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Staying in, tuning in, and coming out: Music as imagined space in lesbians’ coming out geographies

This thesis examines the mutually constitutive relationship between lesbians, music, place and space. It is argued that music creates safe spaces for a small group of lesbians during their coming out process. Feminist, post-structuralist and queer theories and methodologies provide the framework for this research. In particular Foucault’s concept ‘heterotopia’ is utilised to argue that music can subvert hegemonic sexualised spaces and create temporary utopic imagined spaces for lesbians. Based on a series of semi-structured interviews and music elicitation with ten lesbians (aged between 27 and 34) in the United Kingdom and New Zealand, the findings show how imagined spaces created by music play a significant role in the performance of lesbian sexual identities, coming out, and feelings of belonging. Three themes frame my analysis of lesbian music heterotopias. First, I argue that music can create safe spaces for lesbians who experience feelings of shame, fear, and embarrassment. Acting as a type of mobile and symbolic ‘closet’, music may shield young lesbians from homophobic attitudes and reactions. Second, music may be understood as intimate space in which same-sex longing, loving and heartache can be explored and expressed. Music becomes a technology of memory whereby the listener creates a heterotopia of time to reminisce past same-sex desires and heartache. Third, I consider the way in which music can be understood as connecting space. Places such as bars and concerts are transformed by music and become places in which lesbians may connect and socialise. Feelings of isolation dissolve when connections are made in both imagined and real spaces of music. These findings illustrate that both the private and public lesbian geographies of music helps create communities of belonging. This thesis responds to the lack of attention paid to lesbians’ coming out geographies and demonstrates the power of music in subverting the sexual hegemony of everyday imagined and real spaces. Considering lesbians’ coming out music heterotopias may encourage a more critical understanding of power, sexualities, music, space and place.
Type of thesis
Hardie, L. C. (2012). Staying in, tuning in, and coming out: Music as imagined space in lesbians’ coming out geographies (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/6639
University of Waikato
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