Is it even possible to resist or oppose neoliberalism? I consider two responses that translate musical practices into counter-hegemonic political strategies: Jacques Attali’s theory of “composition” and the biopolitics of “uncool.” Reading Jacques Attali’s Noise through Foucault’s late work, I argue that Attali’s concept of “repetition” is best understood as a theory of neoliberal biopolitics, and his theory composition is actually a model of deregulated subjectivity. Composition is thus not an alternative to neoliberalism but its quintessence. An aesthetics and ethos (...) of “uncool” might be a more viable alternative. If and when they function as bad, unprofitable investments, uncool practices like smoothness (predictable regularity) can undercut neoliberal imperatives to self-capitalization. I consider both the impact of neoliberalism on music, and how the study of music can advance theories of neoliberalism. (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 applying insights from other areas of feminist aesthetics to questions of popular music, and thereby using feminist aesthetics – specifically, Julia Kristea’s notion of female genius and the genius spectator – to critique itself. (shrink)
Gender, race, and sexuality are not just identities; they are also systems of social organization – i.e., systems of privilege and oppression. This article addresses two main ways privilege and oppression are relevant topics in and for philosophical aesthetics: the role of the aesthetic in privilege and oppression, and the role of philosophical aesthetics, as a discipline and a body of texts, in constructing and naturalizing relations of privilege and oppression . The first part addresses how systems of privilege and (...) oppression use the aesthetic. I will discuss various ways race, gender, and sexuality, as both embodied identities and broader social institutions, work with and through “the aesthetic”. The second part addresses racism and sexism in the discipline of aesthetics. Both in its history and its present practice aesthetics’apparent neutrality on questions of privilege and oppression is actually evidence of its investment in systems of privilege and oppression. (shrink)
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)
Beginning with the role of the Sex Pistols’s “God Save the Queen” in Lee Edelman and J. Jack Halberstam’s debates about queer death and failure, I follow a musical motive from the Pistols track to its reappearance in Atari Teenage Riot’s 1995 “Delete Yourself .” In this song, as in much of ATR’s work from the 1990s, overlapping queer and Afro-diasporic aesthetics condense around the idea of death or “bare life.” ATR’s musical strategies treat this death as a form of (...) de-intensification and divestment— not, as in Edelman or the Pistols, as a form of negation . I will show that ATR’s musical recontextualization of the Pistols’s riff mirrors the political recontextualization of queerness and queer death from negation to disinvestment. Pushing this misprision or sticky interface between cyberpunk, queer, and Afro-diasporic musical aesthetics, I use ATR’s music to consider how queer death might work as a political response to neoliberal demands to invest in “normal” life. I first discuss the traditional concept of death as negation in both the Sex Pistols song "God Save the Queen," and in Lee Edelman and Jack Halberstam’s formulations. I then argue that Atari Teenage Riot's song “Delete Yourself” describes a neoliberal, biopolitical concept of death, death as carefully administered divestment. Finally, I use Deleuze and Guattari’s discussion of drugs, and Ronald Bogue’s Deleuzian reading of death metal to identify and explain how “MIDIjunkies” and “Into the Death” complicate the biopolitical/neoliberal management of death by reworking traditional black/queer critical aesthet- ics. In these songs, ATR undermine biopolitical neoliberalism’s demand to invest in and intensify regular “normal” life: rather than treating death as a nadir of intensity, they intensify it–that is, they go into the death. This strategy of going “into the death” is one possible queer necropolitical response to neoliberalism. (shrink)
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.".
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.
The Conjectural Body combines continental philosophy with musicology, popular music studies, and feminist, critical race, and postcolonial theories to offer a unique perspective on issues of gender, race, and the philosophy of music. It is one of the few books in philosophy to take popular music seriously, and is one of the few books in continental feminism to privilege music over the visual.
ABSTRACTTranslated into English in 2004, Vladimir Jankelevitch’s book Music and the Ineffable has made a significant impact in anglophone musicology. I argue that the figure of the feminine is central to his understanding of music and musical ineffability, and use feminist philosophers’ interpretations and critiques of the figure of the feminine in his close friend and colleague Emmanuel Levinas’s work to unpack the gender politics of Jankelevitch’s book and the secondary literature on it. I focus on the figure of the (...) feminine in Time and the Other and Totality and Infinity, which are works we have evidence Jankelevitch read. There, Levinas describes the feminine as a “form of being” that is “inexhaustible, infinite” and thus “refuses thematization positively”. This is nearly identical to Jankelevitch’s definition of musical ineffability as “fertile inexplicability”. Not only is Jankelevitch’s concept of musical ineffability identical to Levinas’s concept of the feminine, it is also couched in gendered terms throughout Music and the Ineffable. “Musical ineffability” in Jankelevitch’s sense is thus a parallel to Levinas’s concept of the feminine. I then read Jankelevitch and his interpreters in musicology through feminist scholarship on Levinas to show how the former two succumb to the same ultimately patriarchal flaws as the latter. For example, just as Levinas prioritizes paternity and the reproduction of patriarchy, muiscologist Carolyn Abbate uses Jankelevitch as the white masculine other in which musicology recognizes itself as both different and the same. (shrink)
Traditionally, in Anglo-American and Continental philosophy, music is addressed as the object of philosophical analysis: it is either a case study for developing broader, generalizable ideas about ontology, metaphysics, or ethics, or it is the thing that we apply philosophical methods and concepts to.1 It is the philosophy of music, remember. But in the last several decades philosophers in these traditions have increasingly taken “music” as a model for philosophical analysis: There is a branch of Deleuze studies dedicated to this; (...) new materialisms constantly refer to things such as vibration, resonance, and other wave behaviors such as diffraction; and Continental figures such as Jean-Luc Nancy and Adriana... (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)
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)
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 , 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)
George Yancy gathers white scholarship that dwells on the experience of whiteness as a problem without sidestepping the question’s implications for Black people or people of color. This unprecedented reversion of the “Black problem” narrative challenges contemporary rhetoric of a color-evasive world in a critically engaging and persuasive study.