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Falade, Elizabeth (2024) ‘Queering the Black Musical Atlantic’: Black Queer Women artists and the shapes, textures and boundaries of Black Popular Music and Culture. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis interrogates and examines how the sociality of the musicking of Black queer woman artists serves as a rich terrain to illuminate the politics of race, gender and sexuality within and beyond Black popular music. This study is orientated towards responding to three central research questions which are as follows: how are the dominant gender and sexuality ideologies that R&B music reproduces implicated in the experiences and trajectories of Black queer women artists within and beyond Black popular music? how do Black queer women artists navigate and engage with the shapes, textures and boundaries of Black popular music? And lastly, to what extent can the musicking of Black queer women artists be positioned as radical contestations to the dominant order and conventions of forms of Black popular music? To respond to my research questions, this thesis employs ethnographic research methods which are informed by queer, feminist and anti-colonial research practices. I brought sociological and anthropological research methods which included in-depth-exploratory interviews with and direct observations of Black queer women artists, together with musicological research methods which included music-linguistic analysis, to create a mutisited ethnography. In its critical approach, this work is significant in that it brings Black feminist theory, queer theory and gender theory into dialogue with Black popular music and music theory as a means of transgressing the rigid boundaries of musicology and Black popular music scholarship and, offers an alternative mode of thinking about and theorising musicking. Furthermore, this work employs the term ‘queer’ and ‘queering’ as terms that disrupt and interrupt the silences within Black music scholarship. Thus, this thesis is a Black queer, feminist insurgency into the orthodoxy of Black popular music studies which has historically avoided employing more interdisciplinary thinking and theorising and, avoided engaging with non-normative subjectivities. I establish Black popular music, more specifically R&B music as a highly ideological arena that is heavily bound up with hegemonic ideology regarding gender and sexuality. I position the musicking of Black queer women artists within this context and demonstrate how the ideologies that figure centrally within rhythm and blues music are implicated in their experiences and trajectories. Furthermore, in critically analyzing how social ideology has figured in their experiences as artists, I deconstruct how the women in my study navigate and respond to Black popular music as spaces that are bound up with hegemonic social ideology. I maintain that through their musicking, Black queer women artists are generating radical contestations to normativity through covert and strategic moves to slowly dismantle the dominant order within forms of Black popular music and culture. This process of dismantling is creating transformative possibilities for the artists themselves and others at the periphery of popular culture.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Awino Okech
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 08 May 2024 15:09
Funders: Other

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