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Sounds of the City Collapsing: Hearing Urban Crisis in New York City, 1969-1974

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Abstract

This dissertation explores the complex relationships between the municipal government and marginalized groups in New York City during the early 1970s, namely Afro-Caribbean immigrant communities in the South Bronx and genderqueer bohemian communities in Lower Manhattan. Through an analysis of grassroots music scenes, I argue that young people defiantly turned towards music as a source of empowerment in the face of marginalizing narratives circulated in news media. This reaction sparked two separate but contemporaneous music movements that came to be known as punk rock and hip-hop. The form of empowerment sounded different to each group, predicated on factors such as class, race, gender expression and sexual identity. For punk, the predominantly white and genderqueer scene in Lower Manhattan used music as a mechanism to critique traditional binary gender-based identities. Music and performance became a platform for transgender political expression. At the same time, further uptown in the South Bronx, the origins of hip-hop took root in predominantly black and Latino communities. Dance parties and fundraisers, first used as a means to meet the costs of living, became a social setting in which new artists on the scene could experiment with mixed music, rapping and other deejaying techniques. For each group, the use of music was a mechanism to respond to overwhelming government inattention or neglect and operated as a means of communication about the claimed space, identity and sound of each group.

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232 pages

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2020-05

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Keywords

1970s; hip-hop; music; New York City; punk; urban crisis

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Committee Chair

Rickford, Russell

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Committee Member

Glickman, Lawrence
Hausmann, Julilly

Degree Discipline

History

Degree Name

Ph. D., History

Degree Level

Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document

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Attribution 4.0 International

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dissertation or thesis

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