London Underground: The multicultural routes of London dance cultures

Melville, Caspar. 2007. London Underground: The multicultural routes of London dance cultures. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Popular music plays a powerful role in people's lives. The centrality that it takes in the individual and collective lives of social actors appears to be in inverse proportion to their social, cultural and political power: relatively powerless groups have historically used music as a way to organise themselves and their understanding of the world, a way to speak in public, and speak about, among other things, the forces they believe conspire to keep them powerless.

This thesis is concentrated on the cultures that have emerged around a series of genres collectively described as 'dance music' in London in the past two decades. It takes as its starting point the most promising theoretical models developed to understand cultures around music, the 'subcultural studies' of the 1970s, but it places these alongside theoretical perspectives that pay more attention to the politics of space, in particular new developments in cultural geography, and the work on transational cultures of Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy. Combining a theoretical approach based on Manual Castell's notion of a 'network society', with ethnography interviews and participant observation data gathered over 3 years at the end of the 1990S - and case studies of specific dance music genre-networks - Rare Groove, 'Acid House' and 'Jungle' - the thesis traces the evolution of London dance cultures in relation to immigration, the changing racial and political geography of the city, and the emergence of multicultural space and practice.

The thesis traces patterns of continuity and change across different dance genres, to argue that the African diaspora, and particularly the 'discrete cultural unit' defined by Gilroy as the Black Atlantic rather than the Nation, or an idea of English particularity, continue to be the appropriate contextual frame for understanding dance music activity in Britain. Some of the underlying questions to which this thesis provides the answer are: what role have London's migrant and non-white populations played in the cultural and economic life of the city? What are the mechanisms of multiculture, and what role has Afro-diasporic music played in these mechanisms? What is the relationship between the development of musical subcultures and 'the Nation'?

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Popular music, dance music, subcultural studies, network society, multicultural space, discrete cultural unit, Afro-diasporic music

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


31 July 2007

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

11 Jul 2023 13:56

Last Modified:

08 Aug 2023 14:00


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