Egg-head-banger? Critical reflections on a “career” in metal studies

Brown, A.R (2016) Egg-head-banger? Critical reflections on a “career” in metal studies. In: Modern Heavy Metal Conference: Markets, Practices and Cultures, 30 June - 1 July 2016, Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland.

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The in-joke in the sub-title of my paper is that making a decision to pursue a career studying metal not so long ago was considered an act of academic-suicide or at the very least a precursor to a life of obscurity and frustration on the margins of academia. But since 2008, with the first Metal, Music and Politics conference and the subsequent formation of ISMMS and the launch of the academic journal, Metal Music Studies, the academic landscape has radically altered. Post 2008, the global interconnectedness and interaction of metal scholars has accelerated exponentially, so has the number of conferences being held, the volume of publications – including edited collection and articles – as well as the formation of particular groups of scholars in particular institutional locations: the Hellfest scholars and the journal Volume! in France; the Hard Wired metal and methodology group based in Germany and Switzerland; the Heavy Metal and Popular Culture department at Bowling Green State University; queer, gothic and literary scholars based at Dayton, Ohio; Modern Heavy Metal in Helsinki, Finland; Mind Over Metal in Odense, Denmark, and the Distorted Island collective based at the University of Puerto Rico, to name a few. Alongside this we have seen the increased interaction and involvement of metal musicians, metal journalists and on-line bloggers – resulting in keynotes given by celebrated metal musicians, journalists, feminist metal activists, artists and producers. The first part of my talk offers a reflection on these changes, drawing on my direct experience and observations of the years before 2008 and afterword, focussing on my first encounters with some of the most well-known scholars and players in the development of metal studies, as well as some of the key points of development and controversy. Some of these stories you may know, while others are told for the first time. Hopefully, these selected anecdotes will both entertain and inform, in the ways in which only personal insights can. However, my further purpose here is to contextualise these experiences and observation within a wider, theoretical and ethical framework for thinking about and reflecting on the foundation and growth of metal studies. This is the theme of my title: what does it mean to be an egg-head-banger? How do we define this appellation and how does it relate to the distinction between the academic-fan and the fan-academic? Considering this question will lead me into revisiting a theme that has informed my thinking and work for a number of years now: to what extent is the rise of metal studies a legitimation strategy conducted within the symbolic economy of the academic field and to what extent has it been a successful one? What have been the benefits and what are likely to be the costs? Most importantly, how does metal studies and metal scholarship redraw the relationship between the academy, the metal music field and fandom? Finally, to what extent is it vital that metal academics critically reflect on this changing relationship?

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Keynote)
Divisions: Bath School of Art, Film and Media
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Date Deposited: 25 Aug 2016 08:51
Last Modified: 05 Jan 2022 15:43
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