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May 20, 2004

What exactly am I doing in my PhD?

Posted by dogpossum on May 20, 2004 2:01 PM in the category thesis

Well, firstly, I’m doing my PhD thesis on swing dancers. Mostly Melbourne ones. I’m framing them as a fan community (a la Henry Jenkins, Matt Hills, Camille Bacon Smith, etc), and am most interested in their media uses. This media use is centred on the internet and online technology – I’m interested in talking about how swingers use online media in their face to face fan activities. I also talk about swingers as performing their fandom. That’s an idea I’m borrowing from stuff Matt Hills suggested, which dove tails nicely with Judith Butler’s work, and I think there’s one guy – Kurt Lancaster – who’s into this, that I should follow up.

Where I introduce my theoretical position, methods, the community I’m studying, etc. Shorter than the other chapters.

Chapter 1 – lit review/theory
Where I outline my key arguments, do my lit review etc. I see this as the point where I’m developing my theoretical argument for swingers as a fan community, for ‘doing fan things’ as performances of fandom. I’m into the performances of fandom thing at the mo, as it’s a nice alternative to consumption/production models, which seems to be the most popular approach to media fandoms.
I’ve done a rough version of this chapter, but it needs a lot more work. It’s the hardest one to write.

Chapter 2 – dance act
Here I’ll develop the notion of Afro-American vernacular dance, which is useful as it sets up swing dancing as a site of resistance and active engagement with ideology. I’m trying to argue that swing is – as dance, and dance tradition – particularly amenable to cultural resistance, transgression, etc. So it’s a nice place for a feminist to work.
I was reading a 'conversation’ between Hills and Jenkins yesterday where they question the usefulness of the moral/political arguments about resistance coming out of de Certeau’s work. I like the idea of resistance, but I’m taking Hills’ and Jenkins’ points into account by saying that the dance (as with all dance and art and media) has the potential for resistance and transgression – it’s historically built into the dance. The interesting bit is how – or whether – this potential is taken up. How different groups within the swing community respond to/manage/use/ignore/dismantle this potential. So I see dance as a site for ideological negotiation.
And I’m making this point in reference to this particular dance.
All this in reference to swingers as performing fandom – so how is transgression/resistance, etc built into swingers’ fandom? Jenkins’ notion of textual poaching is quite useful here, as he positions their media use in terms of resistance, poaching, etc.

Chapter 2a – dance act II
This chapter is where I actually look at dance floor behaviour – what swingers do on the dance floor. I’ll talk about gender performance, imitation, impersonation, emulation, masquerade etc. Dancing, for swingers, is about the negotiation of identity – performing identity. It’s also about performing fandom: how well you dance performs your fan status or determines it.

Chapter 3 – fashion and costumes
This is where I talk about swingers’ use of clothing and costume. It’s a chapter I could drop, but I like it because it takes up gender in nice ways. Knowledge about costume and fashion, especially vintage costume and fashion is a powerful performance of fan knowledge. While it’s generally held by women, men in swing are encouraged to develop knowledge about costuming and fashion. It’d also be interested to talk about non-vintage fashion and costume in swing – what swingers where to do everyday social dancing. This will provide a nice point of parallel with the rave culture stuff. I might also make use of Angela McRobbie’s work, and the stuff on zoot suiters here.

Chapter 4 – video and film clips (and photography?)
This is a topic I’m particularly interested in at the moment – how swingers use film and video clips. I want to talk about the particular aesthetics of swing videos (in terms of editing, etc), the use of clips – exchange, pirating, dissemination, etc – and so on. It’s a good chapter to talk about media use in, and the importance of online technology.

Chapter 5 – DJing
This chapter looks at the rise of DJing in swing as a professionalised role/ID, where uses of music – in terms of textual poaching – are managed by the institutionalisation of the DJ identity. I look at how swingers use online media in DJing, the online discourse surrounding DJing, and bring up gender stuff.
At the moment this chapter is really long, and will need to be redone. Of course.
I’ve also done a paper in the department seminar series on this topic. It too was too long, but I’ve edited and it’s now up on this site.

Chapter 6 – camps and exchanges.
This is a topic that interests me a fair bit. I want to talk about labour and organisations in event management in swing here. Camps and exchanges are also good points at which to talk about local/global themes in swing.
I could ditch this chapter, but I’m not sure

Where I sum up my argument, make what I was trying to say clear, etc.

Posted by dogpossum on May 20, 2004 2:01 PM in the category thesis