Country Music, Geography, and Genre as Socio-Spatial Action

Authors: Michael Longan*, Valparaiso University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Communication, Rural Geography
Keywords: country music, musical geographies, genre, space
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 46
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


There is a similarity of experience, a familiarity, that a fan of country music feels walking into a country dance hall no matter where it is located. Though geographers frequently debate the nature and validity of classifications of space (the city, the country, etc.) we rarely describe places as having genre. Nor have we developed a theory of generic space, despite genre’s clear influence upon the production of space. Scholars of genre theory frequently use spatial metaphor to interpret genre, describing genres as spaces in which similar works are located. Such metaphors depend upon absolute understandings of both space and genre as systems of classification. The relationship between genre and space becomes more than metaphorical when both are understood in relative or relational terms. In relative terms, the genre of a work denotes its location relative to a genre ideal in a conceptual generic space. In relational terms, genre incorporates the social context of a work’s production. Thus, genre theorists describe genre as a form of “social action,” or more specifically as “typified rhetorical action” rooted in a “recurrent situation” (Miller 1984). Drawing upon Lefebvre’s (1991) ideas about the inseparability of society and space, genre can be understood as “socio-spatial action” or indeed as a kind of typified social space. The concept of social spatialization, (Shields 1991) describes the process through which social representations become associated with spaces. Recognizing the generic quality of representations and their spaces helps us to understand the co-production of musical genre and space.

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