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01 January 2021
Cultures of Protest in American Music
Cultures of protest have played a long and significant part of musical history in the US. From the late eighteenth century, when rebelling colonial Americans appropriated the mocking British song “Yankee Doodle Dandy”; to the twentieth century musical activism of Woody Guthrie, Nina Simone, Joan Baez, or the Dead Kennedys; to contemporary artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Janelle Monáe in the era of Black Lives Matter, music has been central to how Americans experience, engage with, and impact upon the political currents of the moment. This enduring role is sustained by the mobility and accessibility of music as a medium, by its deep-rooted history within American cultural life, and by the global technological and commercial reach of the American musical industry, particularly in an age of streaming and video-sharing. But we might equally reflect on folk singer Pete Seeger’s 1968 observation that “No song I can sing will make Governor Wallace change his mind”, and accordingly also ask: how far can music of protest ultimately function as music of change?
This special issue of Comparative American Studies seeks scholarship exploring the power, the possibilities, and the limitations of music as a resistant, countercultural, or revolutionary medium in American cultural history. Essay submissions might explore the following themes:
- the role of music in social protests, political causes, and cultural movements
- the relationship between musical genre and identity politics
- the influence of music on countercultural art, especially multi-media and inter-media artworks
- the impact of censorship, both domestic and international, on the production and reception of American music
More broadly, essays might consider: What does it mean to protest through music; to protest within a music form; or to consider music itself as inherently political, as iherently a form of expressive protest?
Submitted essays from all disciplines are welcome, but we particularly welcome those from interdisciplinary, comparative, and transnational perspectives.
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Please submit initial enquires and 300 word proposals, for prospective essays of up to 7,000 words, to Edward Clough ([email protected]) by 31 October 2020. Proposal submissions will be selected and approved by 1 January 2021, and submission of final essays will be due by 31 May 2021.
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