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Negotiating Difference in French Louisiana Music - Categories, Stereotypes, and Identifications

Negotiating Difference in French Louisiana Music

Categories, Stereotypes, and Identifications

By Sara Le Menestrel
Series: American Made Music Series

Hardcover : 9781628461459, 383 pages, 25 color illustrations, 20 b&w illustrations, 4 graphs, December 2014
Paperback : 9781496813176, 383 pages, 25 color illustrations, 20 b&w illustrations, 4 graphs, February 2017

How Louisiana musicians and audiences negotiate with difference and shape a common musical heritage


In this book 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.


"Negotiating Difference in French Louisiana Music is an ideal introduction to the music of southwest Louisiana, a model study of ethnographic methodologies, and a productive intervention into a relatively conservative body of literature. "

--Matt Sakakeeny, associate professor of music, Tulane University, in Ethnologie française, XLVI, 2016, 3


"Sara Le Menestrel's Negotiating Difference in French Louisiana Music is a spirited, thoughtful, and often provocative study of south Louisiana music and dance culture, illuminating the profound variegation and cross-fertilization that animates it. For anyone interested in Louisiana's cultural dynamics, this is essential reading. "

--Bruce Boyd Raeburn, director of special collections and curator, Hogan Jazz Archive, Tulane University


"With great clarity and insight, Le Menestrel deftly negotiates the complex processes of identification and categorization of French Louisiana music, alive to the ambivalence and complexity that attend the judgments people make of value, authenticity, and legitimacy in relation to heavily loaded constructs such as Cajun and Creole. Cutting neatly through the thicket of current theoretical speculations about creolization, hybridity and métissage, Le Menestrel focuses on the way ideas about race, class, place, and historical origins create intersecting hierarchical registers of taste and value in music. Theoretically sophisticated, while also ethnographically and historically rich and many-hued, Le Menestrel's book is a truly impressive achievement. "

--Peter Wade, professor of social anthropology at the University of Manchester and author of Music, Race, and Nation: Música Tropical in Colombia