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June 18, 2007

recent movements in my academic 'career'

I've just had an article published in a special journal issue on music. It's not the greatest article I've ever written, and reading it is kind of cringe-worthy. But that's not the interesting bit about this issue. The thing that caught my eye (once I stopped cringing) is the fact that I'm the only woman author in the issue.
This is probably just a coincidence, but I was suprised. I'd just assumed that music was one of those 'everyone does it' topics. I certainly didn't think I'd see a reenactment of the whole garage band/music industry scene happening in this issue. I was sure I'd see at least one article on female DJs or something by a woman on something to do with music...

Nah. So I'm the sistah Representing there. Which really is surprising. I'm not actually doing anything terribly feministah - I make a few comments about gender, but not much more than some of the other articles. It made me think, though: surely this bit of cultural studies isn't a boys-own? Surely?

This kind of ties into some thoughts I've had preparing for this course I'm teaching next semester. I'm the lecturer/tutor for a massive introductory media studies subject, on a team of 5 ladies teaching across three campuses and doing about 15 tutes between us (argh!). I don't have to write the lectures - just present the ones that have already been written. But I'm finding it a bit difficult. I really only have the lecture notes to work from, and the first one in particular was really difficult to work with. It used a few concepts I've never come across in 15 years and three universities worth of tertiary education (I'm thinking they're bullshit, but I could just be misinformed), and I've noticed a few assumptions about culture.

The first one is the emphasis on visual culture (well, of course), but this line really jumped out at me:

Images are the most powerful form of representation.
which followed on the heels of
All cultures produce images as forms of communication.
I guess I'm just sensitised to this stuff because I write about it, but I've recently spent a bit of time writing things like:
For a people denied the discursive power of mass media, particularly those dependent on the written word, dance became a valuable discursive space. I would argue that access the mainstream public sphere, to mainstream media discourse or the ‘official’ public sphere is a privilege accorded the most powerful members of a community (Fraser 1997). Media power, the ability to contribute to the production and dissemination of media texts and see your own interests and ideology represented in these texts and discourses, is a marker of social power and influence. This social power was not available to African Americans in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Though they were active contributors to music, dance and other creative practices, these contributions were often curtailed by their social position. Black record companies were frequently out-competed or bullied out of existence (a point David Suisman addresses in his discussion of the Black Swan label). In the 1920s black radio stations, though common in the early days of radio in the United States were eventually marginalised by the introduction of broadcasting legislation (Vaillant 2002). Black musicians were neglected by mainstream record companies in the earlier days of recording and what few recordings they did make in the earliest American radio programs were ‘limited to comedy or novelty styles, which established “coon songs” and minstrelsy… Coon songs were a popular style of comic songs based on caricatures of Negro life, usually sung in “dialect”’ (Suisman 2004, pp. 1296). Black men and women who simply spoke out in public were so routinely subjected to violence and murder in the south of America until the 1960s – with legislative protection for their attackers (Gussow 2002, pp.14) – that to speak of mediated power is highly problematic. For many black actors and dancers, the ability to control their filmed image was also beyond their reach, and it is these audio-visual media that texts became the source of revivalists in the contemporary swing community.
(from a forthcoming article in Convergence, references below).

I have reservations about the claim that 'all cultures use visual images' and that these visual images are the 'most powerful form of representation'. In fact, later in the lecture notes I'm reworking, there's a reference to Aboriginal identity, where one of the functions of images as communication is:

To store the memory of a culture, of a people so it can be communicated/transmitted in the present and future (paintings of indigenous Australians)

I'm not sure what that bit's meant to mean. It seems to imply that visual images are a) a way of preserving Aboriginal culture, or b) a way in which Aboriginal Australians hare or are going about preserving their culture.

This stuff doesn't sit right with me, particularly because dance, song and story telling - oral culture - was and is such an important part of Aboriginal culture. Far more important than 'visual images'. Particularly for semi-nomadic people.
I know I don't know much about this (and I'd hate to suggest that there is/was no indigenous Australian visual art prior to Invasion), but I do have real problems with the prioritising of material visual culture in this way.

I'm a bit busy about this right now, so I can't write anything more, but something about all this 'visual images = most important!' really gets up my bum. There are so many clear examples of the power and importance of things like oral story, music, dance, etc as really powerful and important cultural practices. It's just that they're not as appealing to researchers from such a material, privileged culture.

Fraser, Nancy. (1997). ‘Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy,’ in Nancy Fraser (ed) Justice Interruptus: Critical Reflections on the "Postsocialist" Condition, pp. 69-98. New York and London: Routledge, 1997.

Gussow, Adam. (2002). ‘”Shoot myself a cop” Mamie Smith’s “Crazy Blues” as a Social Text’ Callaloo 25 (1): 8-44.

Suisman, David. (2004). ‘Co-workers in the Kingdom of Culture: Black Swan Records and the Political Economy of African American Music’ The Journal of American History 90 (4): 1295-1324.

Vaillant, Derek W. (2002). ‘Sounds of Whiteness: Local Radio, Racial Formation, and Public Culture in Chicago, 1921-1935’ American Quarterly 54 (1): 25-66.

"recent movements in my academic 'career'" was posted by dogpossum on June 18, 2007 5:53 PM in the category teaching

June 5, 2007

go lindy hoppers, go

I just had to post this fun clip from 2006 (linkage). There's some of the world's best lindy hoppers dancing in the cold on the street. The best bit is all the oldies giggling and having fun while the young people take themselves too seriously.

"go lindy hoppers, go" was posted by dogpossum on June 5, 2007 7:33 PM in the category lindy hop and other dances

friends, i am still alive

I'm just not near the computer much.

I haven't written anything important in weeks.

But I have sewn SO much. I am sewing clothes that aren't for any particular project - I'm just sewing things for the challenge. Stretch satin? Yes. And when you wear it with a skirt, you're convinced you actually are one of the Whitey's Lindy Hoppers. Especially if you've been doing a bit of solo jazz lately and have your fitness up a bit. Not to mention a big fat repertoire of neat steps.

I have also been... well, not much else. Work on MLX7 continues - just wait til you see the incredibly cute logo Scotty did for us. Wait til you see how cheap passes are (finally we are in the financial position to offer an insane amount of the best social dancing in the country for the lowest price in the country! Go hippies, go!).

I am also about to start a new teaching job next semester at a new university. I won't write any more about it, other than to say 'what a great opportunity', and 'how wonderful is the Supes for giving me an amazing reference - unsolicited - so I get the job, even though it means she's suddenly tutor-less for her big fat undergrad subject?!' Goddess bless the Old Girls' Network - without it we'd never get jobs.
But this does suggest that we'll be in Melbourne for a while longer, which I'm not keen on - I'm so desperate to leave town and travel, travel, travel. No freaking UK, though, I hope - somewhere else in Europe. Canada. The US. Wherever. But it's a catch 22 - I have to take the work I can get.

It is cold here, and I don't much like it. Though we've had an unseasonably warm autumn (doesn't that seem like an oxymoron?), prompting the final, desperate ripening of the second crop of passionfruit, it's now properly winter. I don't much like the winter.

I promised I wouldn't write here until I had something to talk about beyond dancing and DJing, but things are pretty quiet round here these days, so....

I am doing lots of jazz stuff.
Tranky doo? √

Big Apple from Keep Punchin' √ (mostly)

Shim Sham Shimmy, a la Frankie Manning √
(I get the most raised eyebrows for this one - "boring!" and "baby stuff!" But it's the best, best, best routine - simple, yet a fabulous sudy in weight transfer. And people seem to forget that it's the shim sham shimmy, which is the part I like most. And those boogie forwards? I hate to tell you this, world, but you're doing them WRONG. Ask yourself: what would Frankie do? And, also, this routine sucks bums to anything under 200bpm. But slap on the action and it's oh-yes-mumma. I reccommend Chick Webb's Stompin' at the Savoy. Burn the George Gee.

Shim Sham Shimmy, a la Al Minns and Leon Jones √
(absolutely yes - I've used this version, but it doesn't have the extra steps Frida and Sakarias have here, or Gina and Mike have, or Mike and Adam have. I will follow up those couple of steps, but really, my heart is with Al and Leon. They've taught us that when you're really, really comfortable with a step, you can start making it interesting. The Shim Sham break? Why just do it facing one direction and moving one direction? Why not move it around? And half breaks? Hard? Maybe, but not when you've done them a million times).

I have had the most fun with the shim sham shimmies, I have to say - simple yet really, really fun.
I have to tidy up my Big Schnapple, but my Cranky Poo kicks arse. And from there? Well, there's the Dean Collins Shim Sham, and about a zillion other jazz routines to learn....

"friends, i am still alive" was posted by dogpossum on June 5, 2007 7:10 PM in the category lindy hop and other dances