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Barry Shank

Barry Shank

Barry Shank




434 Hagerty Hall

Areas of Expertise

  • Cultural Theory
  • Culture and Politics
  • Popular Music


  • Ph.D. in American Studies, University of Pennsylvania


I am trained in the interdisciplinary fields of American studies and popular music studies.  My research investigates the interaction of popular pleasure and political power mainly in popular music but also in other forms of popular culture.  In addition to articles on Yoko Ono, Bob Dylan, the “Cop Killer” controversy, and racial difference in popular music, I have published articles that discuss the influence of varieties of poststructuralist thought and critical theory on cultural history, Ralph Ellison’s use of blackface, and the interplay of art and distinction in mid-twentieth century greeting cards.  My books have gone deeper into each of these areas, always combining an attempt to refine a particular theoretical perspective with an investigation of areas of everyday life typically understudied by scholars.  Dissonant Identities: The Rock’n’Roll Scene in Austin, Texas was one of the first studies of local music production.  A Token of My Affection: Greeting Cards and American Business Culture maps the rise of mass-marketed commodities of feeling onto the emergence of corporate capitalism.  My current project, “Silence, Noise, Beauty: The Political Agency of Music,” is a study of popular music’s power to create an embodied sense of the abstraction of political community in its listeners.  The manuscript is nearly complete, and it will be published by Duke University Press.  A sense of the book’s overarching argument can be gained by reading my most recent publication, “The Political Agency of Musical Beauty,” in the Autumn 2011 special issue on sound studies from American Quarterly.