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“Roads Not Taken: Aesthetics, Politics and Song in the Womyn's Music Heyday"

Lesbian-feminism and the womyn’s music culture of the 1970s to 1990s present fascinating opportunities for scholars looking to study both queer history and the interplay of music, politics, and culture. Beyond producing some of the first explicitly lesbian commercial music of the post-war era, lesbian-feminism placed musicking at the center of its cultural and spiritual practice. In this talk, I examine some of the ways that the Lesbian-Feminists created an alternative/counter culture using album distribution, music festivals, and mail-order/zines in the pre-internet era. I also look at some of the ways that Lesbian-Feminist culture addressed issues like community-building across distance and generation, transphobia/transmisogyny, intersectionality, and aesthetics as political stance. In doing so, I hope to show some ways that this past historical moment intersects with our present context in ways much richer than we are inclined to expect, particularly in terms of queerness, group identity formation, and normativity in the post-marriage equality era.

Marcus Desmond Harmon received his Ph.D. from UCLA in 2011, where he studied with Mitchell Morris. His dissertation explored class, identity, and grief in the music of Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris, and some of his work appears in the journal Southern Cultures. His research  interests include country music, protest song, American identity, and LGBT/Queer studies. He has taught courses about protest music, transgender history, Motown/Soul music, and queer popular music at UCLA and Chapman University. Desmond is currently working on a book project about sexuality and the country music romantic duet.