Date of Award

12-2009

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Anthropology

First Advisor

Dr. Kristina Wirtz

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Campus Only

Abstract

Blues music has undergone changes in style, performers, and audiences since its initial rise in the American pop music industry in the early 1920's. Consequently, there have been debates as to what legitimates 'real' blues music and blues musicians. From the spring of 2006 to the summer of 2008 I did an ethnographic study on a local "blues community" in Kalamazoo. Questions of identity, authenticity, and performance were explored in conversations, interviews, and everyday discourses on blues music among the participants in the scene. By focusing on discourses among musicians and audiences about blues, this thesis demonstrates how the process of racialization of blues as "black music" has resulted in a complex reworking of identities among player and musicians to position them as "real blues" players and fans. In this process, performers and audience members use "feeling," as a means to transcend the mediated boundaries expressed in and upheld by race, class, and place. Further examination reveals the fluidity of identity and the relationship between marketed identities and the local interpretation, consumption, and performance of blues identities. In this process, performers and audience members use "feeling," as a means to transcend the mediated boundaries expressed in and upheld by race, class, and place.

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