Accepted Paper:

Fire on the mountain: country music and the politics of war  


Eliza Jane Darling

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines country music, broadly conceived, as a primary battleground over nationalism, patriotism and the meaning of America in the context of imperialism and war in the post 9-11 era, and subsequently as a conduit for the articulation of contradictory constructions of American national identity to a global audience.

Paper long abstract:

In March of 2003, a country music band called The Dixie Chicks ignited a firestorm of controversy in the US by making the following proclamation at a London concert: "Just so you know, we're on the good side with y'all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas." The statement was remarkable not just for what it communicated about the politics of war in America, but about American perceptions of the politics of war on the other side of the pond: despite official British commitment to the invasion of Iraq, the Chicks considered "y'all" to be "on the good side," and therefore a receptive audience for denunciations of the war and the administration responsible for it.

Music has long been a crucial conduit for the transmission of America's conflicting sense of national "self" to audiences abroad, and the internationalisation of both mainstream country and the recent American folk revival has put country music as a broad church on the global map. But despite country's reputation as a deeply conservative phenomenon, it has in fact constituted a bitterly contested site of ideological struggle over the very meaning of America in the context of imperialist war in the post 9-11 era. This paper explores country music as a broker of paradoxical Americanisation in Britain and Ireland, drawing on research among producers, consumers and distributors of the genre in an attempt to understand the politics of country in "these isles."

Panel W120
'America' abroad: the good, the bad and the ugly (MAC workshop II)