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Queer(ing) Popular Music Culture  

Doris Leibetseder

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.


Overview in Critical and Cultural Organizational Communication  

Majia Nadesan

In 2009, one of the most powerful executives in the world, Goldman Sach’s CEO Lloyd Blankfein, asserted that his firm was “doing God’s work.” This comment was made in the wake of the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, a crisis that Goldman Sachs and other U.S. and European investment banks played important roles in creating. The comment’s audacity did not escape notice, raising eyebrows even in the mainstream news media given its historical situatedness at the tail end of the crisis. Although Blankfein’s comment was coded negatively in the cultural consciousness, it was also represented as iconic of the culture of Wall Street’s “Masters of the Universe,” as referred to in the popular vernacular. Blankfein’s comment is deployed to illustrate the conceptual models and methodologies of those fields of study known as critical and cultural organizational communication research. These closely coupled but distinct fields of study will be delimited with special attention to their objects of investigation and methodological deployments using this example. Cultural and critical organizational communication represent closely coupled fields of study defined primarily by their phenomena or objects of study—organizational communications. Scholarship maps and analyzes communications to understand how organizations are constituted through communications that decide organizational policies, programs, practices, and values. Typically, organizational communications include all formal and informal signifying systems produced by members of the particular organization under investigation. Cultural approaches to organizational communication emphasize how these communications produce meaning and experience, while critical approaches address the systemic and historically sedimented power relations that are inscribed and reproduced through organizational communication signifying systems. Organizational communication scholarship from a cultural approach would ordinarily seek to represent the organizational culture primarily using ethnographic methods aimed at disclosing an organization’s employee articulations, rituals, performances, and other circulations of symbol systems in the course of workaday life. However, the challenges to accessing Goldman Sach’s hallow grounds might defeat even the most intrepid ethnographer. Lacking direct access to the day-to-day practices and experiences of investment bankers, challenges of access to work-a-day spaces have encouraged researchers to adopt rhetorical and/or discourse analytical methods to understand the culture as represented in available cultural texts, such as internal communications, press announcements, available corporate policies, shareholder reports, and so on. Ethnographies of communication and rhetorical/discourse analysis together represent the primary nonfunctionalist methodologies commonly used to study how organizational meanings are produced, disseminated, and transformed. Across disciplines, organizational cultural analysis, particularly when pursued ethnographically, is typically rooted in an interpretive tradition known as verstehen, which understands meaning as agentively produced through a temporally emergent fusion of subjective horizons. Culture is therefore regarded as emergent and is believed to be actively constructed by its interlocutors, who are afforded great agency within the tradition of verstehen. The emergent aspects of culture are fertile and seed subcultures that produce novel cultural performances as members delineate symbolic boundaries. Power is regarded by this tradition as largely visible to the everyday interpretive gaze, although admittedly fixed in institutions by rules, roles, and norms. The relatively visible character of institutional power hierarchies is believed to beget open conflict when disagreement exists over the legitimacy of power relations. Power is believed to circulate visibly and is thus subject to re-negotiation. This emergent and negotiated social ontology encourages researchers to adopt a pluralist view of power and a more relativistic approach to evaluating the social implications of specific organizational cultures. However, the Blankfein example raises complex moral questions about organizational cultures. Does everyone at Goldman Sachs really think they are doing God’s work? If they do, what does that actually mean, and is it a good thing for society given the firm’s demonstrable appetite for risk? More deeply, what are the conditions of possibility for the CEO of one of the world’s most powerful organizations saying that his firm is pursuing God’s work? Critical organizational communication adopts the methods of verstehen, in addition to methods from other critical traditions, but interjects ethical interrogation of systemic inequities in access to power and resources that are found across many social institutions and are deeply embedded historically. For example, a critical scholar might interrogate whether Goldman Sach’s cultural exceptionalism is found across the financial sector’s elite organizations and then seek to explore the roots of this exceptionalism in historical event and power trajectories. The critical scholar might address the systemic effects of a risk-seeking culture that is rooted in the collective belief it is doing God’s work. Critical organizational communication research seeks to understand how organizational communications naturalize or reify particular organizational interests, elevating them above the interests of other stakeholders who are consequently denied equitable opportunities for agency. Cultural and critical organizational communication studies have prioritized various discourse-based methodologies over the last 20 or so years. The challenges with ethnographic access may have helped drive this shift, which has been decried by those who see discourse analysis as too disconnected from the daily performances and meaning-makings of organizational members. However, the primary challenge facing these fields of study is the one long recognized as the “container metaphor” (Smith & Turner, 1995). The study of organizational communication too often represents its field of study as a self-contained syntagm—a closed signifying system—that too narrowly delimits boundaries of investigation to communications produced in and by particular organizational members with less examination of the material and symbolic embeddedness of those organizational communications within a wider social milieu of networked systems and historically embedded social structures. In essence, organizational communication has struggled to embed its observations of discrete communications/practices within more encompassing and/or networked social systems and structures.


Sara Ahmed’s Critical Phenomenology of Communication  

Rachel Stonecipher

Sara Ahmed is a feminist philosopher specializing in how the cultural politics of language use and discourse mediate social and embodied encounters with difference. She has published field-shaping contributions to queer and feminist theory, critical race and postcolonial theory, affect and emotion studies, and phenomenology. Since the publication of Differences that Matter: Feminist Theory and Postmodernism in 1998, her work has epitomized the value of contemporary feminist cultural studies to speak to and against the masculinist traditions of continental philosophy. Unequivocally inserting feminist politics into the rarified air of academic theory, it crosses the sexist boundary which corrals feminist thought into the category of “studies” while opposing it to male-authored philosophy—the latter automatically authorized to speak on the social and material “Real.” In doing so, her work sits squarely within discourse-analytical traditions that seek to expose how various epistemic scenes – activism, the media, and academia, to name a few -- sediment false authority on such issues as happiness, utility, and the good. Moreover, in contesting New Materialism’s search for some monist “matter” beneath experience, she traces how those linguistic moves impose insidiously singular concepts of what social “reality” is, and how it unfolds, for real people. As a field, communication studies concerns itself centrally with matters of social influence, scale, and power, such as the electoral effects of political speech, or the ability of a message to morph as it reaches new audiences. Turning a critical eye upon the (re)production of cultural norms and social structure through interpersonal and institutional encounters, Ahmed’s oeuvre explores the discursive logics and speech acts that sediment or transform the social meanings of race, gender, and other differences.