The Identity Politics of Climate Pop: Race and Gender in Pop Music Videos About Climate Change

Abstract: Popular music has historically proven to be a powerful tool for representing political discourse and activism. But its politics reside on different levels; in activist discourse, in the music business and in representations of identity. Post-identity and post-genre politics further influence the politics of popular music today. This paper analyzes the affordances of race and gender in contemporary popular music videos about climate change. What are the narrative, aesthetic and discursive functions of race and gender in their formulation of climate discourse? Drawing on insights from media studies, popular music studies, critical race and gender studies and climate communication studies, this paper provides new insight into the climate politics of popular music. It shows that whiteness is able to represent general concepts and dualities, and supports fundraising and agitation strategies. White femininity specifically represents vulnerability and mirrors ecofeminist thought. Blackness, on the contrary, is racially and culturally charged. It affords classed and socially situated climate discourse. An intersectional understanding of these identity politics explains the lack of black female representation in climate pop music videos. Consequently, this paper urges an understanding and reformulation of the climate issue through social specificity. Its aim is to inspire creativity and innovation in the formulation of new climate discourses rooted in black culture, music and activism.

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