., racialization). To queer music culture is to step outside of binary normative assumptions and dichotomous thinking and to introduce more subtle in-betweens in music, which are directed against the hegemonic power structures at place in music culture and the society in general, and aim to dissolve them.
Queer musical performances and how to queer music culture depend strongly on the cultural and historical context the music is placed in. Two key concepts for the analyses are the performance and performativity (repetition of performances) of gender and sexuality and other intersectional identities. Both concepts are crucial because they form the foundation of queer theory.
In terms of music culture, this means that it is not only about how a musician performs their gender during a show, but also that this gendered performance needs to be repeated over time and in society. For example, members of the same audience could emulate the gendered performance of the musician in their own social life. Gender is performed and performative, as are other kinds of identities such as sexuality and other intersectionalities (race, class, age, dis/ability). Analyzing how a gender/sexuality/class/race performance is done and how it is repeated in everyday life (performativity) helps to find queer acts and gestures. In music culture this means to look at not only musical performances or at the appearance and behavior of the audience during the performance and in their daily lives, but also in doing music culture differently—hence “queering” music culture—and not corresponding to the heteronormative production and consumption scheme. This kind of “queering,” for example, happened in the Riot Grrrl movement when they produced their own labels and escaped the male-dominated studio productions. Other examples are their self-produced zines to spread queer-feminist knowledge or their DIY archives (see History of Queer(ing) Popular Music Culture), and the queering of the production/consumption scheme is also seen in the ballroom culture as explained in the following section. Further musical periods and genres will be examined critically for their queerness: blues and jazz in the early 20th century, glam rock in the 1960s and 1970s, Black hip-hop from the 1990s until now, and contemporary trans music.
- Critical/Cultural Studies
- Gender (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies)
- Communication and Culture