This QUMU seminar will be held on 22 May 15.15 – 16.30 in HUMlab-X on the Arts Campus. It features invited guest Andrew Whelan from the School of Social Sciences, Media and Communication at the University of Wollongong. Andrew’s research interests are music subcultures (electronic musics, death metal, noise), youth subcultures and language practices, online interaction, ethnomethodology and social theory. One of his ongoing projects looks at the histories of a number of independent Australian music scenes (such as electronic dance music and heavy metal) with the aim of exploring how participants negotiate identity both within the subculture and in relation to broader categories such as gender, age, sexuality and ethnicity.
How should we go about researching ‘extreme’ music, and what moral position should we take as researchers with respect to it? How can we best conceptualise where music scenes ‘begin’ and ‘end’, or think about the relationship between subcultural ‘texts’ (songs, album covers and so on) and the scenic practices (attending gigs, reading and talking about and listening to music etc.) that constitute music subcultures? These sorts of questions become critical when we come to consider genres articulating disturbing political positions – genres where obscenity, transgression, and moral shock serve as common aesthetic/tactical resources, where expressions of misogyny and racism are commonplace.
Insights from ethnomethodology, critical discourse analysis, institutional ethnography, and actor network theory can help illuminate the grounds on which we could advocate for good answers to such questions, grounds which would also allow for ambivalence, mess and contradiction. They can also help delineate critical understandings of cultural expression at the limits of the acceptable, and outline our responsibilities as researchers, to the scenes we investigate and to the ethics of research as a political project.