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Resilience & Melancholy: Pop Music, Feminism, Neoliberalism

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When most people think that “little girls should be seen and not heard,” a noisy, riotous scream can be revolutionary. But that’s not the case anymore. (Cis/Het/White) Girls aren’t supposed to be virginal, passive objects, but Poly-Styrene-like sirens who scream back in spectacularly noisy and transgressive ways as they “Lean In.” Resilience is the new, neoliberal feminine When most people think that “little girls should be seen and not heard,” a noisy, riotous scream can be revolutionary. But that’s not the case anymore. (Cis/Het/White) Girls aren’t supposed to be virginal, passive objects, but Poly-Styrene-like sirens who scream back in spectacularly noisy and transgressive ways as they “Lean In.” Resilience is the new, neoliberal feminine ideal: real women overcome all the objectification and silencing that impeded their foremothers. Resilience discourse incites noisy damage, like screams, so that it can be recycled for a profit. It turns the crises posed by avant-garde noise, feminist critique, and black aesthetics into opportunities for strengthening the vitality of multi-racial white supremacist patriarchy (MRWaSP). Reading contemporary pop music – Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Calvin Harris – with and against political philosophers like Michel Foucault, feminists like Patricia Hill Collins, and media theorists like Steven Shaviro, /Resilience & Melancholy/ shows how resilience discourse manifests in both pop music and in feminist politics. In particular, it argues that resilient femininity is a post-feminist strategy for producing post-race white supremacy. Resilience discourse allows women to “Lean In” to MRWaSP privilege because their overcoming and leaning-in actively produce blackness as exception, as pathology, as death. The book also considers alternatives to resilience found in the work of Beyonce, Rihanna, and Atari Teenage Riot. Updating Freud, James calls these pathological, diseased iterations of resilience “melancholy.” Melancholy makes resilience unprofitable, that is, incapable of generating enough surplus value to keep MRWaSP capitalism healthy. Investing in the things that resilience discourse renders exceptional, melancholic siren songs like Rihanna’s “Diamonds” steer us off course, away from resilient “life” and into the death.


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When most people think that “little girls should be seen and not heard,” a noisy, riotous scream can be revolutionary. But that’s not the case anymore. (Cis/Het/White) Girls aren’t supposed to be virginal, passive objects, but Poly-Styrene-like sirens who scream back in spectacularly noisy and transgressive ways as they “Lean In.” Resilience is the new, neoliberal feminine When most people think that “little girls should be seen and not heard,” a noisy, riotous scream can be revolutionary. But that’s not the case anymore. (Cis/Het/White) Girls aren’t supposed to be virginal, passive objects, but Poly-Styrene-like sirens who scream back in spectacularly noisy and transgressive ways as they “Lean In.” Resilience is the new, neoliberal feminine ideal: real women overcome all the objectification and silencing that impeded their foremothers. Resilience discourse incites noisy damage, like screams, so that it can be recycled for a profit. It turns the crises posed by avant-garde noise, feminist critique, and black aesthetics into opportunities for strengthening the vitality of multi-racial white supremacist patriarchy (MRWaSP). Reading contemporary pop music – Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Calvin Harris – with and against political philosophers like Michel Foucault, feminists like Patricia Hill Collins, and media theorists like Steven Shaviro, /Resilience & Melancholy/ shows how resilience discourse manifests in both pop music and in feminist politics. In particular, it argues that resilient femininity is a post-feminist strategy for producing post-race white supremacy. Resilience discourse allows women to “Lean In” to MRWaSP privilege because their overcoming and leaning-in actively produce blackness as exception, as pathology, as death. The book also considers alternatives to resilience found in the work of Beyonce, Rihanna, and Atari Teenage Riot. Updating Freud, James calls these pathological, diseased iterations of resilience “melancholy.” Melancholy makes resilience unprofitable, that is, incapable of generating enough surplus value to keep MRWaSP capitalism healthy. Investing in the things that resilience discourse renders exceptional, melancholic siren songs like Rihanna’s “Diamonds” steer us off course, away from resilient “life” and into the death.

30 review for Resilience & Melancholy: Pop Music, Feminism, Neoliberalism

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rebekah

    Excellent, theory-heavy text, perhaps best suited for grad students and researchers in pop musicology, 21st century media studies, and philosophy. It is a very useful tool for my studies.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    This was a difficult book about (at heart) a method or methods of sonically resisting (with 'melancholy') or feeding back into (by means of 'resilience') neoliberalism. I say 'difficult' because it's extremely academic and walks through a lot of high-level thinking, but in fields with jargon I wasn't familiar with. I found myself having to flip back because I kept forgetting (and have just forgotten again) what the acronyms used throughout the book stood for, exactly; a glossary might have been This was a difficult book about (at heart) a method or methods of sonically resisting (with 'melancholy') or feeding back into (by means of 'resilience') neoliberalism. I say 'difficult' because it's extremely academic and walks through a lot of high-level thinking, but in fields with jargon I wasn't familiar with. I found myself having to flip back because I kept forgetting (and have just forgotten again) what the acronyms used throughout the book stood for, exactly; a glossary might have been useful. Notwithstanding, I definitely learned a lot from this book. My one MAJOR complaint is not about the argument itself, which is well-reasoned and interesting, but that a copy-editor needed to go over this before printing. If a second or corrected edition comes out, I'll be replacing this one and upping my rating, but as is, I've never read a finished book with this many distracting typographical errors. (I should say, since I'm delving into aesthetics anyway, the book certainly looks and feels nice). Still, this book is worth fighting your way through, particularly if you happen to be familiar with the songs & music videos used as examples (and if not, you get to check out some new music).

  3. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Colen

    I had a lot of mixed reactions to this book. I adored so many of the points James brought up that I had experienced, but had yet to thoroughly realize. However, much of James's argument really seemed to be a "reach"--I understand the basic premises and logic behind it, but the wording was really poorly done at some parts. (Ex: I understand what James was getting at, but calling Beyoncé anti-black wasn't the way to do it). Thank you, Dr. Baumer, for the read! I had a lot of mixed reactions to this book. I adored so many of the points James brought up that I had experienced, but had yet to thoroughly realize. However, much of James's argument really seemed to be a "reach"--I understand the basic premises and logic behind it, but the wording was really poorly done at some parts. (Ex: I understand what James was getting at, but calling Beyoncé anti-black wasn't the way to do it). Thank you, Dr. Baumer, for the read!

  4. 5 out of 5

    amy

    I appreciate the several premises brought into contact here but struggle to see how they come together into an argument. But then I'm not the strongest reader of philosophy. Will re-visit / re-try in future. I appreciate the several premises brought into contact here but struggle to see how they come together into an argument. But then I'm not the strongest reader of philosophy. Will re-visit / re-try in future.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    Illuminating and insightful. I have dozens of highlights I've been re-reading. This book has made me hear and examine music differently. I think my understanding suffered from a lack of academic/philosophical context/knowledge, but it pointed me in new directions and provided new lenses, and I'm grateful. Into the death with MRWaSP! Illuminating and insightful. I have dozens of highlights I've been re-reading. This book has made me hear and examine music differently. I think my understanding suffered from a lack of academic/philosophical context/knowledge, but it pointed me in new directions and provided new lenses, and I'm grateful. Into the death with MRWaSP!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Steen Ledet

    Wonderful book on pop music and neoliberal society. I love the way James read form as social abstraction.

  7. 5 out of 5

    TimoZohren

  8. 5 out of 5

    annelot

  9. 5 out of 5

    Emily Spiers

  10. 5 out of 5

    S

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jake

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jonah Francese

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sally

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

  16. 4 out of 5

    Franck

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nicolas

  18. 5 out of 5

    Matt

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  20. 4 out of 5

    pınar

  21. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Waterman

  22. 5 out of 5

    Christopher D

  23. 5 out of 5

    Madeline

  24. 5 out of 5

    Malin Ekefäll

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Hunsinger

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jay Jolles

  27. 5 out of 5

    Glen

  28. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Trouble

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kate Bunting

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ayat Zaheer

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