"Now we'll have the women play:" Class and Gender in Amateur Country Music Performance

Flood, Liza Sapir, Music - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Will, Richard, Department of Music, University of Virginia

This dissertation is an ethnography of amateur country music-making that examines intersections of class and gender as lived in the everyday. It is a comparative study of white working-class and middle-class women in public performance spaces in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee, an economically-depressed rural region with a few pockets of urban affluence. I show how different music scenes engaged country’s cultural imaginary in class-specific ways.
The dissertation suggests that class theory often ignores gender, and gender theory often ignores class. Situating this work in feminist concerns of gender and agency, I rearticulate terms such as autonomy, social obligation, and self-expression in a class-sensitive frame. By drawing my conclusions about class from the realm of culture, I move away from common frames of working-class abjection or reproduction, and theorize a celebrated working-class personhood, paying particular attention to the codes of sociality that governed events, performance practices, and aesthetic preferences.
I also investigate broad musical topics, such as practices of jamming, revivalist ideologies, beliefs about genre distinctions, and modes of audience participation. Collectively, these themes contribute to country music scholarship in two ways. First, they examine country music as it is practiced by people in daily life, a focus that is arguably lacking in a scholarly discourse that is more focused on country music as a commercial commodity. Second, they address the dynamic relationships between amateur musicians and country music in its commercial form. I write against the vernacular music vs. popular music discursive divide by examining how my interlocutors variously engaged Nashville country as an important, though sometimes controversial, cultural resource.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
country music, class, gender, ethnography, intersectionality, US South
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