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"Ready to spread": P-Funk and the politics of signifyin(g) Open Access


Other title
funk, signifying, music, p-funk, signifyin(g), signifyin', heteroglossia, african-american music, popular music, african-american literature, ethnography
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Doleac, Benjamin G
Supervisor and department
Frishkopf, Michael (Music)
Examining committee member and department
Zackodnik, Teresa (English and Film Studies)
Moshaver, Maryam (Music)
Department of Music

Date accepted
Graduation date
Master of Arts
Degree level
The practice of appropriating a sign, icon or trope with an already-established meaning and investing it with a new meaning to produce a sign that retains both original and revised meanings is one example of what scholar Henry Louis Gates calls “Signifyin(g)”. I argue herein that musician George Clinton and his band P-Funk encode a subversive political program and a philosophy of life – a radically hybrid vision of cosmic liberation which I will call “heteroglossic utopia” – in their music, lyrics, visual iconography, stage performances and indeed their entire underlying social formation through the practice of Signifyin(g). In making this claim I draw extensively on a historical survey of Signifyin(g) practice in African American literature and music, the scholarship of Gates, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Paul Gilroy, and a series of interviews I conducted with Clinton and members of P-Funk while following them on tour in July of 2010.
License granted by Benjamin Doleac ( on 2011-09-27T19:11:44Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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