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date: 25 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

How can a sociological approach improve our understanding of country music? This chapter answers this question by focusing on the intersections between country music history and the core sociological theme of modernity. Challenging standard interpretations of country music as folk culture, it shows how the emergence of the popular commercial genre corresponds to the increasing modernization of the American South. The genre’s subsequent growth and evolution tracks central objects of sociological study including industrialization, geographic mobility, race and ethnic relations, the changing social class structure, political realignment in the United States, and (paradoxically) urbanization. Country music is comparatively understudied in the sociology of music despite its rich history and massive popularity; this chapter shows that the genre and the discipline nevertheless mutually illuminate one another in robust and often surprising ways.

Keywords: country music, modernity, American South, popular music, urbanization, ethnic relations

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