After the positive response to Dr. Guy’s “Nasty Women Don’t Get the Blues (But They Write About Them)” Syllabus last week, we thought we’d share another syllabus, generated as a final project by Managing Editor John Vilanova for the Nasty Women class final project. The syllabus—intended for upper-level undergraduate students—takes an intersectional approach to thinking about black women’s positionality within media industries landscapes with a particular emphasis on the mainstream music industry. If you have any questions about this syllabus or the Nasty Women syllabus (or would like to suggest additions or a syllabus of your own), feel free to contact us @MusiQologyBlog.
The contemporary American academy has seen a growing number of “music industry” programs, most of which exist largely for the purpose of training new media-makers and industry workers in the various options for a career in that realm after graduation. Students are thus prepared to take part in the music industry in a variety of positions, including management, production, entertainment law, marketing, publishing, promotion, event production, and even journalism. But in many cases, these programs lack a historical and critical orientation to the music industry apparatus. What is its history? Who are its real stakeholders? What is its political economy? How does it work?
This course, designed for upper-level undergraduate students, seeks to answer those questions and introduce an important disciplinary designation—Critical Music Industry Studies. This emergent subfield sits at the intersection of a variety of pre-established disciplines: Media Studies, Media Industries, Music Industry, Creative Industries, Cultural Studies, and Musicology. It also owes a great debt to more critically oriented fields like American Studies, always keeping in mind the power dynamics at play in the subject of study.
This course in particular takes up the study of the place of black women within the fields of media and music industries. Our readings throughout the semester are intentionally broad; rather than a “history of black women in media,” this course draws on a disparate set of literature to further a critical epistemological orientation. The goal here is to become acquainted with the critiques of black feminist scholarship and thought and then to apply them to better understand landscapes in the media industries and music industries.
What is the place of a particular female musician—call her Beyoncé Knowles, for instance—within the wider music industry infrastructure? What are the systemic biases held by the music industry in how it promotes, manages, and brands female singers and musicians? How is the music industry complicit in problematic or limited media portrayals of black women?
This course is an attempt at two kinds of redress: (1) a lack of criticality within music scholarship that emphasizes the industrial apparatus itself and (2) an addition to the scholarly work showing the various invisibilizations of black women as subjects and authors. Of course, any study of this type owes an incalculable debt to the work of scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, whose framework of intersectionality remains an eminently useful hermeneutic to talk about how race, class, culture, and industry might intersect. What this course does is suggest another system—the industrializing of media and music—overlooked in many studies of music and culture. These industries might contribute to the ongoing oppression and domination of people of color, specifically women. This course shows what happens at the intersections of race, gender, music, and media.
Week 1: Syllabus and Introductions
Week 2: The Foundations, Part I – An Introduction to Black Feminism
Audre Lorde, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” from Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches
The Combahee River Collective, “The Combahee River Collective Statement”
Patricia Hill Collins, Part I, “The Politics of Black Feminist Thought” and “Distinguishing Features of Black Feminist Thought” from Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment
Weeks 3: The Foundations, Part II—Consumption and Intersectionality
bell hooks, “Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance,” from Black Looks: Race and Representation
Kimberlé Crenshaw, Selections from On Intersectionality: Essential Writings of Kimberlé Crenshaw
Week 4: Women in Media
Carolyn Byerly and Karen Ross, “Women and Production: Gender and the Political Economy of Media Industries,” from Women and Media: A Critical Introduction
Alexa Harris, “Black Millennial Women as Digital Entrepreneurs: A New Lane on the Information Superhighway,” from Black Women and Popular Culture: The Conversation Continues
Week 5: Mediatizing Black Womanhood, Part I
Timeka Nicol Tounsel, Introduction, “Scripting Black Womanhood” and Chapter 1, “Bearing Witness: Studying Black Women as Media Citizens” from “The Black Woman that Media Built: Content Creation, Interpretation, and the Making of the Black Female Self” [Ph.D Dissertation]
Week 6: Mediatizing Black Womanhood, Part II
Timeka Nicol Tounsel, Chapter 2, “Inscribing Black Women in ‘White Space’: Marketing, Prototypes, and Commercial Media,” and “Chapter 4, “Public Gestures, Interior Blessings: Black Womanhood in the Digital Age from “The Black Woman that Media Built: Content Creation, Interpretation, and the Making of the Black Female Self” [Ph.D Dissertation]
Week 7: Mediated Musicking—Jazz Foundations
Sherrie Tucker, “Big Ears: Listening for Gender in Jazz Studies” from Big Ears: Listening for Gender in Jazz Studies
Susan McClary and Robert Walser, “Theorizing the Body in African American Music” from Black Music Research Journal
Final Paper Workshopping Day
Read ONE OF
La Marr Jurelle Bruce, “‘The People Inside My Head, Too’: Madness, Black Womanhood, and the Radical Performance of Lauryn Hill” from African American Review
Shana Goldin-Perschbacher, “The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams: Meshell Ndegeocello and the ‘problem’ of Black female masculinity” from Popular Music
Week 9: Musical Case Studies, Part I — Reorientation
Laina Dawes, Introduction, Chapter IV, “So You Think You’re White,” and Chapter VI, “Too Black, Too Metal, and All Woman” from What Are You Doing Here? A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal
Gayle Wald, Preface, Shout, Sister, Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Week 10: Hip-Hop on Screen
Selections from Gretta Moody Blackwell, “The birth of a princess: Boughetto, popular media, and the shifting boundaries of Black middle-class femininity” [Ph.D Dissertation]
Week 11: Musical Case Studies, Part II – Hip-Hop Feminism
Joan Morgan, When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost
Treva Lindsey, “If You Look in My Life: Love, Hip-Hop, and Contemporary Womanhood” from African American Review
Week 12: Going Global
Louise Muller “On the Demonization and Discrimination of Akan and Yoruba Women in Ghanaian and Nigerian Video Movies,” from Research in African Literatures
Alexia Derbas, “Female corporeality in the Thirdspace music videos of FKA twigs” from Australasian Journal of Popular Culture
Jedlowski, Alessandro. “The women behind the camera: Female entrepreneurship in the southern Nigerian video film industry,” from Cultural Entrepreneurship in Africa
Week 13: B’Day
Daphne Brooks, “Sugar Mama, Politicized” from The Nation
John Vilanova, “Beyoncé’s Grammy snub and the glass ceiling on black art” from LA Times
Elizabeth Y. Whittington and Mackenzie Jordan, “Bey Feminism vs. Black Feminism: A Critical Conversation on Word of Mouth Advertising and Beyonce’s visual album” from Black Women and Popular Culture: The Conversation Continues
Week 14: Raced Media Vocations
Deborah Gabriel, “Blogging while Black, British and female: a critical study on discursive activism,” from Information, Communication & Society
Jordanna Elizabeth “The Only Woman in the Room: Black Female Rock Journalists Share Their Experiences,” from LA Weekly
Michael T. Martin and Ava DuVernay, “Conversations with Ava DuVernay ‘A Call to Action’: Organizing Principles of an Activist Cinematic Practice,” from Black Camera