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Claiming space:

Discourses on Gender, Popular Music, and Social Change

Cecilia Björck

This compilation (portfolio) thesis explores how language is used in the context of gender-equity music initiatives to construct ideas about gender, popular music, and social change. More specifically, it examines the use of spatial metaphors and concepts revolving round the idea that girls and women need to “claim space” to participate in popular music practices. 

The empirical material consists of recorded round-table discussions with staff and participants from four different initiatives in Sweden, all with the explicit aim to increase the number of girls and women involved in popular music production and performance. They include a time-limited project by a youth organization, a grass-roots network for young musicians, an adult education course, and a rock music camp for girls.

A Foucauldian-inspired discourse analysis method in six stages was used to examine the data in terms of discursive constructions, discourses, action orientation, positionings, practice, and subjectivity. The results are organized in four themes – Sound, Body, Territory, and Room – and are discussed in relation to the concepts of performativity (Judith Butler), feminine body spatiality (Iris Marion Young), and gaze (Michel Foucault and others).

The idea of “claiming space” is found to be involved in two dialectics. The first dialectic is formed by an ongoing struggle between being an acting subject and being the object of a normative gaze. The second dialectic is formed by space-claiming understood as on the one hand extrovert self-promotion to be seen and heard, and on the other hand, as introvert focus on the musical craft.




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