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2- Racialized Landscapes of Becoming: Kanye West and The History of White Wyoming Wide-Open Spaces - Matthew DelCiampo, Texas A&M University

1:30 PM, Friday 24 May 2019 (2 hours)
Coffee break   03:30 PM to 04:00 PM (30 minutes)
In 2018, Kanye West held a listening party for his new album, Ye, at a ranch outside of Jackson, Wyoming. Within the location’s idyllic landscape and flanked by the stoic Teton Mountains, a mostly Brown and Black guest list of hip-hop musicians, celebrities, industry executives, and journalists gathered to listen. In the following days, the ranch’s white co-owner, Jane Golliher, objected to the late start and noise of the event. She told a reporter that there would be “no more rappers” at the ranch in the future and suggested the issues she encountered may have stemmed from the guests being from “California and L.A.” Golliher’s statements about the listening party generated an immediate conversation concerning the racialization of both sound and the landscape among popular media contributors and consumers. The connection she drew between cities and the hip hop community continues a history of racially linking musical production to specific geographic areas by ghettoizing communities of color to urban areas and simultaneously excluding them from the rural, wide-open spaces like those of the ranch. In this presentation, I examine the listening party in relation to the racialized understanding of western United States landscapes and the presumed access to such spaces shared among many white Americans. I argue that the continued construction of whiteness in language and in sound does double duty to license white Americans to lay claim to western landscapes while positioning nonwhite peoples as intrusive and transgressive of the “sonic color line” (Stoever 2016).
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