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Queering German Studies

“Alle Sternchen mitgemeint1

Queer Popular Music Festivals and the Grassroots Reception of Queer Theories in Post-Wende Germany
Louise Barrière


Dans cet article, j’analyse la réception communautaire des théories queer au sein des festivals queer de musiques populaires de l’Allemagne “Post-Wende”. Je soutiens que les théories queer ne se développent pas uniquement à l’université, et observe comment organisateurs, participants et musiciens construisent une compréhension des identités queer répondant tant à des circulations internationales qu’à des élaborations locales. Ainsi, j’observe d’abord comment le recours à des symboles et des néo-pronons permet de “queeriser” la linguistique allemande. Je considère ensuite l’impact de ces procédés sur l’atmosphère et les rituels des festivals. Enfin, je me penche sur la manière dont les théories et identités queer se manifestent dans l’écriture musicale, grâce à une étude du rap de Sookee.

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  • 1 The last phrase of Sookee’s song, Frauen mit Sternchen (Sookee, 2014).
  • 2 Here “DIY” stands for “Do-It-Yourself” and designates grassroots festivals that rely on voluntary (...)

1Germany has a flourishing scene of queer and feminist DIY2 music festivals, inspired by the American punk movements of the Riot Grrrls and Queercore in the 1990s. As communal spaces where queer young people temporarily gather, their organization often follows a similar pattern: concerts and parties by night and workshops and debates during the day.

2Between the late 1980s and the early 1990s, the Queercore movement appeared in Toronto, Canada, before it reached the United States. The movement opposed male dominance, masculinism and heteronormativity in the (hardcore) punk scenes, and contested the assimilationism of traditional LGBT organizations. Shortly after Queercore’s birth, the Riot Grrrl movement simultaneously emerged in Olympia (the capital of Washington State) and in Washington DC, as a way for young women to claim space in the male-dominated punk scene. In the following years, the Riot Grrrls’ inspirational stance spread to various North American and British territories. But despite its significant impact on North America and the United Kingdom, the Riot Grrrl movement “remained quiet” in Germany at that time (Peglow, 2011).

3In 2000, the first festival named “Ladyfest” was organized in Olympia, Riot Grrrl’s original location. The all-female organizing team established a program including workshops, debates, concerts and parties, centered around feminist issues in music, art worlds and everyday life. This first event inspired international collectives, which replicated the concept around the world (Zobl, 2004). The phenomenon arrived in Germany in 2003, and three festivals were organized in Berlin, Hamburg and Leipzig.

  • 3 For instance, the organizers of the Dresden Ladyfest wrote in 2005 a press release that “The lady (...)

4The links between these three movements are not always clear: while scholars such as Susan O’Shea (2014), Elke Zobl & Kristen Schilt (2008) have built bridges between the Ladyfest and Riot Grrrl movements, others, such as Elizabeth K. Keenan and Sarah Dougher (2012), have warned against rushing to establish such connections. Moreover, though several German Ladyfests claim links with the Riot Grrrl movement,3 they also make connections to queer concerns and music worlds. Most of them renamed themselves “Lady*Fest”, “Lady_fest” or “L*dyfest”, using typographical symbols that stem from German queer linguistics (as I show below).

5The ways that German Ladyfest organizers divide their festival schedules between workshops and debates in the daytime, and concerts and parties in the nighttime, ensure that the events participate in the development of an interdisciplinary queer-feminism. Not only does this reflect transnational influences from the US, but it further highlights the intersection of pop culture and politics.

6In this article, I analyze the circulation of queer concepts and identities within German DIY queer music festivals, as an illustration of the transatlantic grassroots reception of queer theories. I argue that queerness has circulated and evolved globally, and demonstrate how German queer music festivals shape new linguistic forms, a process that also impacts the events’ atmosphere and rituals. Finally, I look at the manifestation of queer theories and identities in songwriting through the study of Sookee’s rap music. Over the course of the article, I also highlight the blindspot of the queer festival scenes, i.e. racial and trans politics.

Corpus and methodology

7111 DIY queer music festivals have been organized in Germany since the early 2000s and there have been 28 since the beginning of my PhD research, in 2017. Most of these events are part of the Ladyfest movement. Yet, others have been added to my research corpus based on the following criteria:

8(1) “Do-it-Yourself” festivals whose presentation made an explicit reference to the Riot Grrrl or the Queercore movement (e.g., Grrrl Fest Berlin);

9(2) “Do-it-Yourself” festivals with a queer-feminist aim and a schedule that comprises workshops, debates and concerts (e.g., Noc Walpurgii).

10As part of this research, I have analysed the communication materials of the 111 festivals I had identified. To do so, I have closely looked at the nature of the activities they offered, but have also carefully listened to their bands and solo musicians. Following such a historical, ethnomusicological approach has provided me with a sense of the political and musical atmosphere of each event.

11In the second stage of my investigation, I engaged in field ethnography. Between 2017 and 2019, I participated in approximately 15 festivals, followed their debates, activities, concerts and parties. I took notes of the unwinding of the events, and had many informal and some recorded conversations with participants and organisers. During these 15 festivals, I embodied several roles, from being a casual attendee, to being a musician and workshop facilitator. Looking at the events from various perspectives has given me a thorough understanding of the scene.

Queer theories and language in Post-Wende Germany: grass roots queering of linguistics

12Queer theorists and activists argue that gender is not natural, rather it is performed. It is coded (and decoded) in our behaviors, clothes, and, of course, language. As highlighted by Monique Wittig (1985) or Judith Butler’s (1999: 41-42) analyses, language is a site of power and participates in enacting gender norms. Butler’s theory of performativity further links discourse, language and gender.

13Queer activists have also developed a strong critique of gender and sexual binaries (the opposition of masculinity and femininity), aiming to blur the line between men and women by performing untraditional, and thus non-binary, gender identities. Queer theories, and their critical approach to gender, have therefore had a strong impact on the way we write and speak. Though deconstructing gender norms necessarily leads to deconstructing linguistic norms, few academic publications have focused on the queering of the German language (for notable exceptions, see for instance Motschenbacher, 2014 or Hord, 2016).

14Some academic institutions nonetheless provide guidelines to “inclusive writing”. The following example of a queer, inclusive writing norm is taken out of academic resources, but is similar to what one can witness in subcultural scenes: a document released by the Universität zu Köln (2017) states that possibilities to represent linguistically “the entire spectrum of genders” include “the gender gap ‘_’ and the gender asterisk ‘*’”. Both symbols are deemed to counter “the well-established gender system [which] is based on the existence of two clearly identifiable genders, namely men and women”, and marginalises intersex people and some trans people. The Gender_Gap (also sometimes termed Unterstrich) and the Gender-Sternchen are basically similar. Yet they also have some specific characteristics. The Universität zu Köln explains that both signs operate as a “linguistic representation beyond the [gender] binary system” (2017). The university recalls the origins of the Gender Gap, tracing its use back to Steffen Herrmann’s 2003 article “Performing the Gap – Queer Figures and Sexual Appropriation,” in which the philosopher “advocated for a linguistic representation of all genders.” Finally, the document opens a debate around the gender gap. While its critics “think it portrays the identities beyond the binary matrix as a ‘blank space’ and thus denies their existence”, its advocates perceive it as an “emancipatory symbol” that provides us with “a space for the development of new identities, as in an emancipatory symbol.”

15Though these examples rely on academic sources, it should also be noted that the importation of North American queer theories had at first generated strong debates within German universities (see Möser, 2007). Yet, outside of the academic world, grassroots and activist initiatives participated initially in the circulation of queer theories and concepts in Germany. Queer DIY music festivals are part of them. Regarding language, and queer linguistics, festivals often provide their attendees with glossaries, in order to make the events and their communication materials more accessible to people who do not have a university degree. These glossaries introduce the key terms and concepts of a queer vocabulary. The 2015 Lady*fest in Kassel for instance brought up to bring forward definitions of “queer,” or “Heteronormativität”. At the top of the list, one could read:

“The Sternchen*, just as the Unter_Strich (Gender_Gap) define and open up a space between, under, over, above, below, across the prevailing binary categories. It points out that there are always more categories of sex, gender, identity, desire, and so on, than the common words of ‘man’, ‘woman’, ‘heterosexuality’ and ‘homosexuality’ might express” (Lady*Fest Kassel 2015, emphasis in the original document).

16Both of these signs also appear in the names of several queer DIY music festivals. For instance, the second edition of the Ladyfest Köln was renamed “_fest” (pronounced “gapfest”). Explaining this decision to change the name of the festival, the organizers recalled the ideas of Steffen Herrmann, thus showing that queer theories do indeed circulate between the academic and underground music worlds.

17Indeed, a form of queer knowledge has also been theorized, developed, popularized and implemented within queer DIY music festivals, and the aforementioned examples illustrate the grassroots development of a queer theory of German linguistics.

18Yet, queer theory’s focus on discourse shows some limits. As trans studies and trans activists have highlighted, queer theories might give the idea that one “possesses absolute agency and is able to craft hir gender with perfect felicity” (Salamon, 2010). In so doing, they often fail to acknowledge the different kinds of violence – symbolic, verbal, physical, sexual – experienced by trans people, as stressed by Jay Prosser’s analysis of Judith Butler (2012). Such voluntaristic readings of Butler’s theories are also contested (see Cervulle, 2016: 44). Yet, they have largely been adopted within the queer movements I have observed in Germany. And while language is, without a doubt, one of the site where power relationships are enacted, it surely is not the only one. Thus, separating discourse from material and embodied conditions of living is a perilous process. The concerns voiced by Salamon and Prosser, amongst others, should surely be taken into account while reading this article: it is not neutral for queer movements to consider gender as a first and foremost discursive issue and performative experience.

Queering the atmosphere of DIY music scenes

19In August 2019, on a Saturday morning, and after a short walk in the city of Heidelberg, I finally arrived in front of the Breidenbach Studios, where the 6th edition of the local Lady*Fest was going to take place the whole day long. A rainbow flag was hanging in front of the venue. Not long after entering, someone handed me a pen and a piece of adhesive paper and said “Wir machen Namen und Pronomen Tag.” Name and pronoun tags are a common practice in queer underground spaces, which I had already experienced several times before. While remembering an interview I had done a year earlier, in Berlin, and during which one of my interviewees told me that no one ever asked for their pronouns outside of a queer feminist punk event, I picked up the pen and the piece of tape, and wrote my name and pronouns. The label I then stuck on my shirt noted, “Louise, Sie.” During the breakfast and the following workshops, I sometimes glimpsed at other attendees’ name and pronoun tags. Most of them displayed the classic feminine or masculine German pronouns, “Sie” or “Er”. Sometimes, though, I read the uncanny “Sie_Er”, “Sie*Er”, “Es” or even “Xie”. During the rest of the day, every single person who entered the venue was, soon or later, asked to display their names and pronouns on a similar adhesive paper.

  • 4 Stephen Duncombe defines zines as “noncommercial, nonprofessional, small-circulation magazines wh (...)

20Later that day, as we were taking a break between workshops in the backyard of the Breidenbach Studios, I glance at some zines,4 carefully placed on a table. Some of these micro-magazines addressed queer identities. I took one of them, intrigued by its title: Nichtbinäre Pronomen. Inside, I discovered an extensive list of examples of neither masculine nor feminine German pronouns, ranging from the ones I had noticed earlier, to “Hän”, “Nin”, or “X”. The zine explained when, where and why each of them was originally created, how they are used, and what their limits are. More importantly, the zine also specified their declensions.

21While uncanny for any newcomer or outsider of the scene, asking the attendees to display and even invent pronouns of their choice, helps the festivals shape a queer environment and atmosphere. While festivals let the attendants introduce themselves with whatever pronouns and names they chose, such events thus authorize a distinction between physical appearance and chosen gender identity. Neutral pronouns – that is, pronouns that are neither completely feminine nor completely masculine – transcend the traditional expectations of gender binarism. People presented as feminine might as well reclaim masculine names and pronouns (and vice versa), while some people create new pronouns, drawing on the basis of masculine and feminine pronouns, plus “Sternchen” or “Unterstrich”. Others reclaim the traditional German neutral pronoun, and finally a last category of people create pronouns out of (almost) nothing. All these possibilities allow the attendees to shape and perform their identities outside of binary gender norms. Grassroots documentation, such as the Nichtbinäre Pronomen zine, provides the attendees with explanations on how to make good use of these neo-pronouns. In doing so, queer festivals accompany their participants in their experimentation and navigation of queerness and queer worlds.

22Yet, this is also made possible through a large range of workshops.

“Outside the box – a theoretical and practical approach to fluid gender identities

In opposition to what is usually assumed, most sciences are not so sure any more about the permanent and binary character of sex. More and more research results are telling us what so many people have known for years: sex, gender, desire, identity in general are fluid!
 This workshop is divided in two parts: the first one is about confronting common assumptions with all the arguments that are out there and that shows us how sex is constructed. (...)

In the second part, we will try on new gender identities – in a literal sense! Equipped with binders, glue, bras, packers and other performance accessories, we will try to discover, rediscover or investigate other parts of our identity. This is not about wearing a costume nor is it about substituting one of the predetermined performances for the other: the aim is to enlarge our own possibilities” (Ladyfest Berlin 2013).

23In such a workshop, participants are invited to experiment with drag practices. The workshop facilitators lend the attendees various “performance accessories” in order to have them “try on new gender identities.” Here drag conveys a self-reflexive dimension: during the time of the workshop, participants are going to experiment with crossing gender boundaries, and with their own gender expression – a process that leads them to explore a new side of their own identity, as suggested by the final sentence: “the aim is to enlarge our own possibilities.”

24Relying on such workshops, queer feminist DIY music festivals encourage everybody to experiment with their own gender identity; a process that is hardly possible in their daily lives. Indeed, festivals are known to provide a space that cuts off their attendees from their daily lives. The rules that regulate the social space of the queer_feminist music festival are therefore different than the rules which regulate the social space of each attendee’s daily life. Rituals such as name and pronoun tags, or “fluid gender identity” workshops provide the attendees a way to perform and embody identities hidden behind typographical signs as the “Unterstrich” and the “Sternchen”. Queer music festivals shape singular spaces where these gender identities are, for once, fluid and chosen by the festivals’ attendees, and not socially determined and fixed.

25Meanwhile, such understanding of gender and identities also highlights the divide between queer and trans activisms. The fluid gender identity workshop only provides the participants the possibility to discover reversible actions: changing pronouns and clothes, modifying one’s body presentation with accessories, etc. And although the festivals often conflate queer and trans issues, they do not deal with the specific barriers faced by trans people: experiences of transphobia and cissexism, difficulties to access hormones and surgeries, or to change one’s legal name and gender identity, etc. Such questions constitute the blindspots of the German queer festivals I have observed (with some exceptions, such as a discussion on transmisogyny within feminist movements at Ladyfest Berlin 2014).

Queering songwriting: Sookee’s rap multilingualism and coalitional politics

26Finally, queerness and queer identities also impact music and songwriting. Despite their roots in punk-inspired movements, such as Queercore and Riot Grrrls, contemporary DIY queer music festivals have diversified their music programs. In 2005, Elizabeth Bridges was already able to identify links between the Ladyfest Berlin and the local electronic music scene. She associated the “electronic music” turn of the Berliner Ladyfest with the influence of the Love Parade, an event that had become increasingly popular within the German capital. Yet, German Ladyfests and DIY queer music festivals have not only turned to EDM: over the years, they have also booked hip hop, folk, metal or even jazz and traditional music bands.

27The rapper Sookee is one of the most programed artists in the German DIY queer feminist music festival scene. For this specific reason, I have chosen to focus this last part of my article on her music. Though I would like to have included other musicians’ productions, due to space limitations, I preferred to analyze only Sookie’s work in more depth.

28Sookee started her music career in 2003 (Friedensfestival, 2013), and decided to call it a day in late 2019 (Schwesig, 2019). In 16 years, she produced five albums (Discogs, 2019). Her music is highly influenced by politics and power relationships, and she has even been criticized for the complexity of her lyrics (Heinrich, 2020). She holds university degrees and has participated to self-reflexive projects in which she has explained her musical approach and political views at length (see Manemann & Brock, 2018). While Maria Katharina Wiedlack has already observed “how punk rock is capable of communicating queer-feminist theoretical positions in a non-academic setting” (2013), it should be noted that Sookee’s lyrics are even more elaborate than the traditional punk rock songs, which are generally of a shorter format that does not allow for extensive lyrics.

29Sookee has also renamed herself “the quing of Berlin” (Erkens, 2012). The word “quing” mashes-up “queen” and “king”, and therefore locates her musical persona beyond the gender binary. The words “queen” and “king” carry a specific meaning both in hip hop culture (see Dimitriadis, 1996) and in the drag and ballroom culture (Rupp & Taylor, 2007); two universes sharing African American roots. In calling herself “quing”, Sookee publicly embodies a queer identity and queers her musical influences.

  • 5 Sookee played at the Grrrl Fest Berlin in 2009, Ladyfest Berlin and Ladyfest Trier in 2010, Ladyf (...)

30Sookee performed eight concerts within the German DIY queer feminist music festivals that are included in the corpus here.5 Most of these events occurred between 2010 and 2012. At roughly the same time, the rapper released her album Bitches, Butches Dykes and Divas (2011). The title also refers to one specific song, whose writing underpins Sookee’s multilingualism: while both of the verses are written in German, the introduction is in English, and the hook mixes both languages. Within the song, most of the English occurrences actually repeat its title: “Bitches, butches, dykes and divas”. Another song from the album reflects a similar writing structure: in “Purpleize hip hop” the verses are, once again, in German, while the title, the hook (“How can one purpleize hip hop? | We don’t imitate – we intimidate”) and the bridge are in English.

31Multilingualism is indeed a common feature in hip hop songwriting and has been deemed a “key issue in the sociolinguistics of hip hop” (Androtsopoulos, 2010: 19). Yet, multilingual songwriting also encompasses various situations. Laidi & Omobowale (2011) observe that Nigerian rap lyrics often mix English, perceived as the global language of hip hop, and local popular or vernacular languages. This process does not solely “[allow] an artist to engage in social dialogue with his audience” (470), but also affords their lyrics new rhythm and flow constructions. Moving to a different context, Androtsopoulos (2010) analyses the uses of “migrant languages” in German rap. In his case study, rappers do not resort to English language at all: they use German as a “base language” and incorporate “migrant languages” in shorter or longer portions of each song. There, multilingualism symbolizes an experience of diaspora. Finally, Quentin E. Williams has noted that the use of multiple languages (namely English and Cape Afrikaans) in hip hop cyphers of Cape Town illustrates “how youths on the Cape Flats use English and Cape Afrikaans to interact with each other, not only in hip-hop spaces but in other spaces as well.” (2010:41)

32Here, the ways in which Sookee switches between German and English, could refer to the global and local languages of rap music. But it also illustrates the transatlantic circulation of feminist and queer theories. In the English-speaking world, “bitches”, “butches”, “dykes” and “divas” are indeed well-known queer or female identities, all drawing on derogatory terms. Looking at the representations of Black women in popular culture, Patricia Hill Collins has highlighted that:

“Representations of Black women as bitches abound in contemporary popular culture, and presenting Black women as bitches is designed to defeminize and demonize them. But just as young Black men within hip hop culture have reclaimed the term nigger and used it for different ends, the term bitch and the image of Black women that it carries signals a similar contestation process.” (2004:123)

33The images of the diva, the butch and the dyke, convened in Sookee’s song title, convey an identical “contestation process” as well. According to Dionne P. Stephens and Layli D. Philipps the diva is another trope of African American women’s sexual script in contemporary popular culture, described as:

“African American adolescent female Divas are viewed as ‘having an attitude,’ where they see themselves as someone to be worshiped and adored. Divas surround themselves with people that will do this, not caring about the substance of these relationships or reasons for this attention.” (2003:15)

34In queer spaces, “dykes” is a common slang word for lesbians, while “butches” specifically refers to masculine lesbians. As Collins puts it: “On one level, freak, nigger, bitch, and faggot are just words. But on another level, these terms are situated at an ideological crossroads that both replicates and resists intersecting oppressions” (2004:121). Bringing these terms into a song whose core language (Motschenbacher, 2013) is German, highlights their circulation within Western queer_feminist movements. Moreover, their conflation in the song’s title and hooks bridges a gap between the identities they represent, and, in doing so, outlines a sense of queer-feminist, coalition politics.

35Besides, Sookee’s music is also interesting for its intertextuality, and she keeps referring to pieces released on Bitches, Butches, Dykes und Divas in her further works. Indeed, she seems to quote both songs “Bitches, Butches, Dykes und Divas” and “Purpleize hip hop” in “Frauen mit Sternchen”, a song released on a later album entitled Lila Samt, in 2014. Although Sookee has not toured DIY queer music festivals with this album, the song is still worth examining.

36In “Frauen mit Sternchen”, the rapper lists a wide range of queer identities. Even before considering the lyrics, the title already recalls the previously mentioned “Sternchen”. The identities listed in the song text are symbolized in the title by the word “Sternchen”. Throughout the text, and though the first verse is entirely in German, there is a random interplay of English and German terms. English terms include, for example: Bitches, Butches, Femmes, Quings, Queers, Riot Grrrls, and Tomboys. While German terms include: Denker*Innen, Blaustrümpfe, König*Innen, Tribaden, and Amazonen. I would at this point like to stress that even though certain derogatory terms are commonly used in German within the German queer scenes, Sookee does not systematically resort to them: in “Frauen mit Sternchen”, she never says “Schwule”, but uses the English “fags”. I hypothesize that she does this for reasons of rhythm, or the flow of the text, within the song.

  • 6 Tracing a history of German feminist movements, Michaela Karl describes a genealogy from “the ‘hy (...)

37Blending two languages (here, English and German) is part of the construction of a queer vocabulary shaped by international circulation of concepts as well as by their local reception. Queer theories, as they are understood in queer DIY music festivals, are not solely a matter of self-presentation, but also impact how artists write music. Songs experiment with gender, as much as attendees of the festivals did during the workshops I analyzed earlier. The rapper addresses her music to a specific public that is widely described within the lyrics. Her text highlights and celebrates identities that are usually marginalized within music scenes. It testifies to the circulation of English terms for queer identities within a German-speaking scene (“Butches”, “Tomboys”, “Fags”), and, at the same time, underpins the history of German queer or feminist movements (“Blaustrümpfe”, “Emanzen”).6 The song contributes to an acknowledgement of the co-construction of the queer German movements, between American and national influences.

  • 7 Sampling is a common practice in rap music and has been highly researched. For an introductory ap (...)

38Yet, “Frauen mit Sternchen” does not end once Sookee is done with rapping and enumerating this long list of identities. In fact, in the recorded version of the song (from 01:50 onwards), the rhythm of the instrumental backing track starts to slow down. Suddenly the drums hand over to layers of strings, until a voice reappears – but not Sookee’s. At 02:10, a sample begins,7 and a female voice starts chanting, in English: “Your revolution ain't gonna knock me up without no ring | And produce little future emcees.” This is a reference to Sarah Jones’ “Your Revolution.”

39In “Your Revolution” (produced in 1999), Sarah Jones both pays homage and parodies Gill Scott Heron’s poem and song “The Revolution will not be televised” (1971). Her text criticizes male rapper’s masculinism. Though Sookee’s rap and Jones’ sample are separated with a musical transition, their messages are not opposed, but appear united. By sampling Jones, Sookee, a white German feminist rapper, acknowledges and respects the African American roots of rap music, and more specifically the art of a Black feminist woman. In so doing, Sookee manifests intersectional and intercultural solidarity.

40More generally, however, the queer and feminist punk roots of the contemporary DIY queer music scenes have lacked such a multicultural coalition, as highlighted by Mimi Thi Nguyen’s work (Nguyen, 2012). On the other hand, critics have often equated hip hop culture with sexism, misogyny and homophobia. Such a point of view appears as a scapegoating cliché, and further marginalizes women and queer people’s voice within hip hop culture, according to Matthew Santana (2019). In proposing a form of multilingual rap, and referring to both the predominantly White American subculture of the Riot Grrrls and the African American feminist artist Sarah Jones within the same piece, Sookee’s rap emphasizes that the German DIY queer music festival scene has not really taken an “electronic music turn”, as Bridges (2005) has posited. Instead, it has taken a more “multi-subcultural turn”, reflecting a queer-feminist connection, “traversing punk, hip hop, and other scenes to trace their entangled genealogies” (Nguyen, 2012:186).

41Drawing on queer linguistics and popular music studies, I have aimed to show that the queer vibe of DIY festivals is shaped by language, self-presentation techniques, workshops and musical contents. Queer, non-binary identities are claimed and performed by the audience but also by the artists on stage. That sense of queerness crosses language (through pronouns or names of gender identities, as listed in Sookee’s lyrics), corporeality (through gender experimentation workshops), and social rituals (name and pronoun labels). The characteristics of queerness I have analyzed are marked by both an appropriation of terms and behaviors inspired by the queer English-speaking world and the creation of a German queer language.

42Sookee’s songs, while exemplifying the transatlantic reception of queer theories, are also inhabited by a variety of characters: some of these are German, others are North American, some are queer, others are feminists, some are white, others are Black or African American, some are punk rockers, while others still are key figures of a hip hop culture. The unity of Sookee’s musical production and its intertextuality brings them together in a multi-subcultural coalition.

43Yet, not all of the musicians and bands who perform in DIY queer music festivals rely on multilingualism as part of a queer songwriting process. Other strategies might include blurring the borders between music genres, Camp costumes, or cross-singing (i.e., the vocal counterpart of cross-dressing). Their analysis may constitute further developments of my research.

44More generally, the blind spots of German queer festivals should also be investigated in further depth. While the events often claim to be “trans inclusive” and “intersectional”, the scene remains predominantly white, and its queer reading of gender, focusing on discourse and performativity, often fails to address the issues faced by trans people.

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1 The last phrase of Sookee’s song, Frauen mit Sternchen (Sookee, 2014).

2 Here “DIY” stands for “Do-It-Yourself” and designates grassroots festivals that rely on voluntary work and finances, following a non-profit, anti-capitalist perspective.

3 For instance, the organizers of the Dresden Ladyfest wrote in 2005 a press release that “The lady is a grrrl”.

4 Stephen Duncombe defines zines as “noncommercial, nonprofessional, small-circulation magazines which their creators produce, publish and distribute by themselves” (1997:9).

5 Sookee played at the Grrrl Fest Berlin in 2009, Ladyfest Berlin and Ladyfest Trier in 2010, Ladyfest Darmstadt and Ladyfest Münster in 2011, Göttingen’s Antifee festival, L*dyfest Aachen, and at the Ladyfest Leipzig in 2012.

6 Tracing a history of German feminist movements, Michaela Karl describes a genealogy from “the ‘hysterical Blaustrümpfen’ of the 19th century, who would get masculinized as soon as they set a foot on the floor of a university, to the ‘aggressive Emanzen’ of the 1960s, who simply could not get a husband” (2015: 636).

7 Sampling is a common practice in rap music and has been highly researched. For an introductory approach see for instance Pelleter & Leta (2007).

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Louise Barrière, « “Alle Sternchen mitgemeint” »Trajectoires [En ligne], 14 | 2021, mis en ligne le 22 juillet 2021, consulté le 13 juin 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Louise Barrière

Doctorante en arts du spectacle et musique, Université de Lorraine

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