Katie Grant

Politics, Philosophy, and Punk

Katie Grant likes making intriguing connections between seemingly vastly different societal themes. Always drawn to music in general, she eventually developed a taste for punk. She began to think about Marxist thought within punk discourse, and about how she might contribute to this already lively discourse.  A native of Bedford, Nova Scotia, Katie graduated with an Honours BA in Political Science from Saint Mary’s University, and then came to Western’s Theory and Criticism program to pursue her master’s degree. 
The lyrics and tonal assault of punk music offer an aesthetic alternative to most of today’s romantically-tinged pop music. Katie’s interest in punk music began in junior high school. Attention to lyrics helped facilitate the beginnings of her exploration of politics, encouraged by one of her high school teachers, aptly named Mr. Plato. “I think I’ve always had music as part of my lens, if you will. That extended when I began to study political science and philosophy,” Katie says. Katie plans to bring Marx’s thought into dialogue with punk. She also will draw upon the thought of Theodor Adorno in her MA research. “Punk reads as a critique of society, as does Marx. Punk often takes a negative approach to this, challenging what love is, what art is. It’s decidedly cynical, maybe even more so than Marx, but there are many similarities in the critique. I’m very struck by the contradictions inherent to the love song as a commodity.” Katie’s working theme for her MA thesis is, “What does it mean for socialist thought if love is deemed untenable?”
grant 2.jpgMuch of socialist thought seeks to create community; it wants to improve conditions in the world; it seeks solutions. Punk, in contrast, is characterized by isolation, alienation, and a pessimistic view of both love and community. “Punk bands and people within the punk milieu did have a sense of community, but it was almost like a club—alienated from the mainstream and quite exclusive. When artists communicate not just a disgust with politicians, for example, but also about everyone, everything—including themselves—it makes leftist posturing complicated. That’s why I find this genre interesting and significant not just as a moment for music, but for socialist thought as well.” Among the bands studied in Katie’s thesis are The Clash, The Damned, Alternative TV, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. Her thesis will be guided by Dr. Christopher Keep of the Department of English and Acting Chair of the Theory Centre.
Katie chose the Theory Centre for her MA program because of the freedom it offers to students who want to  pursue unusual topics. “Other types of programs, such as political science or literature programs, tend to have more proscribed boundaries about what is possible in academic humanities research,” Katie suggests. “The Theory Centre is open to having students work across disciplines and allowing them to draw on resources that might be seen as untraditional. I’ve been incredibly pleased to have my research interests so welcomed here.”