Trans-Feminist Punk in The United States: Collective Action, Activism, and a Libidinal Economy of Noise

In Jim Donaghey, Will Boisseau & Caroline Kaltefleiter (eds.), Smash the System! Punk Anarchism as a Culture of Resistance. Karlovac: Active Distribution Press. pp. 317-346 (2022)
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This chapter explores the tripartite relationship between transgender identities, political activism, and sonic practice. In particular, this chapter employs theorizations of noise to explore a rupture in the prevalent binarisms of sound and gender in the American punk scene and its aesthetics. Drawing upon theoretical frameworks such as Herbert Marcuse’s one-dimensional society and Jean-François Lyotard’s conception of a libidinal economy, the sonic practices of trans-feminist artists such as GLOSS (Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit) and the HIRS Collective are re-examined to interrogate their capacities to initiate acts of intentional antagonism to construct new spaces for the invisible and/or overlooked. Through such a trajectory, the intended goal is to reveal not only such trans-feminist artists’ collective actions of political resistance towards the modern neoliberal state, but perhaps most importantly, the typically less examined yet far-reaching ramifications of their inherent situatedness outside of such socio-political structures and machinery. While such artistic practice pits itself against the increasingly one-dimensional state of commodification in the punk genre, it also probes deeper to illuminate the related homonormative currents which have exerted considerable effort to flatten notions of diversity and difference within contemporary LGBTQ2S communities. It is ultimately through this complex matrix of identity, affective flows, and a political (dis)engagement with the dynamics of the American punk genre that we can begin to bear witness upon a modern form of sonic anarchism; one which fragments itself off from previous constructions yet reveals a possibility for new formations to those previously rendered silenced, both figuratively and literally.

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Casey Robertson
York University


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