Julian Schaap

Winner Dissertation 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 the extent to which and way in which ethno-racial divisions are constructed, maintained and/or dismantled in the reception of music. The thesis examines two central puzzles. First, our taste in music is not genetically determined, so what causes correlation between music and ethno-racial traits? Second, how is it that while some musical styles are correlated with ethno-racialities (rap, klezmer), others, like rock and country, are not generally understood as such? 

Focusing on rock music as a genre, the thesis shows that invisible markers of whiteness 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 skilfully and by doing so, he creates a unique data set 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 relevance.