Session/Séance 2f: IASPM Panel 4 DJs, Design and the Politics of Intersectional Belonging

Session/Séance 2f: IASPM Panel 4. Thursday/jeudi 25 May 2017. 2:00PM-3:00PM, EJB Geiger-Torel Room.
DJs, Design and the Politics of Intersectional Belonging 

     Moderator: CHRISTINA BAADE (McMaster University)

1. Belonging by Design: The Turntable in Contemporary Culture
     Gabrielle Kielich, McGill University

Visitors to Urban Outfitters will observe a display of turntables lining the retailers’ walls. They are, of course, the device that enables listening for members of the millennial generation participating in the vinyl resurgence. As a “more demanding playback system” (Hayes 2006: 61) that is at once imbued with popular music history and at odds with contemporary listening practices, current discourse about turntables in the press and advertisements prioritizes instructions for the object’s proper use and care. It also works against the turntable’s perceived difficulty of use through a descriptive emphasis on ease and simplicity. Yet equally significant to its contemporary understanding, and a key factor in its presence in retail outlets, is its status as a desirable decorative item and an expression of identity. The turntables for sale in retail stores, available in an array of colours and portable designs, have been called “lifestyle choices” and described as being significant factors in millennials’ home decoration (Petridis, Gibsone and Paphides 2016). These design choices are reflected on social media, where users share pictures of their turntables alongside vinyl albums and other décor, with over 95,000 posts featuring the most popular brand, Crosley. These types of images are also visible in turntable marketing campaigns, which means that users’ social media behaviour facilitates exchange and belonging among users while functioning as a form of free labour for interested businesses (Terranova 2000). Though continuing its longer history as both an aesthetic and functional object, the turntable has moved into a generation that is “culturally and historically distant from its place of origin” (Akrich 1992: 211). This paper explores the introduction of the turntable to a new generation of users and examines its use and value as the product of contemporary listening practices that is uniquely dependent on the current cultural context.

Keywords: turntable, social media, cultural history, cultural products, identity


2. Female DJs in Canada and the Impact of Intersectional Identities
      Maren Hancock, York University

Female DJs have never been as prolific or newsworthy as at present, thanks to a massive increase in media exposure over the last decade. This rise in exposure has been partially fueled by the amplification of female voices in dance music culture publications such as Canada’s Thump, alongside an increase in the number of female DJs both in Canada and globally. Currently, Canada is home to a diverse and expanding group of female DJs whose experiences have not been explored academically. The few Canadian researchers of gender and DJ culture (Bredin 1991; Straw 1997; Walker and Pelle 2001; Marsh 2002; Zeleke 2004; Kale 2008) have not examined female DJs in-depth and within a specifically Canadian context. This presentation explores a key goal of my dissertation (currently in progress), which is to qualitatively and quantitatively explore how Canadian female DJs’ experiences of work and identity are shaped by the social construction of gender, race, and sexuality. My study is informed by data generated from a survey I conducted of 104 Canadian female DJs alongside personal interviews with 30 respondents, as well as my own experience as professional DJ in Canada for over 15 years. I pose the following question: in what ways are Canadian female DJs’ experiences of their work impacted by the social construction of race, indigeneity, and sexuality as they intersect with gender? In doing so, I am responding to the suggestion that further research in the field of gender and DJ culture needs to focus specifically on the interplay of intersectional identities and how they may affect women’s access to and experiences of DJ culture (Farrugia 2012; Rogers 2010).

Keywords: DJ, Canada, gender, race, sexuality


3. “It’s Not About Gender”: DJs, Dance, and the Denigration of Political Correctness
     Tami Gadir, University of Oslo

DJ and dance music or “rave” cultures since the 1970s have been entangled with western histories of exclusion along race, gender, class, and sexuality lines. The DJ-driven dance floors of underground New York in the 1970s, for example, have been described as offering alternative spaces for those labelled in their everyday lives with marginality and outsiderness. In the 21st century, though, there is a noticeable disjuncture between these historical utopian narratives of dance music culture, and the realities of contemporary dance floors. This disjuncture exists not only for commercial events, but also for those taking place within “underground” communities that claim to have a lineage with the inclusive dance music spaces of the past. This backdrop frames the specific focus of this presentation: the echoes in contemporary dance music communities of the western backlash against so-called political correctness. The accusation of identity politics as concerning only an “intellectual elite” has culminated in a reintegration of blatantly exclusionist rhetoric against women, people of colour, and LGBTQ+ people. I will use DJs around the world as concrete cases of how such paradigms do not only currently dominate world politics, but also permeate dance music culture. What is more, these paradigms are woven into new versions of dance music’s utopian narratives, and linked with musical aesthetic judgments. I will look at the impacts of this upon DJs and other participants who are not white, straight, cis-men, and at the pervasiveness of postfeminist and similar anti-politically- correct discourses I have encountered in interviews. I hope to bring these examples into dialogue with popular music studies at large, by confronting how ostensibly “alternative” musical communities are not immune to, and indeed often actively foster, exclusionary politics.

Keywords: dance music, DJ, gender, race, politics


Thursday Schedule | Programme - jeudi
(Session 2 | Séance 2)