Issue 3

Cover of I'M NOT LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE by Jeffrey T. Nealon

The B-Side of Biopower

By David J. Gunkel
Issue 3 October 10, 2019

From the beginning—actually from before the beginning—it is clear that the subject of Jeff Nealon’s I’m Not Like Everybody Else is situated on the side of consumption and concerns the activities of the pop music fan. This is immediately apparent in the Acknowledgements—one of those strange literary appendages that, at least since G.W.F. Hegel’s famous preface to the Phenomenology, is considered to be both a part of the book and not yet the book. Nealon’s Acknowledgements consist of a litany of consumer/fan activity organized around verbs having to do with practices of consumption: “listening” to a particular piece of music or “seeing” a legendary band in a specific place and time with a particular set of individuals. On its surface, the gesture looks both innocent and unremarkable, consisting of shout-outs to the people, places, and performers that form the backdrop for the project. But, as is almost always the case, there is a lot more going on here. The litany provides a kind of fast-forward preview of what is ultimately argued in the book, namely that “the crucial question for thinking about popular music in the present is no longer ‘What does music mean?’…Rather, the question of the present has become ‘How does music function?’”

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Biopolitical Authenticity and Popular Music: The Song Refrains the Same

By Jonathan Muckelbauer and Nathaniel Street
Issue 3 December 12, 2019

One of the more pleasurable challenges of writing in response to a book from this series is that the provocations of a book like I’m Not Like Everybody Else invites its respondents to produce their own counter-provocations in turn. Of course, the most readily sanctioned and, indeed, scholarly way of doing this is to enter into a dialogue with the content of the book: to explicitly craft a series of positions that place Nealon’s arguments and my responses into a specific and recognizable relation with each other so that I might advance some sort of critique, extension, or qualification of his theses. That is, in order to function as a response, this writing must actively distinguish itself from Nealon’s; there must be more or less clear boundaries that demarcate my subjectivity from his—even, of course, on points where we are in agreement (“[my position is that] Nealon is obviously right when he argues that…”). This implicit “formal” or “stylistic” commitment to dialogue is doubtless essential for there to be any productive (dialectical) engagement at all with the book.

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Forthcoming in this issue: Davi Thornton, Naomi Waltham-Smith, and Jeffrey T. Nealon's response.