BLACK, WHITE AND BLUE: RACIAL POLITICS OF BLUES MUSIC IN THE 1960S

Posted: September 2, 2011 in Blues Revival 60s, The Colour Line, Ulrich Adelt

Author : Ulrich Adelt

Source : A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in American Studies in the Graduate College of The University of Iowa, December 2007

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“ABSTRACT
My dissertation is a foray into blues music’s intricate web of racial taxonomies, an aspect that has been neglected by most existing studies of the genre. In particular, I am interested in significant changes that took place in the 1960s under which blues was reconfigured from “black” to “white” in its production and reception while simultaneously retaining a notion of authenticity that remained deeply connected with constructions of “blackness.” In the larger context of the Civil Rights Movement and the burgeoning counterculture, audiences for blues music became increasingly “white” and European. In their romantic embrace of a poverty of choice, “white” audiences and performers engaged in discourses of authenticity and in the commodification, racialization and gendering of sounds and images as well as in the confluence of blues music’s class origins. I argue that as “white” people started to listen to “black” blues, essentialist notions about “race” remained unchallenged and were even solidified in the process. By the end of the 1960s, moments of cross-racial communication and a more flexible approach to racialized sounds had been thwarted by nostalgia for and a reification of essentialist categories. This marked the emergence of a conservative blues culture that has continued into the present. Individual chapters focus on key figures, events and institutions that exemplify blues music’s racial politics and transnational movements of the 1960s.”

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