How Louisiana musicians and audiences negotiate with difference and shape a common musical heritage
Sara Le Menestrel explores the role of
music in constructing, asserting, erasing,
and negotiating differences based
on the notions of race, ethnicity, class,
and region. She discusses established
notions and brings to light social
stereotypes and hierarchies at work in
the evolving French Louisiana music
field. She also draws attention to the
interactions between oppositions such
as black and white, urban and rural,
differentiation and creolization, and
local and global.
Le Menestrel emphasizes the
importance of desegregating the
understanding of French Louisiana music and situating it beyond
ethnic or racial identifications, amplifying instead the importance
of regional identity. Musical genealogy and categories currently
in use rely on a racial construct that frames African and European
lineage as an essential difference. Yet as the author samples music
in the field and discovers ways music is actually practiced, she
reveals how the insistence on origins continually interacts with
an emphasis on cultural mixing and creative agency. This book
finds French Louisiana musicians navigating between multiple
identifications, musical styles, and legacies while market forces,
outsiders' interest, and geographical mobility also contribute to
shape musicians' career strategies and artistic choices.
The book also demonstrates the decisive role of non-natives'
enthusiasm and mobility in the validation, evolution, and reconfiguration
of French Louisiana music. Finally, the distinctiveness
of South Louisiana from the rest of the country appears to be both
nurtured and endured by locals, revealing how political domination
and regionalism intertwine.
Sara Le Menestrel, Paris, France, is a cultural anthropologist and
a research fellow at the National Center for Scientific Research in
Paris. Her research interests include the anthropology of music and
the anthropology of disaster through post-Katrina and post-Rita
Louisiana. She is coeditor of Working the Field: Accounts from
French Louisiana, also published by University Press of Mississippi.
400 pages (approx.), 6 x 9 inches, 25 color illustrations, 20 b&w illustrations, 4 graphs, bibliography, index