Keith Kahn Harris

professionally curious, communally engaged

Metal jew

Mind-bendingly complicated neo-folk politics

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Like other lefties who love dodgy music, the politics of transgressive cultures is something of an obsession. Neo-folk, with its constant flirtation with totalitarian aesthetics is a particularly tricky customer in this regard. I’m no expert on neo-folk so I’m not going to say much about it here. What I’ve found interesting recently is a recent blogossphere-led attack on Pete Webb, a IASPMcolleague of mine, and author of the book Exploring Networked Worlds of Popular Music: Milieu Cultures.

One of the chapters of Pete Webb’s book deals with neo-folk – the only academic treatment of the subject to my knowledge. Recently, Pete has come under withering criticism from the writer Stewart Home (here and here) and the blog Who Makes the Nazis (here and here), for treating neo-folk, and Tony Wakeford in particular, with kid gloves and essentially covering up for neo-facism. They don’t quite accuse Pete of being a fascist but they do come close, even though Pete was involved in Anti-Fascist Action and the Anti-Nazi League.

Pete made a statement in response here. My instinctive sypathies are with him. The clash between him and the blogosphere is emblematic of the distance between the ‘watchdog’ approach to the far-right that traces and exposes the complex connections and influences between individuals, and the academic approach that takes a more nuanced position that concentrates on wider issues. The 2 approaches are both valid, but they can sit uncomfortably together, particularly given the uncivil language common in the blogosphere.  

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