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May 4, 2009

the trouble with linear jazz narratives + more

Posted by dogpossum on May 4, 2009 6:33 PM | Comments (2)

In the earliest parts of my researching into jazz history, I tried to set up a sort of 'time line' or map* of musicians and cities and bands. Who played with which band in what city at what time? Then where did they go? This approach was partly based on the idea that particularly influential musicians (like Armstrong) would spread influence, from New Orleans to New York and beyond.

But drawing these time lines out on pieces of paper, I found it wasn't possible to draw a nice, clear line from New Orleans to New York, passing through particular bands. Musicians left New Orleans, went to New York, then back to New Orleans, then off to France, then back again to New York. The discographies revealed the fact that a band recorded in different cities during the year - they were in constant motion, all over America. Furthermore, musicians didn't stick with one band, they moved between bands, they regularly used pseudonyms and even the term 'band' is problematic. The Mills Blue Rhythm Band, with its dozens and dozens of names, was in fact a shifting, changing association of musicians, and did not even have a fixed 'core' set of players. Perhaps this is why the MBRB is so important: many people played with them, and they were a band(s) which moved and changed shape, a loose network of musicians who really only existed as 'a band' when they were caught, in one moment, on a recording. Or perhaps on a stage (though that's far more problematic). I wonder if that's why it's so hard to find a photo of them? Perhaps the 'Mills Blue Rhythm Band', as a discrete entity didn't really exist?

The more I read about jazz and 'jazz' history, the more convinced I am by the idea of 'jazz' as a shifting series of relationships. I think about cities not as fixed locations, but as points on a sort of 'trade route' or even as a complicated web or network of relationships between individual musicians (which is, incidentally, how I think about international swing dance culture - the physical place is important, but it's not binding).

Right now I've followed some references backwards to an article by Scott DeVeaux called Constructing the Jazz Tradition, which is really interesting. It not only outlines some of the political effects of a coherent 'narrative' history of jazz, but also the economic and social effects of positioning jazz as a 'black music', with interesting references to consequences of the 'jazz musician as artist' for black musicians. Read in concert with David Ake's discussion of creole identity and ethnicity in New Orleans as far more complicated than 'black' and 'white', this makes for some pretty powerful thinking.

I'm very interested in the idea of a 'jazz canon' and of the role of people like Wynton Marsalis, the Ken Burns Jazz discography, jazz clubs and magazines developing during the 30s and 40s devoted to New Orleans recreationism and the whole 'moldy figs' discussion. The tensions surrounding the Newport jazz festival also feed into this: the Gennari article (which I discuss in reference to its descriptions of white, middle class men rioting at Newport here) pointed out the significance of a festival program loaded with 'trad' jazz - for black musicians and for the popularising of jazz generally. I've also been reading about the effects of this emphasis on trad jazz for superstar musicians like Louis Armstrong.

O'Meally and Gabbard have written about the way Armstrong's public, visual persona is marked by ethnicity.
Armstrong was known for his visual 'mugging', or playing the 'Uncle Tom' for white audiences, particularly on stage. Eschen writes the struggle for equality accelerated, Armstrong was widely criticized as an Uncle Tom and, for many, compared unfavourably with a younger, more militant group of jazz musicians (193)
This, as Eschen continues, despite the fact that Armstrong was actually an active campaigner for civil rights in America, and overseas.
The trad jazz movement - or 'moldy figs' pushing for the preservation of an 'authentic' jazz from New Orleans - effectively pushes Armstrong to continue as Uncle Tom - unthreatening black man clowning for white audiences. A narrative history of jazz which emphasises a beginning in New Orleans and a consistent, clearly defined lineage of musicians and styles also, more subtly, relies on an idea of the black musician as powerless or unthreatening. DeVeaux makes the point that positioning jazz (and jazz musicians) as artistic loners who do not 'sell out' with commercial success:
Issues of ethnicity and economics define jazz as an oppositional discourse: the music of an oppressed minority culture, tainted by its association with commercial entertainment in a society that reserves its greatest respect for art that is carefully removed from daily life (530)
In this world, the 'true' jazz musician is 'black' (in a truly singular, homogenous sense of the world), he is poor and he is mugging for white audiences.
Billie Holiday becomes a particularly attractive representation for this idea of the 'jazz musician': poor, black, addled by drugs and alcohol, a history of prostitution, yet nonetheless, a creative genius pouring out, untainted in recording sessions (and I'm reminded of the 'one take' stories) and tragically cut short.

All of this is quite disturbing for someone who really, really likes jazz from the 20s, 30s and 40s. Am I buying into this disturbing jazz mythology? It's even more disturbing for someone who found similar themes in contemporary swing dancers' development of 'narratives' and geneologies of jazz dance history. As DeVeaux writes (about jazz, not dance), though, this is

The struggle is over possession of that history, and the legitimacy that it confers. More precisely, the struggle is over the act of definition that is presumed to lie at the history’s core (528)
I wonder if I should suspect my own critique of capitalist impulses in contemporary swing dance discourse?

I don't think it's that simple. Gabbard discusses Armstrong's work with Duke Ellington, including the filming of Paris Blues (in which Armstrong starred, and for which Ellington contributed the score) and the recording of the 'Summit' sessions:

…at those moments in the film when he seems most eager to please with his vocal performances, his mugging is sufficiently exaggerated to suggest and ulterior motive. Lester Bowie has suggested that Armstrong is essentially “slipping a little poison into the coffee” of those who think they are watching a harmless darkie….Throughout his career in films, Armstrong continued to subvert received notions of African American identity, signifying on the camera while creating a style of trumpet performance that was virile, erotic, dramatic, and playful. No other black entertainer of Armstrong’s generation – with the possible exception of Ellington – brought so much intensity and charisma to his performances. But because Armstrong did not change his masculine presentation after the 1920s, many of his gestures became obsolete and lost their revolutionary edge. For many black and white Americans in the 1950s and 1960s, he was an embarrassment. In the early days of the twenty-first century, when Armstrong is regularly cast as a heroicized figure in the increasingly heroicising narrative of jazz history, we should remember that he was regularly asked to play the buffoon when he appeared on films and television (Gabbard 298)

You can see a clip from Paris Blues here.

Armstrong's performance gains meaning from its context, from the point of view of the observer, from his own actions as a 'real' person (Armstrong was in fact openly, assertively critical of Jim Crowism and quite politically active) and from its position within a broader 'body' of Armstrong's work as a public performer. Pinning it down is difficult - it's slippery.

The idea of layers of meaning is not only interesting, it's essential. This physical performance of identity, tied to the physicality of playing an instrument reminds me of the layers of meaning in black dance. And of course, of hot and cool in dance, and the layers of meaning in blues dance and music. Put simply, what you see at first glance, is not all that you are getting. Layers of meaning are available to the experienced, inquiring eye. Hiding 'true' meanings (or more subversive subtexts) is important when the body under inspection is singing or dancing from the margins. Tommy DeFrantz discusses meaning and masculinity in black dance during slavery:

serious dancing went underground, and dances which carried significant aesthetic information became disguised or hidden from public view. For white audiences, the black man’s dancing body came to carry only the information on its surface (DeFrantz 107).

Armstrong's performance is more than simply its surface. As with any clown, the meanings are more complex than a little light entertainment. Gabbard continues his point:
In short, Ellington plays the dignified leader and Armstrong plays the trickster. Armstrong’s tricksterisms were an essential part of his performance persona. On one level, Armstrong’s grinning, mugging, and exaggerated body language made him a much more congenial presence, especially to racist audiences who might otherwise have found so confident a performer to be disturbing, to say the least. When Armstrong put his trumpet to his lips, however, he was all business. The servile gestures disappeared as he held his trumpet erect and flaunted his virtuosity, power, and imagination (Gabbard 298).

This, of course, reminds me of that solo in High Society that I mentioned in a previous post. There's some literature discussing the physicality of jazz musician's performances, but I haven't gotten to that yet (though you know I'm busting for it). I have read some bits and pieces about gender and performance on stage (especially in reference to Lester Young), and there're some interesting bits and pieces about trumpets and their semiotic weight, but I haven't gotten to that yet, either.

Sorry to end this so abruptly: these are really just ideas in process. :D

To sum all that up:
- The idea of a jazz musician as 'isolated artist' is problematic, especially in the context of ethnicity and class. Basically, the 'true jazz musician who doesn't sell out by making money' is bad news for black musicians: it perpetuates marginalisation, not only economically, but also discursively, by devaluing the contributions of black musicians who are interested in making a living from their music. Jazz musicians are also members of communities.

- Linear histories of jazz are problematic: they deny the diversity of jazz today, and its past. Linear histories with their roots in New Orleans, insisting that this is 'black music' overlook the ethnic diversity of New Orleans in that moment: two categories of 'black' and 'white' do not recognise the diversity of Creole musicality, of the wide range of migrant musicians, of the diversity within a 'white' culture (which is also Italian and English and American and French and....), of economic and class relations in the city, and so on.

- 'linear histories' + 'musician as artist' neglect the complexities of everyday life within communities, and the role that music plays therein. These myths also overlook the fact that music is not divorced from everyday life; it is part of a continuum of creative production (to paraphrase LeeEllen Friedland and to refer to discussions about Ralph Ellison - which I will talk about later on).

- Music and dance have a lot in common. They carry layers of meaning, and aren't simply discrete canvases revealing one, singular meaning to each reader. They are weighted down by, buoyed up by a plethora of ideas and themes and creative industrial practices and sparks.

DeFrantz, Thomas. "The Black Male Body in Concert Dance." Moving Words: Re- Writing Dance. Ed. Gay Morris. London and New York: Routledge, 1996. 107 - 20.
DeVeaux, Scott, “Constructing the Jazz Tradition: Jazz Historiography” Black American Literature Forum 25.3 (1991): 525-560.
Eschen, Penny M. “the real ambassadors”. Uptown Conversation: the new Jazz studies, ed. Robert O’Meally, Brent Hayes Edwards, Farah Jasmin Griffin. Columbia U Press, NY: 2004. 189-203.
Friedland, LeeEllen. "Social Commentary in African-American Movement Performance."
Human Action Signs in Cultural Context: The Visible and the Invisible in
Movement and Dance
. Ed. Brenda Farnell. London: Scarecrow Press, 1995. 136 -
Gabbard, Krin. “Paris Blues: Ellington, Armstrong, and Saying It with Music”. Uptown Conversation: the new Jazz studies, ed. Robert O’Meally, Brent Hayes Edwards, Farah Jasmin Griffin. Columbia U Press, NY: 2004. 297-311.
Gennari, John. “Hipsters, Bluebloods, Rebels, and Hooligans: the Cultural Politics of the Newport Jazz Festival.” Uptown Conversation: the new Jazz studies, ed. Robert O’Meally, Brent Hayes Edwards, Farah Jasmin Griffin. Columbia U Press, NY: 2004. 126-149.
Lipsitz, George. “Songs of the Unsung: The Darby Hicks History of Jazz,” Uptown Conversation: the new Jazz studies, ed. Robert O’Meally, Brent Hayes Edwards, Farah Jasmin Griffin. Columbia U Press, NY: 2004: 9-26.
O’Meally, Robert G. “Checking our Balances: Louis Armstrong, Ralph Ellison and Betty Boop”. Uptown Conversation: the new Jazz studies, ed. Robert O’Meally, Brent Hayes Edwards, Farah Jasmin Griffin. Columbia U Press, NY: 2004. 276-296. (You can see the animated Betty Boop/Armstrong film O'Meally references here.

*The jazz map was found via, but they don't list the url for the map in context.
There's something seriously addictive about historic 'jazz maps'. I think it's because they're imaginary places. My latest find: New Orleans 'jazz neighbourhoods'.

"the trouble with linear jazz narratives + more" was posted in the category academia and djing and lindy hop and other dances and maps and music and research and thesis

December 12, 2006

crazed and manic jubilation

Posted by dogpossum on December 12, 2006 2:11 PM

I just found out that my thesis was passed WITHOUT CORRECTIONS!!

I have done the crazy happy dance about 10 times already (lots of high kicks up into the air, a few twirly spin-arounds, some random jiggling).

If I hurry I can do the graduation thing in March/April.

So I am now Dr dogpossum (mostly)! Hoorah!

...remind me to write about the dance conference, will you? I met some lovely (and awe-inspiring) young dancers who work with companies like Bangarra (and how did I introduce myself? "You guys rock!" - I am all about cool. But they did - their mini-performance blew me away!), networked like a crazy person, discovered someone who has Graybags for a supes (and knows Galaxy), told some inappropriate jokes, shared Frida and the Whitey's Lindy Hoppers with a bunch of doods who understood what I've been trying to say about them and ate some of the best conference food EVER.

[and hoorah for the markers - the thesis was sent to them at the end of September, and they had the marks to me by today - that's under 3 months turnaround time]

"crazed and manic jubilation" was posted in the category academia and conferences and lindy hop and other dances and thesis and travel

November 30, 2006


Posted by dogpossum on November 30, 2006 5:10 PM

I had a phenomenally bad time* with campus graphics at LaTrobe while getting the temporary binding on my thesis. So bad that I refuse to take my $$ there for my permanent binding.

How is the deal at UniMelb (I can't believe I'm asking that)?
Or at RMIT in the city?

I'm going by location, so...

*they misquoted me by $90 (!!) for the job, they 'lost' my thesis for a while after it was printed, they tried to send me across campus (quite a walk) to talk to the people over there when they screwed up. I said "I don't think so - you will be sending this to me here. I am getting angry now." They tried to charge me for a photocopy of their (screwed up) invoice. etc etc etc.
So I will not be going back there.

"incidentally..." was posted in the category thesis

July 4, 2006

fate consipres against me. again.

Posted by dogpossum on July 4, 2006 1:40 PM

So you guys all know that I'm in the middle of some serious last-round thesis editing, right?
The supes is back in about two weeks, I have a conclusion to (re)write, an introduction to (re)write, etc etc?

Well, this weekend past, we decided to pop down to Tasmania to see my ps and coincide with a visit from my nieces to my parents. That was all cool. Except for the bit where I do as normal and get sick. We did no walking, I sat on the sidelines like a nanna at a dance in Tasmania, I piked on a bunch of social engagements, and the only parts of the beautiful Hobart I saw after Saturday was through the parent's lounge room windows (which is actually quite a lot, really).

RIght now I'm trying desperately to understand the written word (and to produce it too), and it's not really working. I've been full of goob since Friday, though at least I've not napped all day today (as I did yesterday and the day before - hell, I even fell asleep during Angel the day before).
I thought I might do some work.

But I'm finding it really difficult to hold thoughts together. Reading is easy - it's the comprehension that's getting me. And I don't think it's such a great idea to try to edit/rewrite in this state.
Yeah, so that sucks, seeing as how I have the rest of this week (today, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday) plus next week to do these little jobs, but we have this big dance thing on this weekend, which I think I'll actually skip. I'm not particularly interested in the Evil Empire's third (or is it fourth?) 'national competition' weekend. Particularly not when they can't seem to run even one social dancing weekend. But we will have a lovely houseguest, which will be nice, possibly two. Then my parents will be down next week.
So yeah, thesis work?
Why is it that on the one fortnight when I really want to work my guts out, before the semester begins and teaching with it, when I really want to get this motherfucking* thesis out of the way, fate consipres against me?

Should I panic? Perhaps. But I can't really manage to work up the energy. Plus it's hard to breathe, and it's not worth panicking if you're not going to wail while you're gnashing your teeth. Well, I could manage some wheezing (what with the lovely congested chest/sinus thing**) and a bit of moaning...

Yeah, so, ok, I think I'm going back to bed. Pick up some veggies and milk for our empty fridge on your way home, will you?

*sorry about that cuss.
**packed sinuses and blocked ears on a plane: interesting. Not as painful as I'd thought. But to feel the pressure inside my head shifting and popping and oozing was kind of unsettling.

"fate consipres against me. again." was posted in the category domesticity and thesis and travel

June 26, 2006

where's the good goddamn chocolate? WHERE?

Posted by dogpossum on June 26, 2006 2:32 PM

I take time out to focus my eyes.

I'm having trouble staying focussed on these nasty chapter rewrites. I certainly can't divide the text up into individual words any more - it's just one blob of known-by-heart text now, and I can no longer (if I ever could) tell what's crap and what's not. I am relying entirely on the Supes' scribbledy comments, praying she knows what she's doing. The bits where she says 'rewrite this' or 'need to make this clearer' almost make me cry. Creative work is kind of beyond me right now. I'm not even sure I know what the thesis is about any more, let alone what each chapter is about.

I am definitely No Good at introductions. Each one has been so scribbled over it looks like a nest of black jellyfish squabbling over fountain pen. I just suck at this part. I'm still not entirely sure about what I should actually be doing. Because I'm just following directions now (it seemed the best idea, especially after I was instructed to edit the same section at least 3 times, crossing back and forth over the same lines, editing, reverting, editing and reverting again), I'm not actually learning anything. I do feel a bit like a real dummy.
But it's not a sad thing - it's kind of nice to just stop thinking (critically or otherwise) and just be told what to do. I think I want one of those menial jobs where you do repetitive tasks over and over again. Maybe I should work at McDonalds, or do a *deleted* dance class.

I'm not sure if I should be making things shorter and crisper, or longer and artier. I'm pretty sure some parts were to be longer and artier, but some parts which I had made artier are now to be reverted to crisper forms. Sigh.
And why is it that I only seem to know about 20 words, now? Surely there are more words out there in the english language?

Look, I'll just go back to Doing As I'm Told for now, then when I've finished each individual chapter's overall edit, I'll go on and actually write (for about the zillionth time) The Introduction again (formerly Chapter One the literature review and The Introduction. And formerly-to-that Capter one: the Introduction). Can you feel my pain?

Frankly, I have no idea, at all, whatsoever, about what I'm doing, what I should do, and what counts as 'good stuff' or not.

Double sigh.

Where's the good goddamn chocolate? WHERE? I'm not normally the sort of barbie who fusses over things like chocolate - you know the type. They have posters or tshirts that say things like 'i love chocolate'. I like the stuff, but heck, there are other, more important things in my (gastronomic) life.

But right now, I just feel that it would be appropriate.

"where's the good goddamn chocolate? WHERE?" was posted in the category thesis

June 12, 2006

i do actually rock

Posted by dogpossum on June 12, 2006 3:21 PM

Man. What a relief.
I've produced a full, next-to-final draft of the thesis (a week ahead of schedule, mind you), and will be sending it off to the Supes this week. Then we meet next week to discuss any final changes. It should be fine, though, as we're really only looking at writing style and typos and stuff now. Though I'm having trouble writing the conclusion. I just can't seem to do it. Frankly, I'm looking forward to a big long break from the thing.

After we meet, the Supes is away for a few weeks, so I'll do dumb stuff like the bibliography (which is annoying as I'm dealing with so many online/digital references. Books are so much easier to deal with), layout, etc. Which always sounds like easy stuff, but always takes far longer than you'd ever expect.

Then, once she's back, I guess I give it back to her, she does the final read-through, then it's off to be printed and to get its temporary binding. Yay!

Then I sit around and wait. Well, actually, then I tutor my arse off in second semester, desperately trying to get enough money to live on while I also:
a) write articles and get them published
b) do my share of planning for MLX6 in November
c) fuss.

Then I get it all back from marking, and submit it for permanent binding. Because it will be perfect and require no further editing.*
I don't doubt that this will coincide with the MLX. Because that is the way my life runs - it never rains but it pours.

Ok, I'm barely literate now. I think I'll go do something entirely low-brain, like sewing or dancing or walking or something...

*for those of you not In The Trade, this is a joke - I've not heard or more than maybe 2 people who've not had to do any edits or corrections. Most people get only minor corrections. If you get major ones...well. Either your Supes sucks or you didn't listen to your Supes.

"i do actually rock" was posted in the category thesis

June 3, 2006

separation anxiety and long-term projects

Posted by dogpossum on June 3, 2006 10:39 PM

My ongoing (and steadily increasing) thesis anxiety has had a number of clear effects:

  • Muscle tension, tension headaches and a sore right hip.

  • Irrational and yet themed snack-craving: layered wafer biscuits. Potato crisps. Indian sweets (thankyou, Brunswick Street @ 11.45pm).

  • Strange dreams about house-hunting.

  • Ob-con Buffy and Angel viewing. I think I like the structure. I know it'll go on and on and on for ages, and I know what's going to happen. No surprises. No completion or submission... hm. Maybe I should be watching The Simpsons or Neighbours instead?

  • A strange new interest in soccer (anything but editing I guess).

  • Napping. Excessive napping. 4 hours last weekend, 2 today. Between 11 and 1 today I was face-down in the matress, breathing through two nostrils worth of seasonal rhinitis. The Squeeze chose to assume The Position (prone, that is) on the couch between 4 and 6 this evening. If we could synchronise our naps our relationship would reach new heights. Or depths.

  • Cleaning. Yes, our house is clean. And there are no baskets of laundry waiting my attention in the loungeroom. The toilet is safe.

If you're interested, I've actually got very little left to do on the thesis. So I'll be done within the allocated time (4 years at my uni, but 3.5 years worth of funding from The Man. I'll be done in 3.5). I know this makes me a freak. But it's my fourth thesis (hons, MA, aborted PhD) so I should be pretty good at it by now. The Supes reckons I could be done in a fortnight. This pronouncement obviously prompted today's Nap.

I have to write an introduction, rewrite Chapter One (formerly "Chapter One: Introduction" now "Chapter One: the Ill-defined But Probably a 'literature review' But Under Another Name", rewrite the introductions to each chapter and redo my conclusion. Actually all very possible in two weeks for Thesis Demon. But I'm not really sure how I feel about this. I finally understand how I'm supposed to redo the introductions, so that will go quickly. But conclusion? I actually feel like I have no idea how it's supposed to look. So I'll try and we'll see.

While I spent a delightful hour perusing the CAE (Centre for Adult Education) booklet today, planning language courses, pattern making courses, etc (yes, I am a big fat learning sponge), giddy with the thought of newly-won academic liberty, I'm also thinking about travelling. Goddess knows there's very little actual work out there, beyond sessional teaching and exploitative short-term contracts. Hell, I might as well take up DJing full-time if I want exploitation. With a side order of industrial deafness.

I am suffering from separation anxiety already. Which is probably why I'm wondering what it would be like to have a baby. If there's one thing three theses (and thirteen years at uni) has taught me, it's how to handle long-term creative projects.

"separation anxiety and long-term projects" was posted in the category thesis

June 1, 2006

simple pleasures

Posted by dogpossum on June 1, 2006 6:55 PM

The best part of looking at site stats today was finding my site was a hit for a search for "how nanna would make pumpkin soup".
That pleases me.

I wish I had more to offer in the gastropod way of things. But I don't. Buggered if I can remember what I've eaten this week. I've been so busy with the thesis, and I DJed three nights straight over the weekend (Thu, Fri, Sat), including my first after party. Which I was happy with, though I guess it's hard to stuff up a 45 minute set, isn't it?
My DJing issues are continuing with a search for a media player to which I can drag songs from itunes (using itunes as my library), but which also produces useful play lists. I mostly want to be able to preview songs on headphones before I play them, and for this you need two media players as macs can't understand why you'd want to have two versions of one application open at any one time. Sometimes this rocks, but sometimes it sucks. This is one of those times. I think I'll settle for a combination of DJ1800 (about $AU70) for previewing (no sensible playlist option), the usb headphones (plugged into the imic I need to buy from Brian, or into the usb directly) for listening to the DJ1800 songs, and itunes for actually playing to the sound system, searching, creating playlists, etc.

But if you're looking for gastropod action, I have a little tub of nice bocconcini in our fridge atm, and some nice hydro tomatos on the window sill (I was in bed when the potato man came this week - 8am is TOO early!) and some sweet rocket in the garden. Make of that what you will. I choose to make nice salad.

I am also going nuts with mandarins and apples at the moment. It's that time of year. We have a bowl full on the coffee table, and I push segments down The Squeeze's neck every evening while we watch Buffy and Angel. Soon he will have strange Buffy-citrus dreams.
Meanwhile, I had a dream where I was stabbed by a platypus with its poison spur. It was also a dream about the house I lived in in Brisbane, and also about houses generally. I know that if I'm having house dreams, it's anxiety season. And of course, the source of this anxiety would be the thesis. And the fact that my supervisor goes away 2 weeks from now, for 3 weeks. Arriving back one week before I'd planned to submit. Yes. Isn't that nice?

"simple pleasures" was posted in the category digging and djing and gastropod and thesis

May 23, 2006


Posted by dogpossum on May 23, 2006 7:07 PM

Ok, so I'm hitting another period of crazy productivity. Look out supervisor.

Today I finished off redraft5.2 of chapters 2 and 3. I had had some concerns about chapter 2, but I think I fixed it, even though it meant cutting out a sweeeeet section on the relationship between jazz and dance in the 20s and 30s.

That was really just a long-winded way of my describing the way improvisation is contained within social/community structures in African American vernacular culture. I'm using this as a way of describing how the introduction of new ideas and ideology and self-expression/representation ('difference') is managed by community/social/discursive structures in African American vernacular dance in a productive and creative way. In contrast, contemporary swing dance culture in Melbourne marginalises difference by discouraging improvisation, innovation and the representation of self by the emphasis on formal classes, rote-learning and routines. The bit I'm really interested in is how media figures in all this - how do AV media do this? How does DJing do this? And of course, what role do dance schools play in this? Finally, how does this sort of marginalising of difference work as a capitalist tactic, particularly in developing a market for commodified dance (ie classes)?

That's my thesis right there.

But I do take time out in each chapter to look at resistance to and transgression of this marginalisation of difference. In chapter 3 I look at how women might do feminist work in partner dancing by doing 'black' switches; leading; solo dancing. In chapter 4 I consider... well, I'm not sure yet. I'll get back to you. Anyhoo, I read this resistance as the utilisation of African American dance discourse themes/tactics/practices (eg improvisation) by contemporary swing dancers. Which is neat, because Af-Am dance was all about resistance, particularly in the pre-emancipation era and on into the 20s and 30s.

So it's all going nicely. Tomorrow I wrestle with chapter 4 (AV media), then I meet with the supes on Thursday. I'd actually like to leave that meeting til the following Thursday... I'll see what I can do.
Friday I will try to do chapter 5, but I don't know - I have to DJ on Thursday so who knows how productive I'll be on Friday. Anyway, I'll finish off chapters 5 and 6 by the end of next week. Hopefully I'll be able to go back through and make it all hang together. Chapters 2 and 3 are totally tight - the bestest best friends. Who knows what 4, 5 and 6 are doing. And the conclusion? I doubt it's go anybody's back, at the moment. But I trust 1 is ok. Just rough-edged and not really smoothing the way for the rest of the homies.

The Squeeze dreads these periods of insane, obsessively-compulsive productivity. Mostly because they're followed by the inevitable crash as I wind myself tighter and tighter, tiring myself out with longer and longer hours. Hopefully I'll get through redraft 5.2 before then.

"busybusy" was posted in the category thesis

May 22, 2006

helloooooo winter of content

Posted by dogpossum on May 22, 2006 2:17 PM

It's so cold in my room that the paper is steaming as it comes out of the printer.

Ah, I do so love the smell of freshly printed next-to-last redrafts.

"helloooooo winter of content" was posted in the category thesis

March 24, 2006

thesis update

Posted by dogpossum on March 24, 2006 8:07 PM

I am editing like a crazy person. Well, preferably like a clever, articulate and focussed academic.

I'm up to the 4th draft of Chapter 2 (Dance as public discourse: Afro-American vernacular dance). Actually, I'm mid-way with draft #4 of Chapter 3 (cultural transmission in dance: the movement of cultural form and practice as ideological and mediated process). This will be followed by the 4th drafts of Chapter 4 (AV media in contemporary swing dance culture: revivalism and the ideological management of mediated dance), Chapter 5 (DJing in contemporary swing dance culture: the collusion of cultural practices in mediated dance), Chapter 6 (institutions in contemporary swing dance culture: swing dance schools and the ideological management of embodied practice via media) and rounding up with a first draft of my conclusion. Then I go back to Chapter 1 (Introduction) to do its 4th draft.

Then I edit for typos/grammar/spelling and all that rubbish. Hopefully to submit in August.

It's all going pretty well, and the supes gave me the thumbs up on my recent effort at making 6 seperate blobs of work one comprehensive 'story' about swing dancers' use of media in embodied practice. It was a matter of juggling writing style, making each chapter support a key thesis (which I can't articulate right now, sorry), and then each point in each chapter support that thesis.

So Chapter 2 is now looking pretty comprehensive (dance as discourse; how to discuss dance as discourse, theoretically and analytically; dance discourse as culturally specific; then considering Afro-American vernacular dance of the 20s/30s/40s as an example, paying most attention to the relationship between the introduction of new ideas/dance steps (mostly through improvisation) and community structures which regulate/manage this process. In other words, how is the representation of 'self' and individual identity (through improvisation, creative 'work') by individual dancers 'managed' by community structures (such as musical structures, social conventions regarding sexuality and public behaviour, etc etc).
I make the point quite clearly that individual self expression in Af-Am v dance (or the representation of self and individual interests and 'difference' in public (dance) discourse) is more flexible than in contemporary swing dance culture.
I see the formal heirachies of teaching and learning (esp in schools) as the reason why there's less tolerance/opportunity for the representation of self/difference in contemporary swing dance culture. And teaching and learning in contemporary swing dance culture is dominated by 'revivalist' ideology - the idea that swing dances are dead, they were great, and they need to be 'revived'.
I explore this in greater detail in Chapter 4, the AV chapter, where I look at the role of archival film in the revivalist project.

In Chapter 3, though, I talk about 'cultural transmission', and consider contemporary swing dance culture, noting how it's a fairly homogenous culture, in fact a predominantly youth/consumer culture, a consequence of the formal pedagogic practices of swing culture. I take Melbourne as an extreme example, looking at how the swing dance school's commodification of dance as a package to be bought and sold via classes has resulted in a homogenous 'market' for this product - white, middle class, hetero kids.
But this chapter is more interesting than that. I argue swing dances' movement into the white American mainstream in the 30s was achieved primarily through the mediation of the form: film and dance studios brought swing dances to the mainstream (with obvious asides to stuff like Afro-American troops interacting with white women, though I argue that the segregation of the day prevented the wide-spread effect some dance historians argue for. I think film and dance teachers were significant - though it was a combination of factors).

I'm most interested in the mediation of swing dances in their movement from Afro-American communites to mainstream America and then into the internaitonal community. There's plenty of work on this stuff, esp in relation to mambo and latin dance and their movement into mainstream America (admittedly in later years).
I'm interested in how film was important. Then I make the point in Chapter 3 that these films represented the racism and segregation of the day in various ways (ie some studios not showing black and white characters on screen together - segregation in-text; racist work-practices in the studios themselves). And then, that revivalist dancers cannot help but reproduce these racist and dodgy themes in using these films as key sources for reviving swing dances. The problem lies in their not critically engaging with these issues in their teaching/researching dance. In fact, I argue quite strongly that swing dancers today are notably reluctant to engage with issues of race and class in their discussions of swing dance history. Which concerns me, esp as 20s and 30s 'Harlem' and 'slavery' seem quite ideologically loaded terms.

Ok, so with all that in mind, I then introduce swing dancers as fans, through their media use, and through their class/age/etc demographics.

Then I say: 'ok, so with all that in mind, what evidence do I have for all that in actual examples from dancers' embodied practice? Where is this shit in the dancing?' And then I do some neat analysis of actual dance stuff, in particular reference to gender and sexuality (because they're key issues in swing culture). And I make the argument that just that fans are engaged in 'textual poaching' - tactical engagments with dominant ideologies and discourses, so too are swing dancers. It's even more interesting when you read Afro-American vernacular dance as embodying tactical resistance to dominant American ideology and discourse of the day - hell, let's be blunt. When you read Afro-American vernacular dance as the dance of people whose history involves racism, segregation, jim crow legislation, racial violence, etc etc. In that situation, of course cultural production will be resistant. Particularly dance, for people of West African descent.

So then I do some neat analysis, basically asking how sexual and gender differences are represented in contemporary swing dance cultures around the world. I look at how, for example, young women in North America use swing dance to explore 'sexual display' within a safe social context, where they may (beyond dance) be unwilling to do things like flash their knickers, wear suspenders for show, shimmy, etc. I'm also interested in stuff like women leading and men following as a way of subverting heternormative social forces. I'm also facinated by local differences - eg blues dancing in Korea and Japan, as opposed to blues dancing in Canada or Australia or New Zealand.

And of course, the most imporant part of all this the role media plays. How contemporary swing dancers use the internet, AV media, etc in all this. How important are swing discussion boards in the way young people in swing dance communities represent sexual and gender differences? I argue that media is very important, and provide some neat examples from different discussion boards, websites and email lists.

Then I move on to AV media in Chapter 4, where I talk specifically about media use in contemporary swing dance culture. I take AV media as an example of one key media form (and practice), and then DJing as an example of the collusion of different media forms and embodied practices - in swing DJing we see dancers using discussion boards, email lists, websites, digitial music technology (from downloading mp3s to DJing from laptops), to research, purchase, discuss and explore music and how to use it. Then I look at how all this stuff functions in embodied practice: how DJs' media use actually functions in their embodied DJing for a crowd of dancers.

In Chapter 5 I look at how all this stuff - media use - is managed by institutions in contemporary swing dance culture. I focus on Melbourne as it has the largest swing dance school in the world, and is a local scene dominated by school discourse (which is, incidentally, capitalist discourse). And I look at how capitalist discourse functions to commodify what was once a vernacular dance - to sell young people a lifestyle product. And, most facinating of all, how they are also sold an ideological 'product' as well. I'm interested in how the ideology and discourse of schools in Melbourne reflect dominant social discourse and ideology in the wider Melbourne and Australian community.

Therefore proving my original argument, that dance = public discourse, where ideology is represented, and that this discourse is representative of the social/political/cultural forces of the wider community in which this community-of-interest is located.

I squeeze the fandom stuff in Chapters 4 and 5 in more detail, mostly to explain specific media practices.


"thesis update" was posted in the category lindy hop and other dances and thesis

March 22, 2006


Posted by dogpossum on March 22, 2006 10:03 AM

I know, I know, I've not been around much any more. But I can't help it! I've been editing like a crazy editing fool, and then I move from the computer to the bike to ride off to yoga or into the city or wherever the fuck I want to go - because I can ride my bike as fast as the wind, certainly faster than Commonwealth Games stalled traffic. And it's much easier for me to get onto my bike than it is for a cranky commuter to get onto a tram these days as well (PT users city-wide are 'amused' by the little notes at the tram stop: avoid using trams during peak periods. Nice one - two thumbs).

Though I am worried about the disappearing bike lanes. Melbournians will be familiar with the Games Lanes marked in blue on on CBD streets. Not so many will have noticed the way several key bike lanes (a few-block section on Swanston Street, all of Queensberry Street) have completely disappeared. I'm paranoid - really worried - that they won't come back after the games have finished. But this hasn't stopped me speeding into town or off to Brunswick Street or to the cinema. 20 minutes to town (official time down 10minutes on previous personal best). Still 20 minutes to Carlton, but surely that's a timing error? Yoga, however, is down to 10 minutes.
I am truly In Love with Blacky. Though its first service seems in order... how could we bare to be parted?

On other fronts, I've DJed no less than four times in the past three weeks. It seems there's a bit of a DJ drought in Melbourne atm. My skills have necessarily taken a serious up-turn and I'm sure the groupies are moments away. They are no doubt waiting for a tram somewhere on Swanston Street.

"speed" was posted in the category bikes and lindy hop and other dances and thesis

January 9, 2006

yes, don Hamleoni

Posted by dogpossum on January 9, 2006 11:38 AM

I have tired brain. I'm not tired physically, I just suddenly become tired when I start reading this chapter I'm trying to edit. The words sort of blur together and I realise how frequently I repeat myself. It's humid and warm today and I'm hiding inside. It's not really working, as my sinuses have reminded me that humidity is good for mould. Not Bob Mould, but the other type.
I have this chapter to finish, then the other difficult one (DJing) to finish, and all before the end of the month. 20 days, with weekends off. Meanwhile, the date for submitting my application for extension draws closer and closer (loom is the appropriate word here), my panic ebbs and flows. It's given me strange dreams, a combination of the hardcore inter-species war being conducted in the Judas Unchained universe and my sudden Lost bingeing.

I hadn't watched Lost ever before, but an impulse added it to my trawl at the video shop last week. I thoroughly enjoyed the first 4 episodes or so, but it's kind of losing its appeal - it's getting silly. I keep noticing things that could either be continuity errors or clever plot lines. If this was David Lynch, I'd be overjoyed and suspecting the latter. But it's not. One thing I want to know: how is it I can never find half a dozen functioning bobby pins in my own home, when the blondey asthma chick can find at least 20 every day on a desert island? I also want to know how the Korean chick managed to explain to the black guy which type of leaf she needed to do a little eucalyptus naturopath action on blondey. And why she didn't punch him when he came back with an armload of wattle* instead. That's not to mention my disbelief at his success finding this particular type of indigenous Australian plant on a tropical island which does not show any other plants from the same family or micro-climte group at all.

Ok, so it could all just be woo-aliens or wooo-government-conspiracy, but please. Respect the bounds of my belief!

On another television front, I think I could be interested in Carnivale on the ABC, but seeing as how I only ever watch telly on DVDs now, that could be difficult...

Meanwhile, we continue the Godfather Experience with Godfather II this week, prompted in part by our delight with phrases like "would I make my sister a widow?" and threatening Crinkle with waking up with the severed head of one of her beloved bunnies in her bed if she gave us any trouble. And no, despite first impressions, it wouldn't be just like waking up with your period in the night, it would be horrific and she'd scream and scream and scream. And then come on a night time revenge visit with half a dozen henchmen and a machine gun.
In our house, if you displease don Hamleoni, you're offered a trip to Vegas.

But back on the thesis thing: surely I'll find my focus again soon? Surely?

*it could have been a particular alpine eucalypt indigenous only to alpine Tasmania, but please.

"yes, don Hamleoni" was posted in the category television and thesis

October 24, 2005

a thesis outline sort of testy thingy...

Posted by dogpossum on October 24, 2005 6:37 PM

If I do put the schools chapter last, I think I'll use it in the following way:

I begin with Afro-American vernacular dance because contemporary swing dance culture itself 'begins' with af-am v dance. The 'original swing era' is a powerful myth in swing culture. It is used to justify many cultural and social practices, beginning with actually dancing itself - learning to dance swing dances is seen as a way of 'reviving' dances from this 'original swing era'. The idea that these dances need reviving implies that they are in some way 'dead' or otherwise incapacitated. Literature discussing vernacular dances makes the point that they are continually changing and responding to cultural and social context as cultural discourse. For a particular dance step or dance style to be danced, it must retain relevance. In other words, dances 'go out of style' because they no longer appeal or embody the needs and interests of dancers. This is quite often related to changes in musical form - swing dances like the lindy hop were replaced by dances which were better 'suited' to the successive musical forms, and to the needs of successive generations of dancers.
The point is also made in much of the literature dealing with Afro-American vernacular dance, that particular moves or movements are not always wholly lost. The cross-generational nature of vernacular dance - it occurs in ordinary, everyday, cross-generational community spaces rather than in segregated 'youth' or other spaces - means that dance steps are more likely to move between generations than in generationally-segregated dance traditions.
The lindy hop, then is not 'dead' - it is still present in the movements and bodies of Afro-American dances today.
To declare that it is dead is to make an ideological statement about creative and cultural form. It is an act of power. It is also shifting the dance form out of Afro-American vernacular dance discourse and into middle class, urban youth culture. This shift is achieved through the use of a range of communications technology - media - and through institutional mediation of dance-discourse (schools or studios). This shift - this cultural transmission - is inflected by power and ideology and wider social relations. The 'revival' of swing dances in non-Afro-American communities is an embodiment of relationships between white-dominated middle class, mainstream discourse in the USA, Australia, Europe (and ethnically congruent groups in Korea, Singapore and Japan), etc and Afro-American people today.

The thesis, then, will begin with Afro-American vernacular dance, positioning lindy hop and other swing dances within a tradition of vernacular dance and identifying the cultural social uses and forms of dance in this context. Particular themes in Afro-American vernacular dance are identified in this initial chapter, and then attended to in later chapters. This thesis reads swing dancing as an Afro-American vernacular dance form which has been transmitted to another culture - another time and space and group of people. This approach is an attempt to question the centrality of white, middle class heterosexual cultural in Australian discourse. It is also an attempt to assess the processes of hegemony in the appropriation of a black dance form for a white community.

This first chapter also positions dance as cultural discourse - as a series of texts and positionings and relationships guided by ideology and instutitions - the ideas and beliefs of individuals and groups. It suggests that swing dance culture today - the embodied practices of contemporary swing dance communities - carry evidence of the ideological and social practice of its participants. The primary concern of this thesis is with the role of media in these practices.

Afro-American vernacular dance - though inflected by various media technologies such as radio, film and recorded music - is centered on face to face interaction - embodied practice.
Contemporary swing dance culture is far more heavily informed by media technology.

The second chapter pursues this point, noting the ways in which contemporary swing dance culture is mediated both by communications technology, and by insitutional bodies - the dance school or studio specificially.
This chapter also introduces the ways in which contemporary swing dance culture is a localised global community of interest. Afro-American vernacular dance is a product of African diaspora, carrying within it an embodied history of African culture, slavery in America, emancipation, oppression and finally movements towards cultural autonomy and freedom. Each decendent of that original African diaspora - each Africanist society - is unique and inflects cultural form in unique ways. There are distinctions to be made within the 'Afro-American' community, across time and geography - local distinctions.
Contemporary swing dance culture is a localised 'global' community. The community is not necessarily one of ethnic or genetic heritage - it is one of interest and cultural form. The links between local communities are maintained by travel and by media use and practice.

The second chapter introduces the notion of a community of dancers which is heavily mediated.

The third chapter begins an analysis of the forms of this mediation in contemporary swing dance culture. It examines the uses of Audio-Visual media in three periods in contemporary swing dance culture - the original 'revivalist' era of the 1980s, the rise of significant local communities in the 1990s, and the development of a locally inflected global community of dancers in the 2000s. The first period is characterised by the use of archival film in the revival of swing dances - footage of dancers from the 'original swing era'. The second period is noted for the rise of videos produced by local communities and individuals in the promotion (and commodification) of local teachers and events. Specificially, commemorative videos for camps and exchanges and instructional videos. The third era, however, is characterised by the massive increase in AV media production, disemination and consumption in swing communities around the world made possible by the development of digital AV media technology. Here, dancers not only download and view clips filmed in other communities, they also film themselves and members of their own community to upload and share with the wider international swing dance community.
These three periods are broadly read as correlating with the face to face dance themes of immitation and impersonation; improvisation and innovation; and a later combination of the two, as dancers have increased access to both archival footage and images of contemporary dancers in their embodied dance practices, which they then film and disseminate.

The fourth chapter explores DJing in contemporary swing dance culture. The rise of DJs as a distinct role and identity in local communities is an indication of that community's age and development of cultural form and practice. DJs not only make extensive use of digital media in their embodied practice - playing music for dancers - they are also making great use of digitial media in their acquisition, research and discussion of music online. Swing DJs have also developed an international community of interest which complements their face to face practices in their local community.
This chapter reads DJing in terms of impersonation and immitation in DJ's choice of music and DJing style (specifically, in their intensely 'recreationist' ideology), yet also sees them as innovating and improvising in both their online and face to face practices. DJing in swing culture is seen not only as the ability to recreate musical moments from the past, but also as being capable of responding to the immediate needs and demands of the dancers on the floor before them.

Both AV media and DJing practice in swing dance culture are mediated by their relationship to - or place within - various discourses wihtin local and global communities. The final chapter explores the local Melbourne swing dance community as one which has increasingly become the preserve of one major institution - a dance school. This school not only manages the face to face events at which DJs work but also discursively manages the music DJs play and dancers' responses to this music. This discourse is not only embodied in dance classes and at events, but also exists online in newsletters, websites and other 'official' discursive texts and forms. Schools also produce official AV media - videos and DVDs - though their management of 'unofficial' digital media is more complex.

The final chapter of this thesis explores the role of the swing dance school in contemporary Melbourne swing dance culture, and the ways in which it mediates embodied dance practice within this community. This chapter explores the commodification of dance - through classes and performances - and the twin imperatives of creating and sustaining a market which motivate schools' social and cultural activities. Swing dance schools justify their activities with the revivalist myth that they are 'recreating' and 'reviving' a vanished art form and cultural practice. This notion is used to justify the commodification of dance, and the management of face to face practice in ways which impede the development of a contemporary vernacular dance culture in Melbourne.
This chapter is concerned with the ways in which pedagogy - as practice and ethos - is utilised in the commodification of cultural practice, and in the mediation of discourse.
This chapter sees dance schools as emphasising immitation and impersonation rather than innovation and improvisation in both teaching and discursive practice, and discouraging alternative forms of learning and acquiring knowledge which deconstruct challenge institutional heirarchies of knowledge and - consequently - power.

The thesis closes with this chapter as an examination of a local swing dance community where institutional discourse attempts to manage a local dance discourse in an increasingly globalised - or internationally networked community. Changes in this school's internal practices and discursive practices are read as responses to these community changes which attempt to reposition dance as a commodity - a product to be bought and sold - rather than as a process of cultural production or a discourse which can be made or created or participated in beyond the bounds of institutional discourse or practice.

"a thesis outline sort of testy thingy..." was posted in the category thesis

thesis update

Posted by dogpossum on October 24, 2005 5:33 PM

A thesis round-up:
- I have completed a full draft of the thesis. Yes. My candidacy technically runs out on the 7th February, but I took a month or two (or 6 weeks?) of sick leave when mum was ill. So I guess I'm to finish up at the end of March? I'm thinking of applying for the extension. I have some completion anxiety.
Last meeting with the supes (or the meeting before), we decided to ditch the last chapter on camps and to replace it with a chapter on schools. Or institutional bodies, really. So the thesis will be:
ch 1: afro-american vernacular dance
ch 2: contemporary swing dance culture
ch 3: AV media
ch 4: DJing
and then ch 5: schools
But we're thinking maybe the schools chapter should go after/before the contemporary swing dance culture chapter (it seems to make the most sense there).
We are having Big Question issues. We meaning me.
And I haven't written that schools chapter yet (though it is so thoroughly planned). I have a little resumption anxiety. I don't know if I can start that chapter again. Eeeek. I reckon it's a manifestation of my completion anxiety: once I finish the chapter, I'll be that one step closer to completing. And that is some scary shit.

So I'm distracting myself with the Ears Nose and Throat doctor I have to go to (bad ears, bad ears). I turned up there at 11.15 today to realise the appointment is tomorrow. Yay. So I'm going back tomorrow. More yay.

But maybe the schools chapter won't be so bad.

"thesis update" was posted in the category thesis

October 27, 2004

this'll be a piece of cake

Posted by dogpossum on October 27, 2004 1:43 PM

it's time to get into the chapter writing hardcore. no more stuffing around. no more reading exciting things. there are a couple of references i'd like to chase down (mostly stuart hall stuff, but heck. there you go), but it's time to say Stop. Get On With It.

so i am. yesterday i wrote a chapter outline. today i've looked at the chapter outline. i know it'll be a good chapter. i know it. now i just need to get into it.
this is the hard bit. starting to write. i know i can pull 13000 words out of my bum hoo-pah! no worries. but getting started... and i need to get it done because editing will take ages. it always does.

i'm also thinking about getting involved in this. the deal is that you write a 50 000 word novel in a month. not that hard for me, actually. that's about 1600 words a day. piece of piss for me.
so of course, to procastinate over writing the thesis (55000 words or so left), i decide to write 50 000 words worth of a novel.
nice one, sistah. very clever.
maybe i should take the challenge and write my thesis's 50 000 words in this one month? over november.
hmmm. now that's likely. the mlx is on at the end of november, so i can write a week off there, what with visitors and dancing and all. my birthday is on the 11th, so there'll be some days there where i'll be 100% distracted. my mother is coming up to stay on the 14th or so. my dad is up on the 9th or thereabouts.
sure, this'll be a piece of cake.

"this'll be a piece of cake" was posted in the category thesis

May 20, 2004

What exactly am I doing in my PhD?

Posted by dogpossum on May 20, 2004 2:01 PM

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.

"What exactly am I doing in my PhD?" was posted in the category thesis

April 20, 2004

having a quiet moment of worry about the paper i have to give in three weeks time

Posted by dogpossum on April 20, 2004 3:12 PM

so chapter 5 is so done. well, the first draft of chapter5 is so done. it needs work, it's 16 000 words long (despite that big 5000 cull the other week), but it's damn sexy. and off to the Supes, who assures me we will Meet Soon to discuss it. Right On!

meanwhile, i'm pissing about thinking about sewing, avoiding reading some more Jenkins, Hills or Hines, and having a quiet moment of worry about the paper i have to give in three weeks time.

the paper is for the pgrad seminar series, on the 13th of May. i'm sure it'll be fine. 3000 (half an hour) is nothing. i'm aiming for half an hour. an hour is far too long and boring. this way we have half and hour of me being clever and then half an hour of other people being clever and me answering questions (which i quite like - at least i like it more than the paper giving bit). and then we all go to the pub. instead of one hour of me-me-me and then the etcetera.

i think i might write it on djing in swing communities. seeing as how that's what the chapter is about. i'm considering wacking a copy of the draft up here for people to read (all 3 of my loyal fans). but then, i figure why not just publish some bits of the fukker in journals? that'd be cool. then even less than 3 people will read it. if i'm lucky.

oh, hark at the miseryguts. dang, aren't low-girls a drag?

at any rate, i'll whip up this paper, pop it off to the Supes for a proof-read, then deliver it to the 5 or so people (max) who come to our pgrad seminars. wack-bloody-o. as jon would say.

meanwhile, i discovered today that my grants application has once again been held up and not arrived at the faculty office. i emailed the program head, and he said it's delayed at the school level. it goes from me, to the Supes, to the head of program, to the head of school, to the grants people in the faculty. don't you just love buerocracy? and spelling?
this is why i always email to be sure my documents have actually arrived at their destination. which reminds me - i need to check on my ethics application. joy.

on a slightly different tack, i ordered two useful books for work - 'stomping the blues' and something about women, afro american feminism and jazz/blues musicians in america. the first is quoted and referred to by swingers a whole lot (well, the 5 of them, worldwide, who actually read books, that is. mean? sure was. and wonderfully so), so i figure it's time i read it. i checked the author (albert murray) in the library catalogue,and he's published some interesting looking stuff. refs to afro american cultural history and music/dance as political as well as cultural expression. timely for the next chapter (which will probably be the dance one). the feminism one is purely self-indulgence. well, it's gonna be useful too (i'm scenting some neglect of women and gender politics in all this afro-american vernacular cultural stuff). in fact, now i think about it, it's actually a top buy - i have had a Feeling about gender politics and power in jazz and blues. especially when you compare it with country and folk song from america in the 30s/40s. we definitely prefer the sassier jazz/blues to whiney country.

so i'm looking forward to those two books. they may take three months to get here, but they'll be worth it. esp as all up, including postage from the States they only cost $A30-odd. kewl.

"having a quiet moment of worry about the paper i have to give in three weeks time" was posted in the category thesis


About dogpossum

i live in melbourne sydney, australia, like jazz music and dance, swear too much, sew, drink a lot of tea and adore puns. ask me about my phd.