Karen Tongson

Associate Professor of English and Gender Studies

Contact Information
E-mail: tongson@usc.edu
Phone: (213) 740-2817
Office: THH 402K

Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries | NYU Press
Journal of Popular Music Studies
Postmillennial Pop Book Series | NYU Press

Biographical Sketch

Professor Karen Tongson joined the USC faculty in English and Gender Studies in fall 2005. She received her Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley. Before coming to USC, Tongson held a University of California President's Postdoctoral Fellowship in Literature at UC San Diego, and a UC Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI) Residential Research Fellowship at UC Irvine. Tongson's work on popular culture, queer studies, performance, music and literature has appeared in such journals as Social Text, GLQ, Nineteenth-Century Literature, Novel: A Forum on Fiction, and The International Journal of Communication, as well as in the anthologies Queering the Popular Pitch (Routledge), and The Blackwell Companion to LGBTQ Studies (eds. Haggerty and McGarry). Her first book, Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries, was published August 1, 2011, as part of the New York University Press Sexual Cultures Series. Professor Tongson is also a co-founder of the culture industry webzine OH! INDUSTRY (2007-2010). She is currently the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Popular Music Studies (alongside Gustavus Stadler), Series Editor of Postmillennial Pop at NYU Press (with Henry Jenkins), and Events Editor for the journal, American Quarterly. Her latest book project, Empty Orchestra: Karaoke. Critical. Apparatus. offers a critique of prevailing paradigms of originality and imitation in aesthetics and critical theory, while exploring karaoke cultures, technologies, techniques and desires.


  • B.A. English, University of California, Los Angeles, 1995
  • Ph.D. English, University of California, Berkeley, 2003

  • Postdoctoral Training

    • Residential Research Fellow, University of California Humanities Research Institute (UC Irvine), 01/01/2004-07/01/2004  
    • President's Postdoctoral Fellow in Literature (UCSD), University of California , 06/01/2003-05/30/2005  

    Academic Appointment, Affiliation, and Employment History

    • Visting Assistant Professor, New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, Spring 2010   

    Description of Research

    Research Specialties
    Queer & Gender Studies; Minority Discourse; Popular Culture (Pop Music, TV, Entertainment & Media Cultures); Suburban Studies; Performance; Los Angeles & the Southern California Region; Contemporary Literature; 19th-Century British Literature; Theory; Aesthetics

    Affiliations with Research Centers, Labs, and Other Institutions

    • University of California Humanities Research Institute, http://flatiron.sdsc.edu/projects/uchri/main.php?page_id=2
    • BrandSpace Working Group | Norman Lear Center, Annenberg School for Communication, http://www.learcenter.org/html/projects/?cm=brands
    • USC Center for Feminist Research, Director, New Directions Seminar on Feminist Scholarship, "The Politics of Popular Music," (2012-2013), http://cfrpopmusic1213.posterous.com/

    Conferences and Other Presentations

    Conference Presentations
    • "Chair, "What’s Queer About Empire: Contemporary Queer Filipino Studies" ", ASA: American Studies Association Annual Convention, Talk/Oral Presentation, Refereed San Juan, Puerto Rico, American Studies Association, Fall 2012   
    • "Author Meets Interlocutors: Karen Tongson's RELOCATIONS: QUEER SUBURBAN IMAGINARIES", Association of American Geographers, Roundtable/Panel, New York, NY, Association of American Geographers, Invited, Spring 2012   
    • "Touchstones, Earworms, Inversions", American Studies Association, Talk/Oral Presentation, Refereed Baltimore, MD, Fall 2011   
    • "Studio K and the Orange County Sound", Network for European Cinema Studies (NECS), Talk/Oral Presentation, Refereed Paper, King's College London, NECS, 06/22/2011-06/23/2011  
    • "Keyword: Plastic", EMP Pop Music Conference, Talk/Oral Presentation, Refereed Paper, University of California, Los Angeles, EMP, UCLA, Spring 2011   
    • "Music and Memory in The Barber of East L.A.", Modern Language Association, Talk/Oral Presentation, Refereed Paper, Los Angeles, CA, Spring 2011   
    • "Sub-National Queer Spaces", American Studies Association, Roundtable/Panel, Refereed San Antonio, TX, Fall 2010   
    • "Analog Acoustics: Echoes of the Subject from Rin on the Rox to 'Glee'", EMP | Experience Music Project Popular Music Conference, Talk/Oral Presentation, Refereed Paper, Seattle, WA, Experience Music Project, Spring 2010   
    • "Behind the Orange Curtain", American Studies Association Annual Convention, Talk/Oral Presentation, Refereed Paper, Washington, D.C., Fall 2009   
    • "The Softer Side of Long Beach", American Studies Association Annual Convention, Talk/Oral Presentation, Refereed Paper, Albuquerque, NM, American Studies Association, Fall 2008   
    • "Thriller in Cebu and Other Intimate Reenactments", Modern Language Association Annual Convention, Talk/Oral Presentation, Refereed Paper, San Francisco, CA, Modern Language Association (MLA), Fall 2008   
    • "Listening to Long Beach: Spectrums of the Carpenters' Sound", American Comparative Literature Association Annual Conference (ACLA), Talk/Oral Presentation, Refereed Paper, Long Beach, CA, ACLA (American Comparative Literature Association), Spring 2008   
    • "Incidental Suburbanisms in Pop Music and Queer Theory", PSI 13, Performance Studies International Annual Conference , Talk/Oral Presentation, New York, NY, New York University Tisch School of the Arts, Fall 2007   
    • "Theorizing Intimate Re-enactments", ASA: American Studies Association Annual Conference, Talk/Oral Presentation, Refereed Philadelphia, PA, American Studies Association, Fall 2007   
    • "Inland Emperors", Disjunctions Interdisciplinary Conference, Keynote, Riverside, CA, University of California, Riverside, Invited, Spring 2007   
    • "Love Among the Ruins: Butch Intimacies After Gentrification", Sager Symposium, Keynote, Swarthmore College, Invited, Spring 2007   
    • "No Alternative", After CBGB, Now What?: Gender, Sexuality and the Future of Subculture, Plenary , New York, NY, New York University, Invited, Spring 2007   
    • "Relocations: Queer of Color Suburban Imaginaries", Historicism, Homonormativity and Queer Political Formations Symposium, Keynote, Santa Cruz, CA, University of California, Santa Cruz, Invited, Spring 2007   
    • "Suburban Soundscapes: Audio Archives of the Suburban Dykeaspora", Experience Music Project Pop Music Conference, Refereed Seattle, WA, Experience Music Project, Spring 2007   
    • "Take Me Out Tonight: The Butchlalis de Panochtitlan Reclaim ‘Lesser Los Angeles’", ASA, American Studies Association Annual Conference, Talk/Oral Presentation, Refereed Oakland, CA, American Studies Association, Fall 2006   
    • "Keyword: Space", What's Queer About Queer Studies Now?, Keynote Lecture, Paper, Rutgers University | New Brunswick, NJ, Invited, 11/2005  
    • " "Faux-‘mo Crooners and the Straight Girls Who Love Them"", EMP (Experience Music Project) Popular Music Conference, Talk/Oral Presentation, Refereed Seattle, WA, Experience Music Project, Spring 2005   

    Other Presentations
    • "Critical Karaoke", Invited Lecture, Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Fall 2012   
    • "Empty Orchestra: Karaoke and the Echo Chambers of Queer Theory", Invited Lecture, Department of English and UCR Queer Lab, University of California, Riverside, Fall 2012   
    • "I.E.: Echo of Another Empire", Keynote, Urban Speculations: An Interdisciplinary Conference, University of California, Irvine, Fall 2012   
    • "Listening Again: The Music of RELOCATIONS", Keynote, Center for Cross-Cultural Communication, University of California, San Diego, Fall 2012   
    • "Queer of Color Interventions: On Relocations", 11th Annual West Hollywood Book Fair, City of West Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA, Fall 2012   
    • "Sound Migrations", Invited Lecture, Departments of English and Women's Studies, Scripps College (Claremont, CA), Fall 2012   
    • "Latchkey Aesthetics", Queer Aesthetics Symposium, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA, Spring 2012   
    • "Latchkey Aesthetics and New Sound Karaoke", Invited Lecture, Northwestern University, Department of Performance Studies, Evanston, IL, Spring 2012   
    • "Queer L.A.: Culture, Art and Activism", Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Los Angeles Times and USC, Los Angeles, CA, Spring 2012   
    • "The Politics of Popular Music", Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Los Angeles Times and USC, Los Angeles, CA, Spring 2012   
    • "'Always True to You Darlin' in My Fashion': Disciplinarity, Musicality, Fidelity", Keynote , Los Angeles Queer Studies Conference (UCLA), Los Angeles, CA, Fall 2011   
    • "Finding the Cloverleaf in Queer Cultural Studies", Invited Lecture, George Washington University, Department of English, Washington, D.C., Fall 2011   
    • "Inland Emperors: Sexuality at the End of the Suburbs", Invited Lecture, Institute for Cultural Inquiry, Berlin, Germany, Fall 2011   
    • "Prime Time Vocality", Distinguished Lecture in Musicology, UCLA Department of Musicology, Los Angeles, CA, Fall 2011   
    • ""Recording Memory in The Barber of East L.A."", Invited Lecture, Department of Gender Studies, Indiana University, Spring 2011   
    • "Reading Relocations", Invited Lecture, Department of English, Dartmouth College, Spring 2011   
    • "Soundscapes of Desire in the Barber of East L.A.", Invited Lecture, Department of Women and Gender Studies, University of California, Berkeley, Spring 2011   
    • "Empire of My Familiar: Sexuality at the End of the Suburbs", Invited Inaugural Lecture, Women and Gender Studies, Department of English, Rutgers University, Spring 2010   
    • "Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries", Keynote, D.C. Queer Studies Symposium, D.C. Queer Studies Consortium, University of Maryland, Spring 2010   
    • "Remote Intimacies: Queer Contact in the Suburbs", Invited Lecture, Center for Feminism and Gender Studies, Cornell University, Spring 2010   
    • "Rin on the Rox and the Echo Chamber of Remote Intimacy", Invited Presentation for Too Cute: American Style and the New Asian Cool, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, Princeton University, Spring 2010   
    • "Sound Migrations: Suburban Soundscapes and the Queer Fil-Am Imaginary", Lecture, Center for Gender Equity, Occidental College, Spring 2010   
    • "American Idol's Adam Lambert: The Great Gay Hope?", Invited Presentation for Let it Rock: Contemporary Voices in Queer Music, CLAGS | Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies, CUNY Graduate School | New York, NY, 05/2009  
    • "Relocations and Queer Regionalisms", Distinguished Lecture Series on Gender, Sexuality & Critical Practice, Humanities Korea, Ewha Women's University | Seoul, Korea, 05/2009  
    • "Soundscapes in Southern California", Invited Lecture & Roundtable, Simpson Center for the Humanities, University of Washington | Seattle, WA, 04/2009  
    • "Critical Listening ", Keynote for Media Studies in Southern California Symposium, Department of Cultural Studies, Claremont University | Claremont, CA, 03/2009  
    • "Sound Migrations: Queer Soundscapes and the Fil-Am Imaginary", Invited Lecture, Department of Gender & Sexuality Studies and the Program in Film Studies, Bryn Mawr College | Bryn Mawr, PA, 03/2009  
    • "Immigrant Soundscapes from Manila to Riverside", Invited Lecture for the series, New Perspectives in Ethnic Studies, Department of Ethnic Studies, University of California, Riverside | Riverside, CA, 05/2008  
    • "Suburbs", Popular Music Project and L.A.C.E. Listening Parties , Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions and the Popular Music Project at the Norman Lear Center, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE) | Hollywood, CA, 03/2008  
    • "Revoluciones Per Minute: A Listening Party Featuring Punk, New Wave and Queer Noise from East L.A.", Visions & Voices, Popular Music Project at The Norman Lear Center, USC Provost's Arts and Humanities Initiative, Center for Feminist Research, USC-Los Angeles, CA, Fall 2007   
    • ""Contact, Creativity and Klub Fantasy: Butch Intimacies in Lesser Los Angeles"", Invted Lecture, Departments of English, Gender Studies, Asian American Studies, Ethnic Studies and American Studies, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | Champaign, IL, 03/2007  
    • "Beyond Queer Cosmopolitanism: The Suburbs, Race, and Sexual/Textual Politics", Women, Gender and Sexuality Seminar Series (Invited Scholar), Johns Hopkins University, The Johns Hopkins University-Baltimore, MD, Fall 2006   
    • "Curator", Critical Constellations: Race, Gender, Sexuality & Theory, Gender Studies Program, Center for Feminist Research, USC-Los Angeles, CA, Fall 2006   
    • "Hot Red and Blue: Queers and the Electoral Imaginary", Speaker Series: Consortium for Women and Research and Cultural Studies Program, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA, Spring 2006   
    • "From Weissnichtwo to Kalihi: The Accent in Queer Provincial Imaginaries", UCLA Fall Speaker Series: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Studies Program, UCLA Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Studies Program, Los Angeles, CA, Fall 2005   
    • "Keyword: Area", Keywords Series, UC Irvine Women and Gender Studies, University of California, Irvine Women and Gender Studies Department, Irvine, CA, Fall 2005   
    • "Queer Provincialisms: A Conversation with Lynne Chan", Beyond the Strai(gh)ts: Transnationalism and Queer Chinese Politics, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, Fall 2005   


    • Tongson, K. (2011). Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries. New York, NY: New York University Press.

    Book Chapter
    • Tongson, K. (2012). "Agents of Orange: Studio K & Cloud 9". Pop When the World Falls Apart Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
    • Tongson, K. (2007). "The Light That Never Goes Out: Butch Intimacies in Lesser Los Angeles" in The Blackwell Companion to LGBT Studies. Oxford: Blackwell.
    • Tongson, K. (2006). "Tickle Me Emo: Lesbian Balladeering, Straight Boy Emo and the Politics of Affect". Queering the Popular Pitch (Vol. Chapter 4). Routledge.
    • Tongson, K. (2005). Metronormativity and Gay Globalization. pp. p. 40-53. Berlin, Germany: Quer durch die Geisteswissenschaften: Perspektiven der Queer Theory/Querverlag.
    • Tongson, K. (2004). Thomas Carlyle and The Grain of the Voice. The Idea of Music in Victorian Fiction pp. p. 245-262. Ashgate.

    Book Review
    • Tongson, K. (2008). Review of Jasbir Puar's Terrorist Assemblages. Women and Performance.
    • Tongson, K. (2007). Review of Elana Levine's Wallowing in Sex: The New Sexual Culture of 1970s American Television. International Journal of Communication. pp. 79-80. International Journal of Communication (IJOC)

    • Tongson, K. (2004). White Men are Hysterical. pp. Number 4. GLQ.

    Journal Article
    • Tongson, K. (2011). "Choral Vocality and the Pop Fantasy of Collaboration" in the Journal of Popular Music Studies. Wiley-Blackwell. (23.2)
    • Tongson, K. (2006). Lesbian Aesthetics, Aestheticizing Lesbianism. Nineteenth-Century Literature/University of California Press. Vol. Fall
    • Tongson, K. (2005). JJ Chinois' Oriental Express, Or How a Suburban Heartthrob Seduced Red America. Social Text/Duke University Press. Vol. Fall/Winter
    • Tongson, K. (2005). Sexuality in the City. Novel: A Forum on Fiction/Brown University Press. Vol. NA
    • Tongson, K. (2001). The Transnational Aesthetics of Thomas Moore's Irish Melodies. Repercussions: Critical and Alternative Viewpoints on Music and Scholarship/University of California Press. Vol. NA
    • Tongson, K. (1996). The Nether World of Neither World: Hybridization in the Literature of Wendy Rose. American Indian Culture and Research Journal/University of California Press. Vol. NA

    Multimedia Scholarship and Creative Works

    • Pop Culture Webzine, OH! INDUSTRY (http://www.ohindustry.com) is a collaboration with Christine Bacareza Balance (UC Irvine) and Alexandra Vazquez (Princeton University). This web magazine/blog offers monthly volumes featuring new reviews and cultural commentary on pop music, tv, film, new media, performance, fads, fashion and politics., 11/01/2007-05/01/2010  
    • Producer, Visions & Voices, Producing and planning the premiere of "The Barber of East L.A." (a play by the Butchlalis de Panochtitlan), and a retrospective exhibit of Hector Silva's work at ONE International Gay and Lesbian Archive., Spring 2008   
    • Essay , An essay, titled "Miss Independent, or Between Women Reconsidered" for IN MEDIA RES, a Media Commons Project. Organized as a virtual roundtable with the theme "Queer Citizenship", 03/12/2009  
    • Edited Series, Essay, Guest Curated a "Glee" Theme-Week for IN MEDIA RES, a Media Commons Project; individual essay contribution, titled "The Grain of Glee.", 04/05/2009-04/09/2009  
    • Web Article, "Smog and Sympathy," an article on L.A.'s Smog Cutter karaoke bar in Virgil Village for "You Offend Me, You Offend My Family" [http://youoffendmeyouoffendmyfamily.com/smog-and-sympathy/] , 06/08/2011  
    • Web Article, "The Ugly Truth About Why The Kids are All Right," co-authored with Jasbir Puar on Velvet Park: Dyke Culture in Bloom (January 20, 2012, originally posted on Oh! Industry, August 2010): http://velvetparkmedia.com/blogs/ugly-truth-about-why-kids-are-all-right , Spring 2012   
    • Web Article, "Earworms, Touchstones, Inversions" (guest article) on Henry Jennkins' "Confessions of an Aca-Fan" (August 10, 2011): http://www.henryjenkins.org/2011/08/aca-fandom_and_beyond_karen_to_1.html. , Fall 2011   
    • Web Article, "Hearing Queerly: NBC’s 'The Voice'" for Sounding Out!: A Sound Studies Online Journal (May 16, 2011): http://soundstudiesblog.com/2011/05/16/hearing-queerly-nbcs- the-voice/ , Fall 2011   

    Service to the University

    • Chair, Graduate Placement, English, 2012-2013   
    • Chair, Center for Feminist Research: New Directions in Feminist Scholarship Seminar on "The Politics of Popular Music.", 2012-2013   
    • Chair, Graduate Admissions, English, 2011-2012   

    Service to the Profession

    Conferences Organized
    • Co-Chair, Planning Committee, EMPL.A.: Popular Music Conference, Los Angeles, CA, 2012-2013   
    • Co-Organizer (with Daphne Carr, Sarah Dougher and Ann Powers), Work It!: A Conference on Gender, Race and Sexuality in Pop Music Professions, University of Southern California, Spring 2011   
    • Organizer, Critical Constellations: Race, Gender, Sexuality and Cultural Practice, University of Southern California, Fall 2006   
    • Organizer, A Freestyle Symposium, University of Southern California, A one-day symposium on the pop music genre "Freestyle" (Expose, Jocelyn Enriquez, Lisa Lisa & The Cult Jam, etc.) featuring scholars Alexandra Vazquez (Yale), Christine Bacareza Balance (Vassar), Joon Oluchi Lee (RISD) and L.A. Times Pop Music critic, Ann Powers., Fall 2006   

    Editorships and Editorial Boards
    • Editorial Advisory Board, Sounding Out!: The Sound Studies Blog, 10/01/2013-  
    • Book Series Editor, Postmillennial Pop, NYU Press, 09/01/2010-  
    • Events Editor, American Quarterly, 09/01/2010-05/01/2014  
    • Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Popular Music Studies (JPMS), 07/01/2010-07/01/2013  

    Professional Offices
    • Delegate, Gays and Lesbians in the Profession, Modern Language Association (Delegate Assembly), 01/01/2010-01/06/2013  
    • Co-Chair, APAC (Asian Pacific American Caucus), Society for Cinema and Media Studies, 07/01/2009-07/01/2011  

    Professional Memberships
    • Performance Studies International, 11/08/2007-  
    • Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS), 09/01/2007-  
    • American Studies Association, 2003-  
    • American Comparative Literature Association, 2001-  
    • Modern Language Association, 1996-  

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