In studies of gender and sexuality in popular music, the concept of difference is often a crucial analytic used to detect social agency; however, the alternative analytic of ambiguity has never been systematically examined. While difference from heterosexual norms is taken to be the multivalent sign of resistance, oppression, and self-invention, it can lead to inflated claims of the degree and power of difference. This book offers critically-oriented case studies that examine the theory and politics of ambiguity. Ambiguity means that there are both positive and negative implications in any gender and sexuality practices, both sameness and difference from heteronormativity, and unfixed possibility in the diverse nature of discourse and practice (rather than just "difference" among fixed multiplicities). Contributors present a diverse array of approaches through music, sound, psyche, body, dance, performance, race, ethnicity, power, discourse, and history. A wide variety of popular music genres are broached, including gay circuit remixes, punk rock, Goth music, cross-dress performance, billboard 100 songs, global pop, and nineteenth-century minstrelsy. The authors examine the ambiguities of performance and reception, and address the vexed question of whether it is possible for genuinely new forms of gender and sexuality to emerge musically. This book makes a distinctive contribution to studies of gender and sexuality in popular music, and will be of interest to fields including Popular Music Studies, Musicology/Ethnomusicology, Cultural Studies, Queer Studies, and Media Studies.
Gavin Lee is Assistant Professor at Soochow University School of Music in China. He completed his doctoral studies at Duke University on avant-garde music in Singapore, and his core research interests include postcolonial theory, affect theory, queer theory, global modernity and modernism, and the Sinophone world. Lee's research is published in Journal of the Royal Musical Association, Music Analysis (forthcoming), and in a book funded by the Singapore National Arts Council, Scions of the Musical West.
1. Introduction: from difference to ambiguity Gavin Lee 2. When the bearded lady sings: ambiguity aesthetics, queer identity, and the gendering of the presentational voice Mario Rey 3. Détournement and female punk bands of the 1970s Helen L. Reddington 4. Ambiguities of S/M and goth cultures' sex/gender identity politics Carol Siegel 5. Flower in the mirror and moon in the water: the ambiguity of gender, genre, and politics of Li Yugang Qian Wang 6. What counts as "queer" in an historical context?: cross dressing in nineteenth-century theatre Gillian M. Rodger 7. Funny girls and nowhere boys: reversing the gaze in the popular music biopic Matthew Bannister 8. "I'ma school that bitch": gay rappers defying binaries and expressing fierceness Kirsten Zemke and Jared Mackley-Crump 9. Queer desire is not gay, gender is a fantasy: ways of loving Britney Gavin Lee 10. "Blackness in a white void": dissonance and ambiguity in Isaac Julien's multi-screen film installations Ellie M. Hisama Afterword: the world only spins forward Paul Attinello