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Friday, April 27 • 1:45pm - 3:15pm
Gender and Power in Interracial Music

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  1. Sophie Abramowitz "A Sweet, Separate Intimacy: Female Folk Collectors of the Harlem Renaissance"
  2. Amanda Martinez "Going Out at Home: Privatized Vice and the Consumption of Racial Otherness in Postwar Suburban Music Listening"
  3. Joseph M. Thompson "Foreign Love: U.S. Soldiers, Country Music, and the Gender Politics of Transnational Sexual Encounters"
Moderator: Michaelangelo Matos

One of the sustaining threads of popular music history is a preoccupation with interracial romance and sexual encounters. From the nineteenth century standard “The Yellow Rose of Texas” to the Western Swing of Cindy Walker’s “Cherokee Maiden” to the Orientalist fantasy of David Bowie’s “China Girl,” the allure of love, or at least sex, across different iterations of the color line in different eras has endured for songwriters and audiences. Whether symbolic and lyrical or literal--Elvis crossing the tracks to the black gospel church, Zora Neale Hurston putting Alan Lomax in blackface to move safely past police in the Jim Crow South--fraught spatial transgression is recurrent throughout American music. But what are the consequences for those who participate in this transgression of racial barriers? How and why does gender shape who gets to cross these lines? How does gender reinforce racial privilege for white listeners in search of interracial relationships? Focusing on the experience of listening in different spaces, this panel considers how notions of race and gender combine to form a mechanism of power for the consumption of racial others. Considering both to be fluid identity categories whose meanings are always contingent, our panel charts the movement of sonic exotica as it’s collected and received by white men and women. Rather than taking listening to be an unmediated physical act, we attend specifically to the ways that crossing from one physical space into another--whether demarcated by a national border, a township boundary, or a suburban doorway--affects the racial and gender constructions of the performers and listeners, sometimes each in the ears of the other. By considering the fetishization of women of color in suburban homes and zones of military occupation, along with the faux-transparency of white female song collectors’ movements and transcriptions of black and indigenous folksong, our panel traces the power and limitations of gender to challenge racial hierarchies and conversely posits new ways to understand how women assemble themselves in song.

avatar for Sophie Abramowitz

Sophie Abramowitz

Sophie Abramowitz is a doctoral candidate in English Literature at the University of Virginia. Her dissertation, “Harlem Songbook,” is a cultural history that seeks to understand the ways that unexplored exchanges between song collecting, songwriting, and performance can expand... Read More →
avatar for Amanda Martinez

Amanda Martinez

Amanda Martinez is a doctoral student in history at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her dissertation, “Suburban Cowboy: How Country Music Became the Sound of the Suburbs, 1954-1980,” looks at the growing efforts of the country music industry to target a suburban audience."Going... Read More →
avatar for Michaelangelo Matos

Michaelangelo Matos

Michaelangelo Matos is at work on Can’t Slow Down: How 1984 Became Pop’s Blockbuster Year for Da Capo Press (fall 2019). He is the author of The Underground Is Massive: How Electronic Dance Music Conquered America (Dey Street/HarperCollins), Rolling Stone’s number-two music... Read More →
avatar for Joseph M. Thompson

Joseph M. Thompson

Joseph M. Thompson is a doctoral candidate in the University of Virginia’s Corcoran Department of History and a Predoctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. His dissertation, “Sounding Southern: Music, Militarism, and the Making of the Sunbelt... Read More →

Friday April 27, 2018 1:45pm - 3:15pm PDT
Learning Labs MoPOP, 325 5th Avenue N, Seattle, WA 98109