Event

“No Future without Memory: A Nuclear Repertoire and Reproduction of the Senses”
Room 266, Everson Hall

God save the Queen
A fascist regime
They made you a moron
Potential H-bomb
God save the Queen
She ain’t no human being
There is no future
And England’s dreaming.

From the halls of the British Library to popular music conferences, the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen” (1977) is emblematic of the punk genre and used in the institutionalization and celebration of punk’s 40th birthday. Fifty-five years ago, the first thermonuclear device (the H-bomb) was detonated by the United States in the Marshall Islands. The explosion was one of sixty-seven that has irrevocably altered the now sovereign Pacific Island nation. Today, Marshallese sing powerful songs that refuse the western cooptation of their future. These songs are called al in keememej (concerted memory songs) because there is no future without memory. This talk asks us to listen to the politics of sound reproduction in the nuclear era. I explore the ways anthropology of the senses and musicological work offer insight into how the bomb reproduces discriminatory systems that render some bodies “insensible” like the radiation absorbed by them. I also share how Marshallese and marginalized populations use music to effectuate a “memory of the senses” (Seremetakis) that are embodied and taught to younger generations. I take American governmental sound design, popular music, punk music, and Marshallese legal “hearings” and al in keememej, not as separate genres, but rather a tense nuclear repertoire through which sonic contestations of nuclear power often play out. I suggest that these contestations are rarely heard because of a neoliberal capitalist system that nuclear weaponry founds and is founded by. This system, made global by U.S. militarism, employs the bomb (hard power) and culture industries (soft power) that dialectically resolve in unequal gendered and racialized spaces at the sensible margins.

Jessica Schwartz (UCLA) approaches musical representations and sonic histories of militarization and imperial violence, affective alliances, and creative dissent through historical, ethnographic, and theoretical methods. Her work dialogs with American studies, Pacific studies, environmental anthropology, and indigenous studies, and she has begun to collaborate on projects relating to musical activism, artistic expression, and climate change in the Pacific. Other research interests include issues of musical transcription and analysis, critical pedagogies, race, class, and gender in respect to popular music from the postwar onwards and subcultural genres, such as punk and hip-hop. In 2013, Professor Schwartz co-founded and continues to serve as Cultural Programs Advisor to the Marshallese Educational Initiative, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Arkansas that raises cultural awareness of and promotes educational opportunities for the Marshallese population. An active guitarist, she composes and performs experimental noise-based and punk music.

Free, a Valente Lecture

Everson Hall, Davis, CA

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