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Changing Blues: The Continued Life and Appropriation of Black Women's Blues in Twenty-First Century Popular Culture

Anderson, Yasmine (2024) Changing Blues: The Continued Life and Appropriation of Black Women's Blues in Twenty-First Century Popular Culture. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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“Changing Blues: The Continued Life and Appropriation of Black Women’s Blues in Twenty-First-Century Popular Culture” argues that contemporary creators reimagine or repurpose the politics and methods of 1920s-1930s Black women’s blues music to amplify particular political investments and to attain social value within the twenty-first-century popular culture arena. While specific historical events gave rise to blues women’s tactics, the issues they explored remain relevant today, such as class, sexual expression, and romantic relationships which together make up the sexual-economic. The sexual-economic is a dual concept. It refers to existing systems that oppress Black women through conjoined sexual and economic means and a way of performing resistance that understands the sexual and economic as intertwined concerns for building and imagining radically liberated futures. Focusing on the sexual-economic theme across early twentieth-century blues and twenty-first-century popular culture, this dissertation explores contemporary work from pop stars, blues singers, and filmmakers. While these projects riff on older blues politics, they also reflect their own moment’s concerns. The blues’ sonic slipperiness, I argue, is a double-edged sword: giving it the ability to adapt but also putting it at risk for commodification and codification that waters down or erases its radical provocations. In adopting a moving or unmoored orientation towards blues politics, we can readjust in parallel to the blues’ movements across time and space, simultaneously holding on to blues women’s often-silenced contributions while letting go of how and where the blues must sound. This approach will allow us to understand not only the blues’ functioning today but how Black women’s artistic and critical contributions are put to work within popular culture.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Anderson, Yasmineyaa41@pitt.eduyaa410000-0002-9350-1431
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMyers,
Committee MemberScott,
Committee MemberPitts,
Committee MemberMaraj,
Date: 8 May 2024
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 19 March 2024
Approval Date: 8 May 2024
Submission Date: 19 March 2024
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 200
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Blues, popular culture, Black feminism
Date Deposited: 08 May 2024 17:40
Last Modified: 08 May 2024 17:40


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