The queer concerns of nightlife fieldwork

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Compared to the vast archive of ethnographic research that has been published in anthropology and sociology, the amount of writing on how one goes about doing fieldwork is surprisingly small. This dearth of explicitly methodological literature is even more palpable in ethnomusicology, despite the added complexities of engaging with sound, musical performances, recordings, and all of the legal-ethical issues bound up with them. Researchers of music scenes associated with ?nightlife??bars, clubs, raves, etc.?are even more at sea, having to engage with communities that are informally organized, constantly in flux, secretive, and (often justifiably) skeptical of external scrutiny. Added to this are the very practical concerns about nightlife contexts that make conventional data-collection methods inappropriate, unworkable, or even potentially damaging. And when the scene of study features queer-identified actors in large numbers or in key roles, this adds yet another layer of complexity, raising issues of in/visibility, fleshy entanglements, daytime/nighttime personae, and messy identity politics (to name a few).

This chapter sets out to redress some of this methodological silence by examining how queer life-worlds shape music scenes, and how these scenes thus require a corresponding queering of fieldwork practices. This begins with a review of the methodological insights offered by queer anthropology as well a broader methodological literature focused on the ethnographic study of stigmatised groups and ?hidden communities.? The resulting analysis will be grounded in real-life cases taken from fieldwork in urban electronic dance music scenes? particularly those post-disco genres that still retain echoes of their origins in queer-of-color nocturnal life-worlds. With a nod to Eve K. Sedgwick?s theorization of queer ?weak theory,? this chapter explores how queer musical nightlife worlds demand new, more supple methods.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationQueering the field
Subtitle of host publicationsounding out ethnomusicology
EditorsGregory Barz, William Cheng
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9780190458027, 9780190458034
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sept 2019


  • Queer theory
  • Sexuality
  • Fieldwork
  • Ethnography
  • Gender
  • Nightlife


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