By Black Hawk Hancock
“Perhaps,” wrote Ralph Ellison greater than seventy years in the past, “the zoot swimsuit includes profound political that means; maybe the symmetrical frenzy of the Lindy-hop conceals clues to nice power power.” As Ellison famous then, lots of our such a lot mundane cultural varieties are higher and extra very important than they seem, taking over nice importance and an unforeseen intensity of that means. What he observed within the strength of the Lindy Hop—the dance that Life magazine as soon as billed as “America’s precise nationwide people Dance”—would unfold from black the United States to make an enduring impact on white the US and supply us a really compelling technique of knowing our tradition. yet with what hidden implications?
In American Allegory, Black Hawk Hancock deals an embedded and embodied ethnography that situates dance inside of a bigger Chicago panorama of segregated social practices. Delving into Chicago dance worlds, the Lindy and Steppin’, Hancock makes use of a mix of participant-observation and interviews to convey to the outside the racial rigidity that surrounds white use of black cultural varieties. targeting new kinds of appropriation in an period of multiculturalism, Hancock underscores the institutionalization of racial disparities and gives brilliant insights into the intersection of race and tradition in the United States.
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Additional resources for American Allegory: Lindy Hop and the Racial Imagination
Without understanding how whiteness operates in its particularities, we cannot begin to grasp how race and culture operate on the ground in everyday life. We must not allow the paradigm of whiteness or white racism to become a fulcrum for moral and value judgments by assigning blame or innocence for unpalatable social facts. Nor can we allow ourselves to analyze racial dynamics solely through the conscious or intentional outcome of white prejudice or racism. Instead, an analytical framework of racial domination oﬀers a more accurate and powerful explanation of the particular phenomena under analysis.
Chapter 2 examines the dynamics of the white cross-cultural engagement with the Lindy Hop, which is at times a conscious intention and at other times something that goes on without any awareness at all. These engagements are examined through three dominant modalities: minstrelsy, whitewashing, and commodiﬁcation. By illuminating these modes of engagement, we are able to understand how the negotiation of everyday cultural practices o en leads to a complex and contradictory set of positions that serves as mechanisms of racial domination.
As I scrutinized myself and other dancers during years of training my body through mimicry, drills, and reﬂexive scrutiny of my movements and those of other dancers, I slowly came to realize how symbolic power and violence are embedded in the very ways that white society interprets, internalizes, and enacts African American cultural forms like the Lindy Hop. As I continued to practice and cultivate my dancing in light of my new understanding, I began to see the process by which my body became that of a dancer.