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Punk/Noise Panel 1A

Punk, Noise & Geopolitics
Room G.11, Armstrong Building

Michael Hepworth (Sunderland University)
‘Punk, noise and transgression: Anarchy in the UK? Adult migrants make some noise!’

Adult migrants to the UK are a relatively powerless group within society. They are often spoken about but seldom given the opportunity to speak for themselves and as a consequence lack audibility (Block, 2007). Worse, they are sometimes positioned as a threat in mainstream political and media discourse (Gabrielatos and Baker, 2008). All this is compounded by neo-liberal approaches to pedagogy which position them passively as semi-skilled or unskilled workers or as consumers of services (Giroux, 2011).

In this presentation, I conceptualise language as a form of noise. I adopt an ethnographic approach, drawing upon both interviews with adult migrants and their teachers and observation data from language learning classrooms. I aim to show how, despite their lack of audibility, and given the opportunity, adult migrants can and do position themselves more powerfully.

Moreover, I focus on how teachers can help them to do this, and so to make more noise, transgressing existing boundaries both in the classroom and in wider society. In doing this, I draw upon participatory pedagogies informed by the work of Paolo Freire (1970).

Finally, I link this increased audibility to the concept of democratic citizenship and show how, through performing ‘acts of citizenship’ (Isin, 2008), language teachers and their students can participate more fully and inclusively in the creation of their own educational and political futures.

John Parham (University of Worcester)
‘Extinction’s Noisy Rebellion: A Punk Anthropocene?’

We’ve entered a new geological epoch marked by humans’ indelible alteration of the Earth: its rock strata, atmosphere, ecosystems. The ‘Anthropocene’ exists now, yet critics, scholars and practitioners have struggled to formulate appropriate aesthetic models. Conventional cultural forms seem too linear and simplistic against the epoch’s ontological, ethical, and political complexities. So, for example, Adeline Johns-Putra has proposed silence (common across environmental art, film, computer games, literature, etc) as both an antidote to the anthropocentric power connoted by realist narratives and as implying ‘an alternative, ecocentric reality’. Yet, invoking the unfathomable geological time which the Anthropocene pulls us back into, silence can also paralyse.

Thrashing about between narrative and nihilism, Anthropocene aesthetics parallels the disjunction between first wave (shocking, but nihilistic) and second wave punk (communicative, but conservative). Here, I’ll consider not silence but noise: how might the disruption and disturbance of noisy punk help us confront and act upon the Anthropocene? Listening to The Ruts’ ‘Babylon’s Burning’ and Siouxsie and the Banshees’ ‘Spellbound’, I’ll deploy Greil Marcus’ concept of negation – by exposing that ‘the world is not as it seems’, noise triggers responses to complex social, political, economic, and now geological forces that it’s otherwise hard to comprehend. In the ‘banal’ Anthropocene’ (Heather Anne Swanson) – where the agents of ecological damage are in everyday life: houses, offices, transport, food, the consumer items re-appropriated by punk – we need noise to shake us out of our complacency; we need to feel our ‘anxiety’.

Lyndon Way (University of Liverpool)
‘Punks’ political opposition in Turkey: Noise against authoritarianism’

‘A noise is a resonance that interferes with the audition of a message in the process of emission’ (Attali 1985: 26). This definition not only refers to unwanted sonic sound, but also unwanted political sound. In Turkey, some Turkish hardcore punk bands produce ‘noise’ in terms of unwanted sound – that being loud and angry. Some also produce political noise – producing subversive anti-authoritative music the government would rather not have available.

In this presentation, I consider how punks create noise to express anger at the Turkish government. I examine how bands ‘borrow’ hardcore punk sounds from the West in a “complex pattern of cross-fertilisation and cultural hybridity” (Shepherd 2003) whilst singing in Turkish to a Turkish audience about very Turkish issues. My presentation is sourced from interviews with members and fans from two hardcore bands. I also perform a multimodal critical discourse analysis of one of their videos and a live performance, examining lyrics, sounds and visuals. This research reveals how bands use Western resources to express subversion or ‘noise’ towards the government and its hegemonic views about how to live in Turkey. By creating noise with a punk DIY approach, noisy punk thrives in a place which is inhospitable to most things alternative, different and not easily controlled.


Published by Gustav Thomas

Claws & Tongues was started in order to provide a visible yet fluid platform with which to try out ideas for writings by Gustav Thomas that may or may not lead elsewhere, as in articles, chapters, essays, papers zines or books. Gustav Thomas is my real name in so far as it comprises the two middle names included on my birth certificate, which, as a bona fide part of my ‘real’ name makes it only a half-alias. I’m not ashamed, especially, of what one would normally consider my ‘real name,’ but I don’t intend to use it on this blog or announce it here, in this ‘about’ text, or anywhere else on this blog. That’s not because I wish to keep it somehow hidden or secret – to find out what my framing monikers are would be very easy since I’ve never sought to keep them separate from Gustav Thomas. Rather it’s because that ‘real’ name is the one that teachers, headmasters, employers, medical receptionists, the Inland Revenue, medical staff, authorities of any kind, and so on, and on, has been so thoroughly used by, and thus inextricably tied to, such institutional protocols, that it leaves me, as an individual who, like any individual has the capacity to access their own agency, very little space or scope for developing the potential power and effectiveness of that agency. Gustav Thomas happens to also be my facebook name and as a musician I also chose it (actually the first time I used it) as the pseudonym I use whenever I produced 8-bit Techno on a Gameboy (I haven’t ruled out extending that use to any beat-based project should I pursue any in the future, in preference to either Virginia Pipe or Copydex, the latter being, for obvious reasons, a strictly plunderphonic collage vehicle, anyway). Gustav Thomas also conveniently encapsulates my two ethnic provenances as half Slovene and half Welsh; they are also the first names of both my grandfathers, one a fairly well known (in his time) Slovene writer, novelist and educationalist, the other a WW2 colonel among officers who led the Normandy landings, for whatever significance that, or any other part of their own rich histories, can have, here, or in anything else that I do. Above all, I have started this blog because in my professional life, which is academic, I have made the decision, officially, to have my research assessed (by the various state bodies that do that, through the RAE, REF etc.) as much through my thinking and writing as through my art practice, which it has been exclusively so far. The kind of writing I intend to do is the kind of writing I’ve always done, over the past 15 years mostly on internal departmental blogs meant as teaching support, and will almost completely draw on things I’ve been thinking and saying within an academic context during that time. My first extended pieces, then (those that are 10,000 words or more), are being extracted from my brain as a matter of almost pathological necessity, freeing up space before I can move on and at least learn new ideas, if not make them and articulate them formally. Given the context, and my stage in life (a 50-year-old whose two kids have left home), I fully intend not to start teaching myself to write in a recognizably formal-academic style; nor do I intend for my writing to be considered as such, albeit there are inevitable traces of academia in what I’m writing due to my having earned my living as an academic for – already - too long. Instead my intention is to improve, develop and extend the style I already have which will have probably begun somewhere in early childhood when I first scrawled some short stories with the vague idea that I wanted to be a ‘writer’ and, above all which has evolved through at least three decades of learning, loving to know about, talking about, and teaching about music, art and the ideas, impulses and inherent discourses that inhabit and surround them. I am aware that I have a propensity to criticize certain other artists and commentators harshly, often with extreme formulations, in a manner easily identifiable as arrogance or some such self-interested tendency. I’m not sure exactly where that emerged from; it could be the years of being fully committed (because I knew it was right) to a mode of expressive practice that operates very consciously, and critically, beyond the reductive ring-fencing of ordained culture, what most people think of as Music and Art - Culture; it may well be, though, that I learned such an approach from certain writers I’ve read over the years – it’s in Dostoyevsky, Bukowski and DeLillo in ways I can see in my own mannerisms, but also in someone like Ben Watson/Out To Lunch, whose writing on music and ideas not only had a big impact on me but certainly also encouraged me to be bold and direct about what I knew needed saying, not least because – and this is central to everything – the way in which music, popular music, popular arts and cultures are dealt with on the day-to-day ordinary level, as in what people consume, accept and ingest, how/why they do it, manages to circumscribe completely the immeasurable seriousness regarding how politically and ideologically penetrating all art is (and was always meant to be), but especially (and this is embarrassingly tautological in a way that’s generally ignored) that which is thrust upon a people at great expense by its state and the (almost entirely) corporate (read: oligarchal) interests the State serves. I’ve been accused by colleagues of being too polemical and by Ben Watson as not being a polemicist at all, in both cases meant as identifying a weakness; I would say that to consider anything I write as polemical would be to negate any capacity it may have to say something useful – too much is being said and done by modern humanity that is unfathomably (self-)destructive. My drive in all this comes from a need not necessarily to oppose and take up the position on any opposite pole; rather I just feel that someone (as many someones as possible, starting anywhere at all, including just ‘me’) needs to be engaging in a tendency to question, starting with the very simple interruption, ‘Hang on a second… that can’t be right.’ There are tens of thousands of writers and artists already doing that very well, of course. This blog is merely a workshop from which to start making my own contribution more discernible and, just possibly, useful.

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