The sound of street corner society: UK grime music as ethnography

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This article explores the ways in which popular music can be linked to ethnography. While there is a tradition of connecting popular music with sociology, this article posits a further resonance that is not so much theoretical as methodological. The article suggests that forms of contemporary popular music parallel key facets of ethnography, not simply in terms of sociological analysis, but with regard to popular music as an ethnographic resource, as ‘data’, and as the reflexive expression of Paul Willis’ conception of the ‘ethnographic imagination’; and the article argues that contemporary British hip-hop in the form of ‘grime’ is a potent exemplar. This is due to the resolutely cultural, spatial nature of grime music: a factor that marks out grime as a distinctive musical genre and a distinctive ethnographic form, as it is an experientially rooted music about urban locations, made from within those urban locations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)531-547
JournalEuropean Journal of Cultural Studies
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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