Confronting State Oppression

The Role of Music

Authored by: David Kauzlarich , Clay Michael Awsumb

Routledge Handbook of Critical Criminology

Print publication date:  October  2011
Online publication date:  October  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415779678
eBook ISBN: 9780203864326
Adobe ISBN: 9781135192808


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Music is a universal form of communication that provides avenues for artists and listeners to explore and critique an unlimited variety of social problems, including state crime and oppression. Ferrell (1999) and his cultural criminological colleagues have called for increased attention to the relationship between deviance and crime, and the reactions to them, through an intellectual prism that views the phenomena as dynamic and ever-changing processes linked to creating and maintaining meaning through resistance, power, and reactions to everyday conflict and dilemmas (Ferrell, Hayward, & Young, 2008; Hayward, 2002). Music is indeed a multi-faceted cultural vehicle through which meaning is created and recreated. The effects of protest music, for example, on ideology and attitudes toward state polices have been painstakingly researched by ethnomusicologists, sociologists, and those in the area of cultural studies (Peddie, 2006). Most research finds that music can be an important component of social movements in a variety of contexts (Bennett & Peterson, 2004; Eyerman & Jamison, 1998; Roberts & Moore, 2009). For example, there is ample evidence to show that the historic work of popular musicians such as Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and John Lennon made some impact on more than those already sympathetic to anti-war messages during the Vietnam era (Lee, 2009). Further, labor organizations, civil rights groups, and various other interest organizations have been found to benefit from the galvanizing power of words put to music (Eyerman & Jamison, 1998). Punk music has been particularly influential for groups of youths who feel alienated from traditional social institutions such as school and family, largely because of its technical and technological simplicity, do-it-yourself spirit, and rejection of traditional self-indulgent rock song structure and performance (Dunn, 2008; Roberts & Moore, 2009). Even more, entire subcultures have developed directly out of punk music, with the most visible being “straight edge,” a youth movement that rejects the use of alcohol, drugs, and sexual promiscuity (Haenfler, 2006).

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