Tag Archives: cultural assumptions

The Art of Demobilization

By Caroline W. Lee

“Participatory singing as a political act is becoming an outmoded relic of former movements.” –Leondar-Wright (on Mobilizing Ideas 2012)

“Artistic quality varied considerably, but was not the central point.” –Nancy Whittier (2009: 179)

“Dialogical projects often leave little or no physical trace due to their ephemeral nature.” –Kester (2004: 190)

I have my Intro American Studies students write an essay on the use of songs in labor movements. It’s a popular assignment, and the musicians in the class usually take great care in picking “their song” to present to the rest of the students. So I was floored when, during the Writer’s Strike in 2007, I pulled up a YouTube video of the TV stars from “The Office” lustily belting union ballads on the picket lines. “See, class? Union songs are still relevant and cool today!” The look of sheer teenaged horror on their faces was unforgettable—a collective cringe on the order of the American public’s reaction to Brad Paisley and LL Cool J’s “We just cured racism with music!” bravado (see here). Can art demobilize or disempower when it doesn’t work, or even when it does? The very question may seem silly, especially for a blog discussion about the use of art and music in activism. Continue reading

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Filed under Art, Music, and Movements, Essay Dialogues