SONGS THAT SING THE CRISIS: Music, Words, Youth Narratives and Identities in Late Modernity
YOUNG – Nordic Journal of Youth Research Special Issue Open Call
At a time when young people are at the forefront of a major contemporary social and political change, we consider that music has been a central element in these events – either as a potentiator of political mobilization (Street et al., 2007) or as an important indicator, of the profound changes and identity reconstructions of youngsters in late modernity. Therefore, this Special Issue is launched to answer the questions raised by this whole dilemma, crossing notions as different as identity, music, political and artistic protest, etc. This will allow extremely fruitful inter and trans-disciplinary analysis in the fields of sociology, anthropology, literature, cultural studies, media and history, among others, and most importantly allow to situate music in the centre of youth studies.
In fact, songs can constitute manifestations that not only seek to denounce but also to intervene/act, and sometimes provoke an action. Thus, the songs and texts produce a discourse about social reality, which prefigures them as artistic creations producing socially relevant meanings and not mere reflections (mirrors) of the society’s dynamics in which they are produced (Reed, 2017). For this reason, these songs take on the role of producers of denunciation and protest, and creators of their own themes, by provoking and changing social life, because of their own perception of social reality. Simultaneously, songs constitute elements of a collective identity that is influenced and influence a significant process of self-reflection. They are, in this way, a focus of multidisciplinary research of utmost relevance in terms of the history of youth and its narratives about society.
In the immediate post-war years, we can address the social and cultural impact of rock’n’roll (Bennett, 2001) and how it became a vehicle for the young to exhibit their desires and concerns from a society marked by the Cold War and which they considered castrating. In the 1960s, pop rock, a product from the previous decade, became the soundtrack to a whole set of issues, but which have been amplified by the student struggles around gender equality, the Civil Rights Movement, and above all, the movement against Vietnam War. In the United Kingdom of 1970s, marked by the Post-imperial hangover and a deep economic recession, which greatly affected the young, we see them developing a set of aesthetic-cultural-musical practices of revolt and opposition to mainstream music, crystallized in the Punk Movement: No Future, No Fun and No Feelings. In the 1980s and 1990s, we continued to see the importance of music in the political mobilization of the younger generation. The examples can be seen in the German Chaostage; in the countercultural universe of the 90’s (McKay, 1998) or the Basque Radical Rock.
Now practically all over the world, we find examples of protests led by young people who have in music a sense of attachment. In Portugal, the song „What a Fool I Am” [“Que Parva Que Eu Sou“, 2011], which was used as a manifestation of the conditions of austerity and precariousness experienced by qualified young people post-2008 crisis of (Silva et al, 2018) is one such example. Young people in the use of social networks – Civil and digital platform Real Democracy Now [¡Democracia Real Ya!], led the Movement 15-M in Spain. The young Tunisian Rappers and Punks were and are a voice anger of the Arab Spring generation. Valassopoulos and Mostafa (2014) tell us about the role of intervention music and protest in the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.
All the struggles carried out by noticeably young people can be found in many of the soundtracks. This is an unequivocal proof for the centrality of music in the restructuring of youth identities and cultures. These „voices of anger“ are often misinterpreted by the media, which put the concepts of „political participation“ and „revelry“ as irreconcilable extremes. They also underestimate many of the contemporary political practices of the young people. (McKay, 2007; Connell & Gibson, 2002; Eyerman & Jamison, 1998; Turino, 2008). It is hence essential to listen and read what young people have to say; to give them a voice; to listen to their worldviews and their protests. This would be reason enough for the social sciences and cultural studies to resort to the already vast, though understudied, levels of analysis like the lyrics of the songs, the styles of the texts, the semiotics and their narratives; and the youth who are singing these songs (see, for eg. Silva and Guerra, 2015).
With this Special Issue open to all perspectives in the literature of youth studies, we expect to analyze a whole set of themes mirrored in musical lyrics. This would allow us a greater understanding of the narratives and concerns of the younger generations identity, gender, transsexuality, as well as all problems related to homophobia, transphobia, sexual harassment, etc.); lack of professional perspectives (job insecurity, high rates of youth unemployment, etc.); migrations/diasporas/ethnicity (hybrid cultures, religion, xenophobia, racism, etc.); new social movements and political involvements.
Likewise, this Special Issue has a clear global scope. That is, we seek contributions from the most diverse latitudes: first, to move away from a Eurocentric (essentially Anglo-Saxon) perspective that still dominates youth studies; second, because it is only through multiple different analyses, situated in different historical contexts, that it is possible to move forward with the state of art of youth studies. The Special Issue, invites all interested authors — from different disciplines — to present proposals which explore the relevance of youthful songs and musical texts as producers and reproducers of specific identities and narratives. In this late modernity, marked by a crisis that is not only economic or financial, but also social, cultural, and normative, music is much more than a mirror of society: it itself creates a representation of existing society (Feixa, 2012, 2014; Feixa and Nofre, 2013; Guerra, 2017; Guerra and Silva, 2015).
The special issue will contain 5–6 articles of 5000–8000 words with a separate introduction written by the editors. Manuscripts should be submitted in electronic form online at https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/young
See submission guidelines here: https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/journal/young…
The deadline for submissions for this special issue is 1st June 2018.
Paula Guerra (University of Porto)
Carles Feixa (Pompeu Fabra University)
Responsible journal editors:
Shane Blackman (Canterbury Christ Church University)
Kate O’Brien (Durham University)
Bennett, Andy (2001) Cultures of popular music. Buckingham, Philadelphia: Open University Press.
Connell, John and Gibson, Chris (2002) Sound Tracks: Popular Music, Identity and Place. London: Routledge.
Eyerman, Ron and Jamison, Andrew (1998) Music and Social Movements: Mobilizing Traditions in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Feixa, Carles (2012) De Jóvenes, Bandas y Tribus. Barcelona: Ariel.
Feixa, Carles (2014) De La Generación@ a La #Generación: La Juventud en La Era Digital. Barcelona: NED Ediciones – Gedisa.
Feixa, Carles, and Nofre, Jordi (2013) #GeneraciónIndignada. Topías y utopías del 15M. Lleida: Milenio Publicaciones.
Guerra, Paula (2017) ‘A canção ainda é uma arma: ensaio sobre as identidades na sociedade portuguesa em tempos de crise’ [The song is still a weapon: essay about Portuguese social identities in times of crisis], in Francisco de Assis de Sousa Nascimento, Jaison Castro Silva and Ronyere Ferreira da Silva (Eds.) História e arte: teatro, cinema, literatura. Teresina: EDUFPI.
Guerra, Paula, and Silva, Augusto Santos (2015) ‘Music and more than music: The approach to difference and identity in the Portuguese punk’, European Journal of Cultural Studies 18 (2): 207-23.
McKay, George (2007) ‘A soundtrack to the insurrection : street music, marching bands and popular protest’ Parallax 13(1): 20-31. doi: 10.1080/13534640601094817
McKay, George (Ed.) (1998) DiY Culture: Party And Protest In Nineties‘ Britain. London: Verso.
Reed, Katherine (2017) ‘Singing the Alien: Velvet Goldmine and David Bowie’s Glam Semiotics’, Popular Music and Society:1-16. doi: 10.1080/03007766.2017.1390436.
Silva, Augusto Santos, and Guerra, Paula (2015) As Palavras do Punk [The Words of Punk]. Lisbon: Alêtheia.
Silva, Augusto Santos, Guerra, Paula, and Santos, Helena (2018) ‘When art meets crisis: the Portuguese story and beyond’ Sociologia, Problemas e Práticas 86: 27-43. doi:10.7458/SPP20188611860. URL:
Street, John; Hague, Seth and Savingy, Heather (2007) ‘Playing to the Crowd: The Role of Music and Musicians in Political Participation’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations 10(2): 269 – 285. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-856x.2007.00299.x.
Turino, Thomas (2008) Music as Social Life: The Politics of Participation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Valassopoulos, Anastasia and Mostafa, Dalia Said (2014) ‘Popular Protest Music and the 2011 Egyptian Revolution’, Popular Music and Society 37(5): 638-659.