Queer Theory, Ethno/Musicology, and the Disorientation of the Field

Moon, Steven

In this essay, I examine the development of the ethno/musicologies’ (queer) theoretical borrowings from anthropology, sociology, and literary/cultural studies in order to historicize the contemporary queer moment both fields are experiencing and demonstrate the ways in which it might disorient the field. I trace the histories of this queering trend by beginning with early conceptualizations of the ethno/musicological projects, scientism, and quantitative methods. This is in relation to the anthropological method of ethnocartography in order to understand the historical difficulties in creating a queer qualitative field, as opposed to those based in hermeneutics. The first section places the problematics of this enumeration in dialogue with the ethno/musicologies’ tendencies towards nationalizing and globalizing narratives that often run contrary to a queer project. In working at this larger scale of social interaction, it is difficult to understand the intricacies of sexualities and their relation to local normativities—that is, the project of nation-building from the nineteenth through late twentieth centuries makes difficult discussions on genders and sexualities as they exist within ethnic, racial, dis/abled, or religious minority groups subsumed by the nation-state. While both national and global perspectives are useful in understanding mass media and politics, as well as in answering the cui bono question, they often lose sight of individuals and their complex negotiations of identity and place. This section draws on what one might consider the early queer ethnomusicological literature to illuminate this nationalizing tendency


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March 18, 2021