Uncharted Country: New Voices and Perspectives in Country Music Studies
A Special Issue of the Journal of Popular Music Studies
Nadine Hubbs and Francesca Royster, Guest Editors
“With an audience that is more diverse than ever, country music isn’t just a red state genre anymore,” VICE magazine recently proclaimed. But it’s not only country music and its perceptions that are changing. This is also a dynamic and exciting moment in country music studies. The field has lately expanded its consideration of marginal identities in critical work like Hidden in the Mix; Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music; Country Soul; and Country Boys and Redneck Women, as well as the Cocaine and Rhinestones podcast and the journalism of Jewly Hight and Marissa Moss. If country music in the past has been a place to shore up conservative notions of whiteness and nation (from Merle Haggard to Richard Nixon to George W. Bush), as well as other forms of class, religious, sexual, and gender authenticity, these recent discussions complicate previous mappings of the terrain. In many ways they reflect the work that the music itself has been doing—stretching and adapting, experimenting with new sounds, and otherwise reflecting cultural change, from Brothers Osborne, Tim McGraw, and Eric Church to Priscilla Renae, Stephanie Urbina Jones, and Valerie June.
By putting together the JPMS special issue “Uncharted Country,” we hope to further country music revisions, offering a timely challenge to ubiquitous claims of a bifurcated America, torn between red and blue. The goal is to move from the perspective of single identities to the intersectional approaches reflected in recent progressive movements including Black Lives Matter, immigration rights, Occupy, and #MeToo. We seek submissions from a range of fields and writing styles that engage U.S. country music beyond stereotyped notions of the music’s makers and listeners as wholly white, nonmetropolitan, Christian, politically conservative, straight, and cisgender. We welcome scholars situated within country music studies and without. Submissions may focus on the past, present, and/or future; may lean critical, celebratory, or neither; and may take the form of standard academic papers of around 7,000 words or use other formats such as first-person narratives, memoir, and poetry. Let us know if your proposed work would fit into existing JPMS issue sections: “Amplifier” for reviews and artist Q&As; “Field Notes” for group conversations on a topic affecting how an area of popular music is being covered.
We are particularly excited to capture developments, unexpected and counterintuitive by many reckonings, that are surfacing alongside Trumpian authoritarianism and runaway inequality, in which listeners and scene figures from minoritized racial, ethnic, sexual, gender, national, and religious identities are taking up country music inquisitively, pleasurably, or perhaps eccentrically, but in any case unabashedly. These engagements show the potential of pushing beyond country’s déclassé, shamed reputation by bringing the imaginary of the social margins to a music long viewed in terms of racial exclusivity, reactionary politics, and working-class bigotry. We are also interested in inquiries that excavate overlooked or excised roots and routes of country music. Such explorations may travel beyond the present and beyond the United States as point of origin.
Subjects might include but are not limited to:
◾nonwhite relationships to country’s class messages
◾urban engagements with country music
◾trans and queer resonances in country
◾country performers and producers of color
◾country’s connections to racial-, ethnic-, gender-, and sexual-minority audiences
◾non-Christian perspectives on faith, spirituality, and morality in country
◾country music’s transnational listeners
◾oddball and otherwise uncharted country archives
◾hybrid sounds and country “realness”
Send 500-word (max.) abstracts and a short personal bio to Francesca Royster and Nadine Hubbs by January 15, 2019. Abstracts should include a title, critical engagement with relevant literature, and indication of the proposed work’s significance (we understand that different kinds of writers will take up these mandates in varying fashions). The deadline for contributors’ submissions is June 1, 2019.