Circuits of Power: Music, Race, and Theory

From Hampedia
Jump to: navigation, search
"Image:" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.[[Image:|280px|center|]]
Meeting Information
Location: EDH 2
Days: Tuesday
Time: 12:30-3:20
Extension: 5673
Office: MDB 1
Office Hours:
Home Page:
Technical Information
Course Level: 300
Course Number: 313
Course Capacity: 16
Course Website:

Circuits of Power: Music, Race, and Theory is a Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies class taught by Susana Loza.

Course Description

Is music raced? How do musical sound, image, performance, and even performer become racialized? How does music speak to, reflect, reproduce, reinforce, and/or contest race and racism? How do individuals use music to express their ethnic/racial identity? Such questions hint at the undeniable yet ineffable influence of race on the American musical imagination. This seminar will consider the fraught intersection of race, power, and desire in contemporary popular music (hip hop, electronic dance music, rock, pop, punk, R&B/soul, world music, etc.). Utilizing an interdisciplinary amalgam of Popular Music Studies, Post-Colonial Theory, Critical Race Studies, Ethnic Studies, Literary Criticism, Media Studies, Cultural Studies, and (Ethno)Musicology, we will investigate the local creation and global circulation of racially-coded sonic signifiers; questions of authenticity and appropriation; music as a form of cultural resistance and colonial domination; and music as a key component in identity formation. This course is reading-, writing-, and theory-intensive. Enrollment is by instructor permission.


All readings are available via the HACU-0313 course website.

1.    Complete assigned readings in advance of each class meeting.  Please bring readings to class.
2.    Regular attendance and active participation in class discussions.
3.    Class Presentation.
4.    Regularly review course website for announcements, assignments, and additional readings.
5.    Complete and submit all written work in a timely manner, which include the following:

  • 8 Blog Posts (Due on 9/24, 10/1, 10/8, 10/22, 10/29, 11/5, 11/12, and 12/3)
  • Paper Proposal (Due 10/6)
  • Annotated Bibliography (Due 10/27)
  • Detailed Outline OR Rough Draft (Due 11/17)
  • 15-20 Page Final Research Paper (Due 12/1)

6.    Submit a portfolio consisting of all your written work at the end of the semester (Due 12/8).
7.    Submit a Mid-Term Self-Evaluation (Due 10/8) AND a Self-Evaluation to The Hub (Due 12/11).

Class Attendance:  Because attendance is critical to the success of this seminar, only one (1) absence is allowed (*this includes the add-drop period*). Subsequent absences will result in a "no evaluation" or a failing grade).  Please keep in mind that when you skip class, you miss information crucial to understanding the readings, a sense of which themes are important, and the presentations of your classmates.

Class Discussions: This course follows a seminar format, and as such, you are required to arrive promptly to class and actively participate in all class discussions. You are expected to fully engage with the assigned readings and offer informed perspectives in class. We all benefit when we all read, question and listen. In the process, students are expected to be respectful of and open to others’ opinions and suggestions and to avoid monopolizing class discussions. The goal is to facilitate rather than close down critical debate of the subject material. For those whom grades will not be assigned, the degree and quality of participation will be noted in your final narrative evaluations.

Class Presentation: Students will be required to give an in-class presentation of approximately 30 minutes on one of the assigned readings. Each student is expected to do the following: (1) summarize the main points of the article; (2) define any and all relevant terms/theoretical concepts; (3) locate and utilize media examples relevant to the piece; (4) offer critiques based on textual evidence not personal opinion; (5) prepare discussion questions that are specific and grounded in the reading; and (6) lead class discussion.

Blog Posts:  Students will be required to submit EIGHT posts to the class blog.  Posts should be 600 words or more. They should be typed, proofread, spell checked and the word count confirmed before you post. Your posts should reflect sophisticated consideration of the readings and issues we have discussed in class. Posts should not summarize our class discussions but rather move beyond them in a significant way.  Posts should engage with theoretical concepts from the readings and apply them to popular music. Although not required, students are strongly encouraged to comment on the posts of their fellow students via the class blog.

Research Paper: A research paper is required for this course. Students will be evaluated based upon the successful completion of the following assignments: paper proposal, annotated bibliography, detailed outline, rough draft, and final draft. Final drafts are due December 1st at 12:30 pm and MUST be submitted directly to the Professor, unless other arrangements have been made beforehand. Late papers will be excused only in the case of a documented illness or family emergency. Papers should be 15-20 double-spaced pages in length (one-inch margins and 12 pt. font) and printed double-sided (NO EMAILED PAPERS WILL BE ACCEPTED). The paper title, author’s name and email address, and date should appear at the top of the first page. Do not include a separate cover page. Please staple papers; do not submit papers with clips, binders, or report covers. Please number all pages. Papers must include a bibliography and proper citations, with a minimum of 15 scholarly references cited including at least 5 academic journal publications. None of the sources may be from the class reading list. While Wikipedia and similar sources might be used for background information, it is expected that students will find more authoritative sources for information and cite these sources rather than citing Wikipedia. The Chicago reference style should be used for the bibliography and citations (students may use an alternative style only with permission of the Professor). Papers should be well structured with appropriate headings throughout, and include conclusions that are well supported by the rest of the paper. Remember this is a research paper, not an opinion essay. All assertions need to be supported with citations to relevant literature. You should cite ideas, not just direct quotes. Headings should be used to structure the paper. Purchasing a hard copy, CD, or online subscription of the Chicago Manual of Style is highly recommended.


Class Decorum: Turn off your cell phone, PDA, text messenger, or other electronic device, before class begins.  Please note: In-Class laptop computer usage is permitted but should be limited to course-related activities and not casual web surfing for personal enjoyment.

Tardiness Policy: Students are expected to be in class on time. Attendance will be taken promptly at 10:30 am. If you are late, you will be assigned extra work.  1-5 minutes late will add 100 words to your next blog post assignment (i.e., you will be required to write 700 words instead of 600).  5-10 minutes late will add 200 words (800 words instead of 600). If you are more than ten minutes late, you will be marked absent for the day. Please note: Excessive tardiness will be noted in your final narrative evaluation.

Late Assignments: No late work! No exceptions! All assignments are due on the date, time, and location specified in the syllabus. It is your responsibility to keep track of when and where assignments are due. Please plan ahead as accidents do occur (computers crash, printers run out of toner, networks go down, illnesses descend, hangovers happen, breakups take their toll, etc.).

If you have a physical, psychological, medical, or learning disability that may impact on your ability to carry out assigned course work on time, I urge you to contact the Disabilities Services Coordinator, Joel Dansky. He is responsible for the coordination and provision of services and accommodations for students with disabilities. He may be reached at 413-559-5423 or via email

Plagiarism: Plagiarism is a very serious offense and will not be tolerated. If a student is found guilty of plagiarism he or she will not receive an evaluation for this class, and the case will be handed over to the Dean for disciplinary action. If you use the words or ideas of others you must clearly identify the source in your work (that includes any information found on the web!). Direct quotations must be placed in quotation marks and their sources cited. Paraphrased sources should also be acknowledged. If you are unclear what constitutes plagiarism, consult the Professor before handing your work in. Ignorance of what constitutes plagiarism is not a defense. It is your responsibility to be sure beforehand.

September 15th: Introduction

ASSIGNMENT: Students must identify FOUR class readings they would like to present on. We will hold a lottery during class on September 22nd to determine the sequence of student presentations. Each student will only have to present on ONE reading. To make sure that student presenters have sufficient time, only TWO presentations will be scheduled per class.

September 22: Music and Race, Their Past, Their Presence
•    Ronald Radano and Philip V. Bohlman, "Introduction: Music and Race, Their Past, Their Presence"
•    Philip V. Bohlman, "The Remembrance of Things Past: Music, Race, and the End of History in Modern Europe"
•    Philip Tagg, "Open Letter about 'Black Music', 'Afro-American Music' and 'European Music'"
•    Ronald Radano, "Narrating Black Music's Pasts"
•    Charles Ramsey, "Disciplining Black Music: On History, Memory, and Contemporary Theories"
•    Timothy D. Taylor, "The Rise of Imperialism and New Forms of Representation"
•    Sneja Marina Gunew, "The Terms of (Multi)Cultural Difference"

September 24Blog Post Due by 11PM.

September 29: Diaspora: Communities of Sound
•    Arjun Appadurai, "Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]
•    Jana Evans Braziel and Anita Mannur, "Nation, Migration, Globalization: Points of Contention in Diaspora Studies" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]
•    Stuart Hall, "Culture, Identity, and Diaspora" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]
•    Timothy Brennan, "Introduction: Secular Devotion Afro-Latin Music and Imperial Jazz" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]
•    George Lipsitz, "Crossing Over: The Hidden History of Diaspora" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]
•    Gayatri Gopinath, "Communities of Sound: Queering South Asian Popular Music in the Diaspora"
•    Jocelyne Guilbault, "Audible Entanglements: Nation and Diasporas in Trinidad’s Calypso Music Scene"

October 1Blog Post Due by 11PM.

October 6: Sounds Authentic: Music and Racial Identity
•    John Hutnyk, "Authenticity or Cultural Politics"
•    Allan Moore, "Authenticity as Authentication" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]
•    E. Patrick Johnson, "Introduction: 'Blackness' and Authenticity: What's Performance Got to Do With It?" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]
•    Paul Gilroy, "Sounds Authentic: Black Music, Ethnicity, and The Challenge of a 'Changing' Same"
•    Eithne Quinn, "Gangsta's Rap: Black Cultural Studies and The Politics of Representation"
•    Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar,  " 'Real N*ggas': Race, Ethnicity, and the Construction of Authenticity in Hip-Hop"
•    Imani Perry, "Hip Hop's Mama: Originalism and Identity in the Music"
•    Michael Eric Dyson, "Mariah Carey and 'Authentic' Black Music" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]

ASSIGNMENT: Submit Research Paper Proposal. Proposals should be 1 page in length and typed (double-spaced, one-inch margins, 12 pt. font). Don't forget to check spelling and grammar!  See course website for helpful tips!

October 8Blog Post Due by 11PM.
    Mid-Term Evaluations Due.


October 20: Appropriation: The Cultural Politics of Musical Borrowing
•    Bruce Ziff and Pratima Rao, "Introduction to Cultural Appropriation: A Framework for Analysis" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]
•    Richard Rogers, "From Cultural Exchange to Transculturation: A Review and Reconceptualization of Cultural Appropriation" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]
•    Nancy Morris, "The Myth of Unadulterated Culture Meets the Threat of Imported Media" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]
•    Perry Hall, "African-American Music: Dynamics of Appropriation and Innovation"
•    Nick Bromell, "The Blues and the Veil: The Cultural Work of Musical Form in Blues and '60s Rock"
•    Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar,  "The Minstrel Reprise: Hip Hop and The Evolution of the Black Image in American Popular Culture"
•    Kevin Phinney, "Introduction: Souled American" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]
•    Kevin Phinney, "Of Massas and Minstrels"

October 22Blog Post Due by 11PM.

October 27: Racializing Rhythm, Sexing The Beat
•    Simon Frith, "Rhythm: Race, Sex, and The Body"
•    Ronald Radano, "Hot Fantasies: American Modernism and the Idea of Black Rhythm"
•    Frances Aparicio, "Ethnifying Rhythms, Feminizing Cultures"
•    Jana Evans Braziel, "'Bye, Bye Baby': Race, Bisexuality, and The Blues in the Music of Bessie Smith and Janis Joplin"
•    Steve Waksman, "Black Sound, Black Body: Jimi Hendrix, The Electric Guitar, and The Meaning Of Blackness"
•    Deborah Elizabeth Whaley, "Black Bodies/Yellow Masks: The Orientalist Aesthetic in Hip Hop and Black Visual Culture" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]
•    Sunaina Maira, "Belly Dancing: Arab-Face, Orientalist Feminism, and U.S. Empire"
•    Joane Nagel, "Sex-Baiting and Race-Baiting: The Politics of Ethnosexuality" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]

ASSIGNMENT: Turn in Annotated Bibliography for Research Paper. Annotated bibliographies must include a minimum of EIGHT scholarly references and include at least THREE academic journal publications. None of the sources may be from the class reading list. While Wikipedia and similar sources might be used for background information, it is expected that students will find more authoritative sources for information and cite these sources rather than citing Wikipedia. The Chicago reference style should be used for the bibliography and citations. See course website for helpful tips!  As always, don’t forget to check spelling and grammar!

October 29Blog Post Due by 11PM.

November 3: Hip Hop: When The Local Goes Global
•    Timothy Scott Brown, "'Keeping it Real' in a Different 'Hood: (African-) Americanization and Hip Hop in Germany" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]
•    Judah Cohen, "Hip Hop Judaica: The Politics of Representin’ Heebster Heritage"
•    Veronique Helenon, "Africa on Their Mind: Rap, Blackness, and Citizenship in France" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]
•    Usama Kahf, "Arabic Hip Hop: Claims of Authenticity and Identity of a New Genre"
•    Zine Magubane, "Globalization and Gangster Rap: Hip Hop in the Post-Apartheid City"
•    Tony Mitchell, "Doin' Damage in My Native Language: The Use of "Resistance Vernaculars" in Hip Hop in France, Italy, and Aotearoa/New Zealand" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]
•    Marco Santoro and Marco Solaroli, "Authors and Rappers: Italian Hip Hop and the Shifting Boundaries of Canzone d’Autore"
•    William Wei, "Hmong American Youth: American Dream, American Nightmare" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]
•    Oliver Wang, " Rapping and Repping Asian: Race, Authenticity, and the Asian American MC"

REMINDER:  Vote! Vote! Vote!

November 5Blog Post Due by 11PM.

November 10: White Faces, Black Masks, Or, Wiggas, Wankstas, and White Rappers
•    Todd Boyd, "HNIC: Slick Willie, Slim Shady, and the Return of The 'White Negro'"
•    Mickey Hess, "Hip Hop Realness and the White Performer" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]
•    Gilbert Rodman, "Race... and Other Four Letter Words: Eminem and the Cultural Politics of Authenticity"
•    Kevin Phinney, "Wigga Wonderland"
•    David Roediger, "What to Make of Wiggers: A Work in Progress" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]
•    Jason Rodriquez, "Colorblind Ideology and the Cultural Appropriation of Hip Hop"
•    Bill Yousman, "Blackophilia and Blackophobia: White Youth, the Consumption of Rap Music, and White Supremacy"

November 12Blog Post Due by 11PM.

November 17: Performing Whiteness: Race, Class, and Nation
•    Timothy Scott Brown, "Subcultures, Pop Music and Politics: Skinheads and "Nazi Rock" in England and Germany" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]
•    Theo Cateforis, "Performing the Avant-Garde Groove: Devo and the Whiteness of the New Wave"
•    Daniel Traber, "L.A.’s 'White Minority': Punk and the Contradictions of Self-Marginalization"
•    Rupa Huq, "White Noise: Identity and Nation in Grunge, Britpop, and Beyond"
•    Jon Stratton, "The Beastie Boys: Jews in Whiteface"
•    Jeffrey Manuel, "The Sound of the Plain White Folk?: Creating Country Music’s 'Social Origins'" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]
•    Kevin Yulli, "Creating an American Music: A Critical View of the Origins of Country"

ASSIGNMENT: Detailed outline OR rough draft of research paper due. Outlines should be 5-6 pages long.  Rough drafts should be as complete as possible. See course website for helpful tips!  As always, don’t forget to check spelling and grammar!

November 24: Sonic Orientalism, Techno-Primitivism, and Other Commercial Hybrids
•    Marianna Torgovnick, "Defining the Primitive/Reimagining Modernity" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]
•    Timothy D. Taylor, "Some Versions of Difference: Discourses of Hybridity in Transnational Music"
•    Steven Feld, "A Sweet Lullaby For World Music"
•    Virinder Kalra and John Hutnyk, "Brimful of Agitation, Authenticity, and Appropriation: Madonna’s ‘Asian Kool'" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]
•    Ashwani Sharma, "Sounds Oriental: The (Im)Possibility of Theorizing Asian Musical Cultures" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]
•    Sunaina Maira, "Trance-Formations: Orientalism and Cosmopolitanism in Youth Culture"
•    Graham St. John, "Techno Millennium: Dance, Ecology, and Future Primitives" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]
•    Robert Kozinets and John Sherry, "Dancing on Common Ground: Exploring the Sacred at Burning Man" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]

December 1: Mapping Musical Mestizaje, Latin Roots and Routes
•    Robert Avant-Mier, "Latinos in the Garage: A Genealogical Examination of the Latino/a Presence and Influence in Garage Rock (and Rock and Pop Music)"
•    Timothy Brennan, "Imperial Jazz"
•    Alejandro Madrid, "Imagining Modernity, Revising Tradition: Nor-tec Music in Tijuana and Other Borders"
•    George Lipsitz, "Salsa: The Hidden History of Colonialism" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]
•    Pancho McFarland, "Chicano Hip Hop as Interethnic Contact Zone" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation] 
•    Helena Simonett, "Popular Music and The Politics of Identity: The Empowering Sound of Technobanda"
•    Wayne Marshall, "From Música Negra to Reggaeton Latino: The Cultural Politics of Nation, Migration, and Commercialization"

ASSIGNMENT: Final Draft of Research Paper Due (See the Paper FAQ on the Course Website)

December 3: Blog Post Due by 11PM.

December 8: Afrofuturism, Robo-Divas, and the Posthuman Blackness of Techno
•    Nabeel Zuberi, "The Transmolecularization of [Black] Folk: Space is the Place, Sun Ra, and Afrofuturism"
•    Sean Albiez, "Post-Soul Futurama: African American Cultural Politics and Early Detroit Techno"
•    Ben Williams, "Black Secret Technology: Detroit Techno and the Information Age"
•    Herman Gray, "Music, Identity, and New Technology" [Not Eligible for Class Presentation]
•    Alexander Weheliye, "'Feenin': Posthuman Voices in Contemporary Black Popular Music"
•    Robin James, "'Robo-Diva R&B': Aesthetics, Politics, and Black Female Robots in Contemporary Popular Music"
•    Dale Chapman, "'That Ill, Tight Sound': Telepresence and Biopolitics in Post-Timbaland Rap Production"

ASSIGNMENT: Portfolios Due in Class. Portfolios should include hard copies of the following: blog posts, paper proposal, annotated bibliography, and detailed outline OR rough draft.

December 11: Self-Evaluations Due

Personal tools

Hampedia Help