Material and Digital Identity Negotiation of Francophone Music Artists: Decolonizing Diversity-Focused Festivals in Canada

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Thompson, Michelle




Since the 1950s, a new wave of music festivals has emerged in North America in response to the systematic exclusion and cultural gatekeeping cultural organizations have historically conducted. This has created a more inclusive space for marginalized artists and communities in which political discourse and anti-discrimination movements have become the focus (Getz, 2010; Duffy & Mair, 2021; Quinn, 2005; Li, Moore & Smythe, 2018; Wilson, Arshed, Shaw & Pret, 2016; Bekenshtein, 2020; Fernandez, 2006). This study highlights some of Canada's diversity-focused festivals, which are founded on the principles of multiculturalism and support the national narrative of a welcoming nation. However, these events sometimes reproduce existing societal conditions that position racially marginalized people as the "Other". The study applies a digital ethnography (DE) methodology (Pink, 2012, 2013, Postill, 2008, 2010a, 2010b, 2011) to investigate the promotional activities festivals and marginalized music artists conduct as they negotiate existing power imbalances, cultural hegemony, and language hierarchies. Between July and November 2019, I carried out field visits to five Canadian festivals that focus on diversity and multiculturalism. I collected field notes, photos, videos, and audio recordings, and captured 1083 Facebook posts from the events and the artists who performed there. Through digital content analysis and ethnographic inquiry, the data revealed that racially marginalized francophone music artists express fluid and hybrid identities constructed by multilingualism, geographic mobility, and their musical influences. These identities are evident in the music styles artists express, the languages they use, and the symbolic meaning of their Facebook content. The findings show that festivals are largely apolitical and focused on the commodification of diversity and multiculturalism. This commodification can nationalize, fetishize, exotify, and culturally appropriate the identities of marginalized communities. As a result, festivals can reproduce difference rather than create the social cohesion they aspire to. Music artists use strategies like hashtag activism, code-switching, music remix, public speaking, and content curation to negotiate these social constraints. In doing so, they challenge the compartmentalization of the music industry and introduce positive representations of marginalized communities.


Canadian Studies
Information Science




Carleton University

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Canadian Studies

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Theses and Dissertations

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