By Black Hawk Hancock
“Perhaps,” wrote Ralph Ellison greater than seventy years in the past, “the zoot swimsuit includes profound political which means; probably the symmetrical frenzy of the Lindy-hop conceals clues to nice capability power.” As Ellison famous then, a lot of our so much mundane cultural types are greater and extra very important than they seem, taking up 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 a long-lasting effect on white the United States and provide us a very compelling technique of knowing our tradition. yet with what hidden implications?
In American Allegory, Black Hawk Hancock bargains an embedded and embodied ethnography that situates dance inside 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 carry to the outside the racial rigidity that surrounds white use of black cultural kinds. targeting new sorts of appropriation in an period of multiculturalism, Hancock underscores the institutionalization of racial disparities and gives excellent insights into the intersection of race and tradition in the United States.
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Additional info for American Allegory: Lindy Hop and the Racial Imagination
If whites are also black, then conversely blacks must also be white. If whites are in fact black, at least in part, that undermines the very basis of American social organization. For Ellison this is not just a ma er of imagining, or playing at identity, as if one could simply slip on or oﬀ a mask, but confronting the deep intertwined nature of blackness and whiteness. In theorizing our cultural hybridity in such a way, Ellison calls into ques- 26 introduction tion two taken-for-granted assumptions about our everyday lives.
Just as the times have changed, so have the forms of racial and ethnic inequality that deﬁne society and the ways that they operate to organize society and social interaction. It was the tensions between the revival and the past, the implicit and explicit, the colorblindness of American society and the fact that race still ma ers in American society that made the Lindy Hop revival translucent at best and opaque at worst. Examining how the Lindy Hop resurfaced in the late 1990s shows an even starker picture of cultural appropriation; the divorce from African American roots was even farther removed through these music and dance transformations.
When we look past the euphoria over a dance trend and the commodiﬁed and commercialized revival of the Lindy Hop, we can approach this cultural form in the very diﬀerent and o en silenced context of its African American cultural history and identity. Beyond my ﬁeldwork in the Lindy Hop community, I also spent two years of extensive ﬁeldwork as a dancer and participant in the Steppin’ community, where I would a end two to three clubs or events per week. As a regular member of the community, I made a number of friends and The Lindy Hop Revival 17 acquaintances that served as the basis for more informal interviews with dancers, promoters, DJs, and club patrons.
American Allegory: Lindy Hop and the Racial Imagination by Black Hawk Hancock