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Saturday, April 28 • 5:45pm - 7:15pm
Roundtable: Suburban Intersections

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Moderator: Karen Tongson 
Anthony Easton, Josh Langhoff, and Annie Zaleski 
Suburban Intersections: Back Roads, Plazas, and Love Shacks
Ever since Americans saw those aerial photographs of Levittown, the first mass-produced suburb, the image of the suburbs has been clean, white, homogenized, and patriarchal. This image is intentional. Developers purposely built away from cities, on land considered empty, and over the decades the suburbs have become associated with discriminatory practices like redlining, breakdowns in public infrastructure like bussing into the cities, and, most recently, homeowners’ associations (often violently) enforcing normative codes of gender and sexuality. None of this should be ignored in favour of a revisionist pro-suburban view. But recent scholarship has attempted to reconcile queer, working class, or non-white stories to the suburbs, deepening our understanding of this unique space. For example, Karen Tongson’s 2011 Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries rediscovered the suburbs as a space for popular music to breed ideas about gender.
In three case studies, this panel will explore more potentials for gendered readings of the suburban. In these readings, gender can serve to interpret other identities, and these intersections of gender with other identities interrupt conventional ideas of geography -- as when Sam Hunt models working class masculinity by selling the idea of “back roads” to audiences who drive parkways and avenues, or when young Latino idols transform rural northern Mexican styles into slick pop crooning for second and third-generation Americans. In late-’70s Georgia, Athens musicians founded an underground scene that incorporated queer semiotics and a refusal of mainstream masculinity; a decade later, their music would help define the lives of suburban pop and rock fans.
Each of these scenes trades on a strong geographical component and a deep commitment to understanding shifting audience tastes. In country music, crises of masculinity and disappearing rurality work in anxious conjunction, as the spaces of exurb, suburb, and farm remain undecided, and new categories of butch performativity emerge. Recent teen and 20-something Latino stars like Christian Nodal, Luis Coronel, and Ulices Chaidez delineate a spectrum of masculinities through shifts in vocal style, melodic construction, instrumentation, and video iconography, situating themselves somewhere between old-school corrideros and boy band pinups. Similarly, after college towns became places of queer refuge, their icons -- especially R.E.M. and the B-52’s -- resonated with straight listeners in places like Levittown, a self-repeating system that complicated how adolescent fans perceived gradations of gender.
Our end goals are to posit gender as a set of performative lenses that put other issues of identity into social contexts, and to consider how those contexts fit into the land of the suburban imaginary.
Short presentations will be followed by general discussion and Q&A.

avatar for Anthony Easton

Anthony Easton

Anthony Easton is a writer and artist from Hamilton, Ontario. They have been writing about country music for more than fifteen years. They have written for Spin, the Atlantic Online, Pitchfork, Nashville Scene and a number of other publications. They have shown in Edmonton, Toronto... Read More →
avatar for Josh Langhoff

Josh Langhoff

Josh Langhoff is a church musician in the Chicago area, and the founder of NorteñoBlog, a mostly English-language website devoted to Mexican regional music. He has written about norteño music for the Village Voice, Pitchfork, the Minneapolis City Pages, the Cresset, and the Singles... Read More →
avatar for Karen Tongson

Karen Tongson

Karen Tongson is Associate Professor of English and Gender Studies at University of Southern California, and the author of Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries (NYU Press). Her work has appeared in numerous venues in print and online. She has a forthcoming book with ForEdge Press... Read More →
avatar for Annie Zaleski

Annie Zaleski

Annie Zaleski is a freelance journalist, editor and critic based in Cleveland, Ohio. Previously, she was on staff as an editor at the Riverfront Times and Alternative Press; currently, she’s a contributing writer at The A.V. Club and a columnist at Salon. Her profiles, interviews... Read More →

Saturday April 28, 2018 5:45pm - 7:15pm PDT
Sky Church