Liveness Anxiety: Karaoke and the Performance of Class

Kevin Brown

Abstract


This article discusses the performance of economic class using karaoke as a practical example, a way to talk about theories of identity that are difficult to pin down in purely theoretical terms. “The Karaoke Dream” discusses the dream of celebrity, the trope of upward mobility. “Highbrow / Lowbrow” discusses the history of class division, and suggests that karaoke breaks down these divisions. “Performing Class“ explores the ways that karaoke is used to perform one’s economic position in society. “Once More, With Irony” examines karaoke within the context of the ironic mode of performance and its relationship to the performance of class. Finally, “Liveness Anxiety” is revealed to be a symptom of the Western preoccupation with “live” performance. Ultimately, the article suggests that liveness is a fetish, a tool of the capitalist system of cultural production. In this context, performances of karaoke can be considered an act of resistance because they break down the barriers between “high” and “low” art. Kevin Brown is an Assistant Professor of Theatre at the University of Missouri. His publications include “Auslander’s Robot” and “The Auslander Test: Or, Of Bots and Humans” in the International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media. He has as well a particular interest in Thai theatre and performance.


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Popular Entertainment Studies ISSN 1837-9303