I distinguish between the nineteenth- to twentieth-century (modernist) tendency to rehabilitate (white) femininity from the abject popular, and the twentieth- to twenty-first-century (postmodernist) tendency to rehabilitate the popular from abject white femininity. Careful attention to the role of nineteenth-century racial politics in Nietzsche's Gay Science shows that his work uses racial nonwhiteness to counter the supposedly deleterious effects of (white) femininity (passivity, conformity, and so on). This move—using racial nonwhiteness to rescue pop culture from white femininity—is a common twentieth- and (...) twenty-first-century practice. I use Nietzsche to track shifts from classical to neo-liberal methods of appropriating “difference.” Hipness is one form of this neoliberal approach to difference, and it is exemplified by the approach to race, gender, and pop culture in Vincente Minnelli's film The Band Wagon. I expand upon Robert Gooding-Williams's reading of this film, and argue that mid-century white hipness dissociates the popular from femininity and whiteness, and values the popular when performed by white men “acting black.” Hipness instrumentalizes femininity and racial nonwhiteness so that any benefits that might come from them accrue only to white men, and not to the female and male artists of color whose works are appropriated. (shrink)
Because music communicates extra-propositionally, philosophers often use musical concepts and metaphors to discuss implicit and/or affective knowledges. Music is a productive means to philosophically analyze affect, but only when these analyses are grounded in rigorous studies of actual musical works and practices. When we don’t ground our study of music in musical practices, works, and theories, “music” just becomes a mirror of whatever assumptions and biases we already have. I show how the overly-abstract treatment of music and sound in Jean-Luc (...) Nancy’s Listening leads to significant philosophical and political problems. By following his musical metaphors all the way through, I show how his theory of listening naturalizes maleness/masculinity, and, like liberal multiculturalism, values “difference” only as a way to re-center whiteness and patriarchy. As an alternative, I use R&B/electropop singer Kelis’s 2010 single “Acapella” (sic) to develop an alternative account of music, affect, and the politics of difference. (shrink)
Feminist, critical race, and postcolonial theories have established that social identities such as race and gender are mutually constitutive—i.e., that they “intersect.” I argue that “cultural appropriation” is never merely the appropriation of culture, but also of gender, sexuality, class, etc. For example, “white hipness” is the appropriation of stereotypical black masculinity by white males. Looking at recent videos from black male hip-hop artists, I develop an account of “postmillennial black hipness.” The inverse of white hipness, this practice involves the (...) appropriation, by black men, of stereotypical white gay masculinity and/or non-American, non-white femininity. I also argue that Shephard Fairey’s recent images of (mainly militant) non-Western women of color can be read as a new form of white hipness that revises the traditional logic in two ways: (1) by appropriating non-white femininity rather than masculinity, and (2) by adopting the practice of postmillennial black hipness itself. (shrink)
While feminist aestheticians have long interrogated gendered, raced, and classed hierarchies in the arts, feminist philosophers still don’t talk much about popular music. Even though Angela Davis and bell hooks have seriously engaged popular music, they are often situated on the margins of philosophy. It is my contention that feminist aesthetics has a lot to offer to the study of popular music, and the case of popular music points feminist aesthetics to some of its own limitations and unasked questions. This (...) essay addresses the paucity of work in feminist philosophy and popular music by (1) applying insights from other areas of feminist aesthetics (the role of gender in the art/craft distinction, concepts of genius and creativity, notions of active spectatorship, etc.) to questions of popular music, and (2) thereby using feminist aesthetics – specifically, Julia Kristea’s notion of female genius and the genius spectator – to critique itself. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that it is productive to read Rancière’s theory of political practice – what he calls “disagreement” – with and against Kodwo Eshun’s theorization of hip hop. Thinking disagreement through hip hop helps flesh out how, exactly, disagreement works, particularly at the level of individual embodiment and consciousness. While Rancière himself gives us many examples of interruptions to the political body (the demos speaking, Jean Derion asserting the non-universality of “universal” man, etc.), I am interested in (...) examining how these interruptions work in, on, and through individual bodies. How is it that we become aware of the ways that distributions of sensibility – particularly hegemonic ones, which are most likely to be normalized and imperceptible by virtue of their ubiquity – structure our corporeal schemas? How does one’s corporeal schema reinforce or interrupt dominant distributions of sensibility? Can we stage an interruption of our own corporeal schemas, and if so, how? (shrink)
The status of the body figures paradoxically in the interrelated discourses of whiteness, aesthetic taste, and hipness. While Richard Dyer’s analysis of whiteness argues that white identity is “in but not of the body,” Carolyn Korsmeyer’s and Julia Kristeva’s feminist analyses of aesthetic “taste” demonstrate that this faculty is traditionally conceived as something “of” but not “in” the body. While taste directly distances whiteness from embodiment, hipness negatively affirms this same distance: the hipster proves his elite status within white culture (...) by positioning himself as, in the words of James Chance’s song title, “Almost Black.” The notion of hip contributes to my analysis of taste by focusing on both the gender politics of white embodiment, and how, by taking the social body as object of the prepositions “in” and “of,” these discourses of taste and hipness produce individual bodies as white, and maintain Whiteness as a socio-political norm. (shrink)
Some feminists have argued that the “master's tools” cannot be utilized for feminist projects. When read through the lens of non-ideal theory, Judith Butler's reevaluation of “autonomy” and “universality” and Peaches's engagement with guitar rock are instances in which implements of patriarchy are productively repurposed for feminist ends. These examples evince two criteria whereby one can judge the success of such an attempt: first, accessibility and efficacy; second, that the use is deconstructive of its own conditions.
I read Sara Kofman's work on Nietzsche, Charles Mills' _The Racial Contract_, and Kodwo Eshun's Afrofuturist musicology to argue that most condemnations of "faking it" in music rest on a racially and sexually problematic fetishization of "the real.".