‘A cockroach preserved in amber’: the significance of class in critics’ representations of heavy metal music and its’ fans

Brown, A.R and Griffin, C. (2014) '‘A cockroach preserved in amber’: the significance of class in critics’ representations of heavy metal music and its’ fans.' Sociological Review, 62 (4). pp. 719-741. ISSN 1467-954X

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-954X.12181


In this paper we engage with new cultural theories of class that have identified media representations of ‘excessive’ white heterosexual working class femininity as a ‘constitutive limit’ of incorporation into dominant (middle class) modes of neo-liberal subjectivity and Bourdieu’s thesis that classification is a form of symbolic violence that constitutes both the classifier and the classified. However, what we explore are the implications of such arguments for those modes of white heterosexual working class masculinity that continue to reproduce themselves in forms of overtly-masculinist popular culture. We do so through a critical examination of the symbolic representation of the genre of heavy metal music within contemporary music journalism. Employing a version of critical discourse analysis, we offer an analysis of representative reviews, derived from a qualitative sample of the UK music magazine, New Musical Express (1999-2008). This weekly title, historically associated with the ideals of the ‘counter culture’, now offers leadership of musical tastes in an increasingly segmented, niche-oriented marketplace. Deploying a refined model of the inscription process outlined by Skeggs, our analysis demonstrates how contemporary music criticism symbolically attaches negative attributes and forms of personhood to the working class male bodies identified with heavy metal culture and its audience, allowing dominant middle class modes of cultural authority to be inscribed within matters of musical taste and distinction.

Item Type: Article

First published online 8 October 2014.

Keywords: neo-liberal subject, classification, symbolic violence, inscription, constitutive limit, heavy metal, masculine excess
Divisions: School of Creative Industries
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-954X.12181
Date Deposited: 07 May 2015 16:52
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2020 17:21
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