Stephen Catterall
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Keith Gildart
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Race, gender, sexuality and the politics of northern soul
in Keeping the faith
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This chapter explores racial identities and how they were understood and reconstructed through the northern soul scene. The multiracial and anti-racist aspects of northern soul are critically assessed in order to challenge existing assumptions. Critically, the chapter notes the transatlantic aspect of northern soul and the dynamics connected with the reception and interpretation of what was perceived as an essentially black American musical genre consumed by a largely white British working-class audience. The chapter also unpicks tensions within the scene around notions of gender and sexuality. Northern soul seemingly constructed a space where young men and women shared a commitment to music and dance. In contrast to other leisure activities, women were said to have played an equal role. Moreover, many felt that the scene provided a safer environment than conventional nightclubs and discos where women were seen as sexual objects seeking heterosexual relationships. Yet this view has been somewhat romanticised and it is clear that northern soul was heavily gendered, with males often policing aspects of the scene and defining what was and what was not northern soul. The chapter concludes with some discussion of the sexuality of the scene in the period when commercial disco presented a challenge – both real and perceived – to the music policy of some of the most prominent northern soul clubs.

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Keeping the faith

A history of northern soul


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