Sonic Feminism in Local Space:
Intentionality, Localized Feminist Education, and Youth Culture in Popular Music
by Paula Propst
“To Pimp a Butterfly:” Double Consciousness and the New Black Nationalism
by Dhiren Panikker
May 11, 2016
Sonic Feminism in Local Space: Intentionality, Localized Feminist Education, and Youth Culture in Popular Music
Contemporary intersectional feminism claims that, as best said through the words of bell hooks, “feminism is for everybody.” Drawing on participant observation fieldwork in different Southern California rock camps for girls and queer youth, I argue that the spaces utilized during these camps present participants with a localized feminist education and provide an avenue for understanding feminist ideologies. Further, the connections between these feminist spaces provide a rhizomatic view where these contemporary grassroots social justice organizations prosper through practical applications of feminist theory. Camp leadership, organizers, and volunteers benefit from this feminist rhizome through continued connection with other rock camps, as many camps affiliate with an overarching, international organization known as the Girls Rock Camp Alliance. Specifically within the context of this research, Southern California camp organizers challenge normative non profit models by creating non-hierarchal feminist leadership structures, adoption of not-for-profit identities rather than a non-profit status, and employ localized activism by connecting with other activist organizations outside the rock camp circuit. Young campers experience this type of feminist-oriented, activist learning through workshops and popular music performance in a space that promotes many different avenues of intersectionality- most notably ethnicity, sexuality, and socioeconomic status. The importance of localized rock camps for girls and queer youth provide an outlet for individuals to actively experience feminist knowledge through practice in their own communities. These camps enact applied feminist knowledge and embodiment, but also incorporate a sense of local identity housed within intentionally created, local feminist spaces.
Paula Propst is a PhD candidate in ethnomusicology at the University of California, Riverside. Her current research explores intersectional approaches to music education and popular music performance, and focuses on: the growing presence of camps devoted to popular music instruction for young girls, gender equality, and contemporary movements in feminism.
To Pimp a Butterfly: Double Consciousness and the New Black Nationalism
On his recent album To Pimp a Butterfly (2015), rapper Kendrick Lamar addresses the specter of the late Tupac Shakur with a metaphor of the caterpillar and butterfly that encapsulate the dichotomies of being black in America today. Through this conversation with musical prophets of the past, Lamar addresses the institutionalization of black bodies and inspires a hopeful message of self-transformation within a landscape of heightened racial violence. How does this narrative address structural racism while celebrating an empowered black identity within a framework of respectability politics? How does Lamar’s dialogue with black literary works and politicized musical styles build on a history of hip hop activism while sounding the aspirations of the current social justice movement? In this paper, I answer these questions through a contemporary reading of W.E.B. Du Bois’s (1903) notion of double consciousness, dialogue with recent hip hop scholarship, and ethnographic reflections as a long-time rap fan. I argue that To Pimp a Butterfly embodies the contradictions of a new black nationalist politics in which the fluid boundaries between counterculture and mainstream are negotiated. Through this work, I aim to highlight the continued role that hip hop plays in the rallying cries for social justice and the ways in which black voices have come to matter through these sonic narratives of resistance.
Dhiren Panikker is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology at the University of California, Riverside, where his research examines race, technology, and the politics of interculturalism in contemporary jazz. He is also an active composer, performer, and educator throughout the Los Angeles area.