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Outside and Inside: Representations of Interracialism and American Identity in White Jazz Autobiography

Outside and Inside: Representations of Interracialism and American Identity in White Jazz Autobiography

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Title: Outside and Inside: Representations of Interracialism and American Identity in White Jazz Autobiography
Author: Marin, Reva
Abstract: This dissertation explores concepts of race, national identity, and gender formation in fifteen autobiographies published by white male American jazz musicians— that is, jazz autobiographies written by male subjects who self-identified, and were identified by their collaborators and by the general public, as white—between 1939 and 2001. A central concern within these autobiographies is the search for authentication within a musical form that has been intrinsically linked to African American musical and cultural forms and practices. A key feature of this quest for authentication is the immersion experience, through which the white male musician seeks immersion in African American musical and cultural spheres as a requirement of his jazz education, and later of his status as a professional musician.

In this respect, these accounts reinforce the notion of jazz as one of the few spheres within American society in which cultural authority has been historically granted to African Americans, and in which white musicians, as Burton W. Peretti suggests, “innovated and rebelled by willingly becoming musically subordinate to a socially and culturally subordinated group” (96–97). Through their descriptions of this process, these autobiographers reveal that the playing of jazz created and necessitated interracial and interethnic mingling to a degree rarely seen in the mainstream society out of which these stories emerge. Yet discussions of race in these texts seldom move beyond its specific impact on these musicians’ lives and careers; rarely do white jazz autobiographers attempt a more reflective analysis of race in the United States, nor do they seem willing to acknowledge the benefits that their whiteness conferred upon them in respect to career opportunities and economic security. For these reasons, white jazz autobiography provides a fertile source for considering both the possibilities and limitations of culture—and of individual cultural producers—within 20th-century US society to disrupt, challenge, or circumvent dominant legal and social practice.
Subject: American studies
Music
Keywords: Jazz learning
Jazz
Autobiography
US
Whiteness
Ethnicity
Masculinity
Interracialism
Authentication
Chicago style
New Orleans
Big band
Swing
Bebop
Jam sessions
Type: Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Rights: Author owns copyright, except where explicitly noted. Please contact the author directly with licensing requests.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10315/28247
Supervisor: Sanders, Leslie
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Program: Humanities
Exam date: 2014-06-10
Publish on: 2015-01-26

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