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Accepted Paper:

Singing in the queer time of COVID-19  

Author:

Molly McBride (University of Oregon)

Paper short abstract:

Queer temporalities recast the musical, social, and political activities of a women’s chorus during the COVID-19 pandemic. A lack of shared musical time and the performance of lesbian and feminist histories reveal the sexual politics at the heart of the chorus’ musical and social disjunctures.

Paper long abstract:

The COVID-19 pandemic has queerly rearranged time, rendering traditional markers of time passing irrelevant. Instead, we sense time through other markers, such as lengths of exposure, quarantine, epidemic waves, or through the senses in the stiffness of inactive muscles, the absence of another’s touch, or the quiet of a city on lockdown. In my ethnographic research with Sistrum, a women’s chorus from the Midwestern U.S., queer temporalities recast the fundamental musical, social, and identity-forming activities of the chorus as it attempts to remain active during the pandemic. In this paper, I explore how the undoing of time reveals the innerworkings of lesbian and feminist identities and politics in the chorus’ musical activities. During rehearsals, each member sings alone at her computer but always muted in Zoom. Though we sing together, there is no sense of shared time connecting our voices and bodies. Drawing on Elizabeth Freeman’s concepts of chrononormativity and temporal drag (2010), I examine how the lack of communal time affects the sociality of the group and in turn the temporal maneuvers that restructure the social history of the group, e.g. centering liberal feminist politics over radical lesbian origins. This paper builds on queer folklore scholarship that examines worldview through the folkloric structures of a group. Singing during the pandemic reveals the sexual politics at the intersection of time, identity, and performance.

Panel Inte02b
Queer intersectionalities in folklore studies II