Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Laura R. Graham
This dissertation seeks to ethnographically explain an apparent paradox: the tremendous popularity of U.S. country & western (C&W) in postcolonial St. Lucia. The music's reputation as a "white" expressive form contradicts the decolonization ethos of a young, predominantly Afro-creole nation and appears to challenge an emerging St. Lucian postcolonial identity. I show how St. Lucians use C&W to effect significant continuities with Afro-creole culture. Its creolization in the St. Lucian context makes C&W a compelling expression of post-colonial identity. I argue that with considerable genius, St. Lucians have creolized ways to dance to C&W much as they creolized European country and court dances in earlier centuries. In this instance, however, the music was already more creole than is customarily admitted. St. Lucians make U.S. C&W their own by curating songs with a particular Caribbean resonance, creolizing the dance on habanera beats, and syncretizing it with marginalized Afro-St. Lucian folk practices. Denying simplistic cultural imperialism, St. Lucians have reclaimed C&W, highlighting its under-acknowledged but already creole ingredients, merging it with their own Afrocreole folk forms, and transforming it into a music of black social experience.
The dialogic continuities are many: storytelling; working-class and real-life themes; social dance context of communal, cross-island exchanges; instruments and genres from Africa, including fiddle and banjo, yodel and drum; updating of the already creolized Kwadril complex; and, perhaps most revealing, the way the dance creolization incorporates the habanera beat. Given these continuities, the popularity of country & western in St. Lucia seems virtually over-determined rather than counter-intuitive.
To analyze this specific challenge of cultural decolonization, I develop the concepts of "postcolonial creolizations" and "empire rollover." I trace the varied meanings of the term creole--and suggest that its variability should be the foundation of theoretical potency. I use Bakhtinian notions of intertextuality to examine how expressive forms from different worlds come into dialogue with each other, and show how the conversations eventually produce new creations. I show how postcolonial creolizations prompt us to rethink how power relations get reconfigured in postcolonial contexts. I argue that by attending to ways that postcolonial actors are shaping creolization processes now, we can better understand how colonial and modern imperial forces come together to challenge meaningful decolonization and sovereignty. I call this convergence process "empire rollover." This refers to the uneven processes involved as one form of imperialism gives way to subsequent imperial relations. I use this concept to answer important questions regarding the degree to which power is reclaimed in postcolonial transformation of expressive culture and to what extent creolization is decolonized. I show how the St. Lucia banana industry case epitomizes the phenomena economically wherein colonial-type benefits rollover to a new imperial power (U.S.) and continue to accrue, while advantages gained during decolonization do not. The C&W case, in contrast, shows how St. Lucians use "imperialist" forms in creative, distinctively St. Lucian ways, such that it is not simply an expression of neocolonial relations.
Copyright 2011 Jerry Lowell Wever
Wever, Jerry Lowell. "Dancing the Habanera beats (in country music): empire rollover and postcolonial creolizations in St. Lucia." doctoral dissertation, University of Iowa, 2011.