Julian Schaap

Winner Research Prize 2020

Elvis Has Finally Left the Building? Boundary work, whiteness and the reception of rock music in comparative perspective.

Supervisor: Prof. dr. Koen van Eijck
Co-supervisor: Dr. Pauwke Berkers
Nomination: Erasmus University Rotterdam, Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Report by the selection committee

This dissertation researches to what extent and in what way ethno-racial divisions in music reception are constructed, maintained and/or dismantled. The thesis examines two central puzzles: our taste in music is not genetically determined, so what causes correlation between music and ethno-racial traits? And how is it that while some musical styles are correlated with ethno-racialities (rap, klezmer), others, like rock and country are not, in mainstream understanding? 

The thesis shows, focusing on rock music as a genre, that invisible markers of whiteness do dominate the consumption of rock music. Both declarative and non-declarative preferences of Americans and Dutch consumers of rock music are analyzed. The author uses a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods skillfully and by doing so, created a unique dataset which took the dissertation beyond narrow case-studies. In addition, the jury praised the fact that the thesis is beautifully embedded in scholarly methods and literature, whilst still being an exciting and readable book for non-specialists. A remarkable and original dissertation with great international social importance.