ERIC Number: ED383025
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1995-Apr
Reference Count: N/A
Delta Blues Scholarship and Imperialist Nostalgia.
Nye, William P.
When Delta blues are considered to be "folk music," the genre is inextricably tied to the neocolonial, sharecropping system of cotton production characteristic of the Mississippi Delta region between the Civil War and World War II. "Imperialist nostalgia," then, arises in accounts which pay primary and positive tribute to blues performances emanating from this same postcolonial cultural setting. But most blues performers did not remain in rural Mississippi and probably would not qualify as real authentic folk artists who lived on the land--most escaped the Delta as soon as they could. In William Ferris's ethnographic/folklorist book, "Blues from the Delta," his scholarly descriptions of the people, places, and events comprising his research inadvertently serve to paint an invidious portrait of his respondents as semi-literate, poverty-stricken folk musicians and communal associates. He places the Delta blues so deeply into cultural context that the impression is created that the music cannot exist without the culture. In this type of research the music is never actually heard, but lyrics are quoted, photographs of the musicians are seen, and letters they wrote are reproduced. How can imperialist nostalgia be avoided in studies of the Delta blues? Richard Wright, in a foreword to another scholarly study of the blues, called them "fantastically paradoxical," and this may have to serve until further notice. (Contains 12 references.) (NKA)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: African Americans; Blues Music; Cultural Studies; Historical Background; Lyrics; Mississippi Delta; Nostalgia
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Joint Meetings of the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (Philadelphia, PA, April 12-15, 1995).