Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Jan Nederveen Pieterse on hybridity, creolization, "crossover culture," world music / cf. Sterling Brown on 19th-century spirituals as a hybrid art form; Ulf Hannerz on Turner's frontier thesis

Jan Nederveen Pieterse (YAN NAYderv'n PEterseh)

Nederveen Pieterse is a Dutch scholar, author of wide-ranging books on globalization, cultural studies, formerly of universities in the Netherlands and Africa and UIUC, now on the faculty at the University of California Santa Barbara

"Globalization goes in circles: Hybridities East-West." In Dominique Schirmer, Gernot Saalmann, Christl Kessler, eds, Hybridising East and West, Münster: LIT Verlag, 2006.

[Money quote: "In the United States, crossover culture denotes the adoption of black cultural characteristics by European Americans and of white elements by African Americans." ***

Hybridity has become a prominent theme because it matches a world of intensive intercultural communication, growing migration and diaspora lives, everyday multiculturalism, and the erosion of boundaries at least in some spheres.New hybrid forms are indicators of profound changes that are taking place because of mobility, migration and multiculturalism. However, hybridity thinking also concerns existing or, so to speak, old hybridity, and thus involves different ways of looking at historical and existing cultural and institutional arrangements. This suggests not only that things are no longer the way they used to be but were never really the way they used to be, or used to be viewed. (1)

If practices of mixing are as old as the hills, the thematization of mixing as a perspective is fairly new and dates from the 1980s. In a wider sense it includes the idea of bricolage in culture and art. Dada made mixing objects and perspectives its hallmark and inspired the collage. Surrealism moved further along these lines and so do conceptual and installation art. Psychoanalysis brought together widely diverse phenomena—such as dreams, jokes, Freudian slips and symbols—under new headings relevant to psychological diagnosis.

While hybridity may be unremarkable in itself, the critical contribution of hybridity as a theme is that it questions boundaries that are taken for granted. Thus, hybridity is noteworthy from the viewpoint of boundaries that are considered essential or insurmountable.

Hybridity is an important theme also in that it represents one of three major approaches to globalization and culture. One is the idea that global culture is becoming increasingly standardized and uniform (as in McDonaldization); second is the idea that globalization involves a ‘clash of civilizations’; and third is globalization as hybridization or the notion that globalization produces new combinations and mixtures. The hybridity view holds that cultural experiences past and present have not been simply moving in the direction of cultural synchronization. Cultural synchronization does take place, for instance in technological change, but countercurrents include the impact nonwestern cultures have on the West and the influence nonwestern cultures exercise on one another. The cultural convergence view ignores the local reception of western culture, the indigenization of western elements, and the significance of crossover culture and `third cultures' such as world music. It overrates the homogeneity of western culture and overlooks that many of the cultural traits exported by the West are themselves of culturally mixed character if we examine their lineages. (2)

Creole languages and creolization in linguistics was the next field to engage social science interest. Creolization came to describe the interplay of cultures and cultural forms (Hannerz 1992). In the Caribbean and North America creolization stands for the mixture of African and European elements (as in the Creole cuisine of New Orleans) while in Latin America criollo originally denotes those of European descent born in the continent. The appeal of creolization is that it goes against the grain of nineteenth-century racism and the accompanying abhorrence of métissage as miscegenation, as in the view that race mixture leads to decadence and decay for in every mixture the lower element would be bound to predominate. The cult of racial purity involves the fear of and disdain for the half- [3] caste. By foregrounding the mestizo, the mixed and in-between, creolization highlights what has been hidden and values boundary crossing. The Latin American term mestizaje also refers to boundary crossing mixture. Since the early 1900s, however, this served as an élite ideology of ‘whitening' or Europeanization; through the gradual `whitening' of the population and culture Latin America was supposed to achieve modernity. In the United States, crossover culture denotes the adoption of black cultural characteristics by European Americans and of white elements by African Americans. A limitation of these terms is that they are confined to the experience of the post-sixteenth century Americas and typically focus on `racial’ mixing. (2-3)

"Negro Folk Expression: Spirituals, Seculars, Ballads and Work Songs" by Sterling Brown

THOMAS WENTWORTH HIGGINSON, one of the very first to pay respectful attention to the Negro spiritual; called it a startling flower growing in dark soil. Using his figure, we might think of this flower as a hybrid, as the American Negro is a hybrid. And though flowers of its family grew in Africa, Europe, and other parts of America, this hybrid bloom is uniquely beautiful.

A large amount of recent scholarship has proved that the spirituals are not African, either in music or meaning (a claim made once with partisan zeal), that the American Negro was influenced by the religious music of rural America from the Great Awakening on, that at the frontier camp meetings he found to his liking many tunes both doleful and brisk, and that he took over both tunes and texts and refashioned them more to his taste. But careful musicologists, from studying phonograph records of folk singing rather than, as earlier, inadequate, conventional notations of "art" spirituals, are coming around to the verdict of Alan Lomax that "no amount of scholarly analysis and discussion can ever make a Negro spiritual sound like a white spiritual."

Quotes on hybridity

Cf. Yim Tan Lisa Wong, "Hybridity & Postcolonial Music." 1997. Postcolonial Studies @ Emory "Examples of musical hybrids abound as the post-colonial period of history reigns. The colonized and the colonists affected and influenced one another. The diaspora of migrants contribute to the fusion of different cultures’ musical instruments, structure, and sound. The result of the hybrid musical forms demonstrates a new world sound, one that can not be compartmentalized according to land, language, and political borders."

Ulf Hannerz, "Flows, Boundaries and Hybrids: Keywords in Transnational Anthropology"‎

Flux, mobility, recombination and emergence have become favored themes as globalization and transnationality frequently offer the contexts for our thinking about culture. We now look for test sites of theory where some, at least, of the inhabitants are creoles, cosmopolitans, or cyborgs, where communities are diasporas, and where boundaries do not really contain, but are more often interestingly crossed. Borderlands are often where the action is, and hybridity and collage are among our preferred words for characterizing qualities in people and their products.

* * *

...The American historian Frederick Jackson Turner's (/1893/1961) writings a hundred years ago set in motion a small, mostly 9 14 North American but for some time also transnational and comparative academic industry. For Turner, the moving frontier had been a region of opportunity - forever more wilderness turning into free land, where pioneers were self-reliant but could also join together without the constraints of the traditions and inequalities they had left behind, without the burden of a heritage:

The frontier is the line of most rapid and effective Americanization. The wilderness masters the colonist. It finds him a European in dress, industries, tools, modes of travel, and thought. It takes him from the railroad car and puts him in the birch canoe. It strips off the garments of civilization and arrays him in the hunting shirt and the moccasin. (Turner 1961: 39)

Later critics have pointed out that Turner's frontier history could serve as an American myth, even as a symbolic tool of domestic cultural debate between the established East and the changing West. No doubt, from Turner to John F. Kennedy's 1960s New Frontier, the idea of the frontier has had largely favorable connotations in American culture, pointing toward the future, suggesting an environment of progress and opportunity which committed and able human beings can shape for themselves.

In the sense which Turner put into scholarly circulation, however, the frontier has at the same time stood for a particular historical form of globalization: the expansion and settlement of Europeans in other parts of the world. Inside Europe, Turner noted, a frontier would be "a 15 fortified boundary line running through dense populations". In Latin America, in Australia and in Southern Africa, just as in North America, the frontier was between what counted and what did not count; wilderness. If there were indigenous inhabitants there, to the extent that they entered into frontier imagery, they too were wild. Indeed, as Turner suggests, "the wilderness masters the colonist" as well. He is stripped of the superfluous baggage of civilization. The frontier, in this view, becomes primarily an ecological zone, rather more than one of a confluence of cultural streams.

Anyway, here we are now, with hybridity, collage, mélange, hotchpotch, synergy, bricolage, creolization, mestizaje, mongrelization, syncretism, transculturation, third cultures and what have you ...


Jim Leseman "The Creolization of Migrant Music " Published 30 Oct 2009. - dead link

For instance, pop music is evolved from a large number of different styles throughout the years—blues, bluegrass, country, jazz and skiffle, early rock and roll, and we can go on for a while. So, although this is a form of creolization, it is also to a very high degree popularized and Westernized, leading to a uniform product that is more or less everywhere. The same could be said about world music: this terrain of music is almost as big as popular music. When applying the above theorem of cultural creolization to the domain of music, we have to take in account that one can call almost all music from the past a form of creolization."

His Linkedin profile page cites [Paper] The Creolization of Migrant Music, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam where he read for MSc / drs., Sociology, 2008 – 2010.

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