Vivek Venkatesh talks about hate speech, freedom of expression, and his “Theatrics of Hate Speech” project.
The materials on this page are drawn from an interdisciplinary research program on metal music studies jointly led by SOMEONE Canada researchers Vivek Venkatesh, Jeffrey Podoshen , Jason Wallin and Tieja Thomas, along with a host of collaborators committed to building theoretical and practical intersections between the humanities and social sciences in better understanding the production, diffusion and consumption of hate speech in extreme metal music scenes. The content has been produced in partnership with Grimposium (http://grimposium.com) – an international touring festival and conference series squarely focused on issues of social, political and economic import in global extreme metal music scenes.
The materials are intended to engage our audiences in discussions – they are meant to generate fodder for debates in educational contexts, as well as provide the broader public with an opportunity to engage with materials produced directly from our field research. The multimedia provided below includes recordings of lectures, panel discussions, interviews as well as an improvisational reading performance. These materials will constantly be updated as more public engagement events are held under the SOMEONE and Grimposium banners.
These questions are intended to complement the interviews and panel sessions we conducted with scene members and might help guide potential debates and discussions for viewers of the materials on this page.
- What kinds of hate speech do the interviewees make reference to during their conversations with the researchers? Are these representative of the kinds of hate speech you have witnessed?
- Are there certain kinds of hate speech or hateful utterances that have become accepted within the extreme metal scene? What kinds of strategies do the interviewees propose to combat these systematic and accepted forms of hate? What kinds of strategies do you propose to help sensitize scene members about the ill effects of these types of such statements?
- Does freedom of expression or artistic liberty restrict a musician’s, visual artist’s or lyricist’s ability to create their artform? Is there a limit to artistic expression? How are some of the interviewees grappling with balancing their artistic freedom with being provocative and asking scene members to reflect on broad socio-political issues of discrimination?
Theatrics of Hate Speech
In this talk, Vivek Venkatesh speaks about the development of an interdisciplinary research program that looks at socio-communal, political and psychological factors impacting the production and dissemination of hate speech in the global extreme metal music scene. Drawing on examples from field observations, interviews, and multi-method content analyses from multiple sources of data, Vivek describes how themes of darkness, destruction, self-harm, xenophobia and dystopia blur consumption-related boundaries between musicians, fans, visual artists and journalists in underground extreme metal scenes. Implications for the development of social pedagogical curricula to build criticality and reflexivity in the general public towards issues of discrimination, racism, misogyny and other forms of intolerance are discussed.
Recorded at CICC (Centre International de Criminologie Compare), Université de Montréal. October, 2016.
Communal and Individual Politics in the Extreme Metal Artform
In this lecture, Vivek Venkatesh provides an overview of the research program he has been working on with his collaborators which illuminate the communal and individual factors that impact a variety of politics in the extreme metal music scene. Theoretical propositions about how the extreme metal scene engages in discussions of dystopia, destruction, blasphemy and religious intolerance in the current socio-political climate are introduced herein. In addition, Vivek also describes research findings about how black metal scene members use social media to discuss and debate issues related to racism. The footage includes reference to the documentary film entitled Blekkmetal (released in 2016); links to the trailer and exclusive live clips are included below.
Video of lecture
Taake – “Myr” live at Blekkmetal festival 2015
Conversations with Metal Music Scene Members
In August of 2015, in collaboration with our partners at evenko, a Montreal-based entertainment production and promotion company, and Grimposium, we conducted a series of interviews with musicians who performed at the Heavy Montreal festival. The interviews were fairly organic and semi-structured by nature – they probed musicians’ motivations in exploring darker facets and themes of social import including death, dystopia, loneliness and racism (amongst many others). We present these interviews to you as a way to expose elements of criticality and reflexivity in the scene, especially as members of the scene discuss some of the complex factors impacting the politics and economics of the metal scene.
Hiran Deraniyagala from Battlecross speaks with Vivek Venkatesh in this interview. Hiran talks about how social issues are addressed in metal including the global nature of metal. He also talks about belonging, metal as an outlet for anger, metal elitism, and Detroit.
Travis Ryan and Josh Elmore from Cattle Decapitation speak with Natalie Zina Walschots in this interview. Travis and Josh talk about chemistry in bands and changes in vocal style. They also talk about humanity, the environment, and religion.
John Gallagher from Dying Fetus speaks with Jason Netherton in this interview. John talks about changes to the metal scene. He touches on freedom of speech versus hate speech.
Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson from Enslaved speak with Vivek Venkatesh in this interview. Ivar and Grutle talk about their influences. They also talk how they receive both criticism and support.
Ihsahn from Emperor speaks with Vivek Venkatesh in this interview. Ihsahn talks about the evolution of black metal. He also talks about freedom of speech and censorship.
J.R. Hayes from Pig Destroyer speaks with Jason Netherton and Vivek Venkatesh in this interview. J.R. talks about controversy and criticism in metal as well as his own strong feelings again censorship.
Scott Kelly from Neurosis speaks with Natalie Zina Walschots in this interview. Scott talks about his creative process, the antisocial nature of what they are doing, and the intelligence of the fans.
David Davidson and Ash Pearson from Revocation speak with Natalie Zina Walschots in this interview. David and Ash talk about dystopia, the environment, privacy, and sexual impulse.
Jason Rockman from Slaves on Dope speaks with Vivek Venkatesh in this interview. Jason talks about his core values, gender equality, and the conscientious use of social media.
Chuck Billy from Testament speaks with Vivek Venkatesh in this interview. Chuck talks about community, policing of the scene, Native American heritage, and social media.
Sexual Violence and Misogyny in Lyrical and Literary Frameworks
This panel session explores psychoanalytic, literary and social psychological frameworks which assess how themes of sexual violence and misogyny are portrayed and negotiated within a variety of occidental cultural scenes. Speakers include Daniel Butler – a psychoanalytic psychotherapist by profession as well as visual artist, lyricist and vocalist with Oakland-based death metal band, Vastum; Leila Abdul-Rauf – a multi-instrumentalist, composer, lyricist, guitarist and vocalist in Bay Area metal bands Hammers of Misfortune and Vastum; Beth Winegarner – a journalist and author who has written about heavy metal and gender for the New Yorker and Invisible Oranges, and whose book “The Columbine Effect” explores how heavy metal and other scapegoated pastimes can be a healthy part of growing up; Brad Nelson – a feminist scholar from Concordia University with expertise in the literary works of Miguel de Cervantes and modern Scandinavian crime fiction; and Jason Wallin – a psychoanalyst, as well as media, youth culture and art education scholar from University of Alberta. The panel is moderated by Justin Norton, an established music writer based in the Bay Area. The panel is hosted by Vivek Venkatesh – a social psychologist from Concordia University with extensive embedded experience in Scandinavian extreme metal scenes.
Nathan A. Verrill, guitarist and songwriter with Bay Area doom metal trio Cardinal Wyrm, played an improvised session of electric guitar music to accompany readings of Bradley Nelson’s, Vivek Venkatesh’s and Jason Wallin’s works on the themes of necrophilia, misogyny and hate speech in extreme metal scenes.
Spectacles of Hate Speech
In this lecture, Vivek Venkatesh and his collaborator, Brad Nelson, provide an overview of how a combination of novel quantitative methods applied to critical discourse analysis, psychoanalytic approaches and humanities-based analytical techniques yield a multi-layered portrait of hate speech in the online realm of the global black metal scene.
Video of lecture
Video of Q&A