Dages Keates: I regularly listen to podcast called “New Books in Gender Studies” and heard James interviewed. I was really attracted to the way she uses pop music to think through political questions related to gender/race/social inequality. It’s “philosophy through music.”
YCNYC: Favorite quote?
DK: “This is a book about how pop music and the politics of gender and race work- both in parallel and in intersection- in the age of biopolitics.”
YCNYC:What one person would you recommend this book to?
DK: Anyone who listens to pop music!
YCNC: What moment or part resonates with you the most?
DK: James reads the work of pop divas like Beyonce, Lady Gaga, and Rihanna through contemporary feminist, social, and critical theory. Their performances assert that “(girls) run the world,” “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and that we were all “born this way.” These proclamations conform to contemporary notions of what makes a woman “good.” Ideal femininity is embodied by women who appear to bounce back from the damage done to them by patriarchy, such as distorted body image, domestic abuse, rape, etc. To reference Bey’s latest release, women are expected to take lemons and make lemonade.
I happen to enjoy pop music, while holding strong commitments to feminist, anti-racist, progressive politics. This work helps me to think critically about the songs we consume as part of the shared cultural landscape. James relates that “society is complicated but pop music is three minutes long.” It’s easier to analyze the bigger logics that organize society by thinking through a song.
In Katonah Yoga, we reference the concept of personal resiliency in the context of dealing with the inevitable adversities that are part of life. We recognize the importance of acceptance of what is, while developing techniques that enable us to feel that we can, indeed, bounce back. I think it’s important to be mindful in deploying this concept precisely. Resiliency is a felt, subjective state, not a value judgment. James’s critique comes from a theoretically-informed philosophical perspective, resulting in a powerful interplay with a Katonah concept.