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Claiming space in order to participate in popular music

When people talk and write about girls who enter traditionally male-dominated domains, for example, the domains of pop and rock, it is often said that they have to "claim space". The risks involved in merely acknowledging "space claiming" in the sense of being seen and being heard, without any further reflection are focussed in a new doctoral dissertation in Music Education at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

First of all it is emphasised that girls as individuals must dare and have confidence, for example. This puts a big responsibility on an individual's shoulders, at the same time as it can make visible gender structures and norms. This is the reason why girls who embody "space claiming" easily end up in new positions as 'objects' when they are portrayed as symbols representing boundary crossing and equality. Being isolated, an individual's concentration and focus also risk being forgotten as significant when 'claiming' new knowledge.

On Friday 25th February Cecilia Björck is to defend her dissertation, "Claiming space: Discourses on gender, popular music, and social change" (Att ta plats: diskurser om genus, populärmusik och social förändring) at the Academy of Music and Drama, the University of Gothenburg.

The empirical material consists of recorded round-table discussions with staff and participants from four different music projects in Sweden, all with the explicit aim of increasing the number of girls and women involved in popular music production and performance. These projects include: a time-limited project by a youth organization, a grass-roots network for young musicians, an adult education course, and a pop/rock music camp for girls. How the concept "claiming space" is used in these discussions is analysed in the dissertation. How words such as position, space and area are used, that is, concepts that have to do with room and space, are also examined. The results are organized in four themes - claiming space with sound, claiming space with one's body, claiming space in a territory, and finally, claiming space in one's "own room".

As seen from the discussions, the idea of "claiming space" is found to be involved in two dialectics. The first dialectic is formed by space-claiming understood, on the one hand, as extrovert self-promotion to be seen and heard, and on the other hand, as introvert focus on the musical craft. A second dialectic is formed by an ongoing struggle between empowerment and objectification, i.e., between being an acting subject and being the object of a disciplining gaze.

The study can be used as discussion material in the teaching of popular music, for example when discussing questions on sound, the body, and performing, on teaching in different spaces, and when discussing what we think and how we talk about music and gender. The dissertation also has relevance when discussing gender and social change in a wider societal perspective.

Cecilia Björck is a music teacher who has previously worked in the Swedish cultural school, in secondary school and in upper secondary school. At the Academy of Music and Drama she has taught gender and multiculturalism since 1997, supervised degree projects and worked with cultural development aid for South Africa. Cecilia has also worked at the Swedish Labour Market Board developing introductory courses in technology for women.

Contact: Cecilia Björck, +46 (0)73 615 0217 email: cecilia.bjorck@hsm.gu.se

idw :: 28.02.2011