Anonymity Performance as Critical Practice in Electronic Pop Music: A Performance Ethnography

Menrath, Stefanie Margot. 2016. Anonymity Performance as Critical Practice in Electronic Pop Music: A Performance Ethnography. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Through practices of anonymity electronic music culture has advanced a critique of the institution of star personality in pop music. This study investigates how academic research can learn from such pop music-related critical practices.

As it becomes an object of academic knowledge, the notoriously anti-representational electronic music culture calls for an experimental research methodology. This performance ethnography experiments, in the tradition of activist and performative anthropology, with research practice as performance. Resisting the tendency to objectify culture as a factual research object, this study explores the processuality and performativity of cultural research matter: instead of substantial, post-personal anonymity states, the practice of fabricating anonymity in electronic pop music (in discourse and sound) is its starting point. From there, it focuses on anonymity performances – institution-critical practices of star personality that operate within the discursive and media institutions of pop music.

Adopting a symmetrical methodology, two personality-critical projects from the field of electronic pop music are addressed as laboratory cases and consulted for their tactical operations. Their anonymity performance practices – tactical persona performance, fake or collaborative imagination of a musical persona – take the form of immanent and particulate ‘critical practice’ (Butler, Foucault). Rather than distancing themselves from their ‘object’ of critique, these laboratory cases engage in concrete, affirmative or self-critical performances of pop stardom. Their resistance to the frameworks of identification and discursivity in pop both engages with and corrodes the epistemic-constitutional level of the field of pop music.

How can researchers learn from such musico-artistic knowledge practices? Guided by its laboratory cases, this study proceeds from a detached reading of an electronic pop music live performance as a (poststructuralist) study of persona construction in pop music to become an engaged performance ethnography. Performance is incorporated as critical academic practice through a reflexive and increasingly performative writing style. The study concludes with the advocation of an ethnographic research format derived from one laboratory case: the collaborative investigation of imaginary research objects as a radical implementation of the performative turn in the cultural studies of music.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):

Additional Information:

Thesis is due for publication as monograph in 2019


Anonymity, Performance Studies, Performance Ethnography, Performance Research, Performative Turn in Cultural Studies of Music, Electronic Pop Music, critical practice, pop music persona, fake, collaboration

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Centre for Cultural Studies (1998-2017)


30 June 2016

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

12 Jul 2016 12:10

Last Modified:

31 Jan 2023 02:26


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