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Rocken spelar roll: En etnologisk studie av kvinnliga rockmusiker
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies.
2010 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This doctoral thesis is about female rock musicians who are involved in two Swedish non-profit feminist music associations; Rockrebeller, which is situated in Uppsala and She´s Got the Beat in Umeå. The aim of the study is to analyze how the informants describe their lives as rock musicians and as active participants in these feminist music associations. The main issues are musicianship, identity, feminism and gender. The empirical material consists of in-depth interviews with ten informants – five from Umeå and five from Uppsala – and these interviews are complemented by a number of participatory observations.

The focus of thesis is on the informants’ self-presentations: their stories and experiences. One central theme is the ways that the informants’ different identities are interlaced and closely knit together in different ways: as feminists, as musicians and as active participants in the associations. Two major themes in my thesis are music and politics and they can be regarded as two sides of the same coin; in order to make it easier for women to play rock music they have become involved in the associations, and this relationship is regarded as a form of political work. The informants have been influenced by punk and Riot Grrrls Movement – a feminist movement that is associated with punk bands and fanzines is sometimes seen as representative of a "third wave feminism".

All the informants are members of rock bands, but many are also engaged in other projects, for instance in the role of a singer-songwriter, and these different identities as musicians are often seen as complementary to each other. Rock bands are generally considered to be fascinating but insecure experiences because bands tend to split up with time. Those who are also active musicians outside of the band (most often guitarists) usually regard their own individual identity as musicians as the most important thing; a safe harbor that is always there. Their ideological beliefs are for instance visible in a common vision of the ideal rock band as democratic, anti-hierarchic and where an equality of opportunity exists. Rock music is in some ways used as an expression for an alternative way of life, of rebellion, and is seen as politically subversive.

One of the ambivalences of the source material is the kind of identity politics that the associations represent and whose purpose is to improve the gender equality in the field. There is a well-known dilemma involved in this practice; how is it possible to navigate from a marginalized, subordinated position, without using the method of categorizing that may increase the probability of reproducing their own marginalization?

Their life as rock musicians is described as enjoyable rewarding, and as a means of expressing their cultural belonging and ideological beliefs, such as feminism. However, the overall picture highlights the pleasures of creating and making music, which serves as an explanation why they strive to make rock music more accessible for women. The descriptions of being in a band and performing on stage are varied and on the whole complex. The group dynamics of the band are portrayed as very meaningful but also trying at times, and playing in front of an audience is described as everything between ecstasy and a nerve-wrecking experience. However, there is an overall adaptation to the norms surrounding rock music; a sense that one has to adjust oneself in order to function as a rock musician. The informants´ statements generally emphasize gender, but from time to time they identify themselves with other male amateur rock musicians.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, Institutionen för kultur- och medievetenskaper , 2010. , 285 p.
Etnologiska skrifter, ISSN 1103-6516 ; 54
Keyword [en]
rock music, rock musician, rock band, identity, feminism, gender, music making, amateur musician, creativity, identity politics, singer songwriter, Riot Grrrls Movement, third wave feminism, post feminism, music association, popular music, music education, music taste, fanship
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-38159ISBN: 978-91-7459-122-4OAI: diva2:372563
Public defence
2010-12-17, Humanisthuset, Hörsal E, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 13:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2010-11-26 Created: 2010-11-26 Last updated: 2010-11-26Bibliographically approved

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