New Orleans - Berndt Ostendorf - ebook

New Orleans ebook

Berndt Ostendorf

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Ralph Ellison once wrote that the rules of performance in American culture are jazz-shaped. This book explores the Afro-creole core culture of New Orleans as the mainspring of this energizing music. Much of the cultural capital of the city is buried in a complex, tripartite racial history, which threatens the binary logic of North American racism with all sorts of sensual transgressions. Its jazz-derived culture combines elements of African, French, Spanish and Anglo-American cultural practices which in their fusion have created a unique propulsive energy: Second line parades, jazz funerals, Mardi Gras Indians, Cajun and creole foodways, minstrelsy, dance, ragtime and jazz will be interpreted as the result of a set of historical circumstances unique to this Caribbean metropolis of the senses. Including a preface by Günter Bischof and pictures by Michael P. Smith

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Berndt Ostendorf

New Orleans

TRANSATLANTICA

Günter Bischof, Editor

Volume 7: Berndt Ostendorf

New Orleans

Berndt Ostendorf

New Orleans

Creolization and all that Jazz

©2013 by Studienverlag Ges.m.b.H., Erlerstraße 10, A-6020 Innsbruck

E-Mail: [email protected]

Internet: www.studienverlag.at

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced and electronically processed, duplicated or distributed without the written approval of Studienverlag Ges.m.b.H

Depending on the reading device used, varying depictions of the published texts are possible.

ISBN 978-3-7065-5721-4

Corporate design by Kurt Höretzeder

Layout: Studienverlag/Roland Kubanda

Cover: Studienverlag/Karin Berner

Photos: Image 1: Photo by Jutta Ostendorf

Image 2: Oliver “Pork Chop” Anderson at Harold Dudley Funeral 1985. Photo by Michael P. Smith. Copyright The Historic New Orleans Collection

This book is also available in a high quality printed version at your booksellers or directly from www.studienverlag.at.

Dedicated to the memory of Michael P. Smith (1937–2008)

Michael P. Smith, a New Orleans native and award-winning professional freelance photographer, spent a lifetime capturing the music, culture and folklife of New Orleans and Louisiana. He was well known for documenting New Orleans social club parades and jazz funerals, neighborhood Mardi Gras traditions, spiritual church ceremonies, and many of the city and state’s renowned jazz, blues, rhythm and blues, and gospel musicians. Smith photographed at every New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival from its inception in 1970 until his retirement in 2004. In a brilliant career that spanned more than four decades, he produced five books, and garnered a host of honors, including two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Smith was an inspiration, a role model and a mentor to many people in New Orleans and beyond. Michael was my Cicerone guiding me through the complex cultural layers of this intriguing city. The chapters in this book document what I learned from this inspiring ethnographer and friend.

Table of contents

Preface by Günter Bischof

Introduction

1.    New Orleans:

A Caribbean Metropolis of the Senses

2.    Jazz Funerals and the Second Line:

African American Celebration and Public Space

3.    “Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie and Filé Gumbo.”

The Creolizing Cuisines of New Orleans

4.    Creole Cultures and the Process of Creolization:

With special attention to Louisiana

5.    Et in Acadia ego:

The Renaissance of Cajun Culture from 1968 to the Present

6.    Rhythm, Riots, and Revolution:

Political Paranoia, Cultural Fundamentalism and African American Music

7.    Double Consciousness Revisited:

African American Expressive Culture and the Dilemma of Interpretation

8.    The Musical World of Doctorow’s Ragtime

9.    Subversive Reeducation?

Jazz as a liberating force in Europe

10.  Growing up in the Fifties:

Jazz, the Cold War and the Birth of American Studies

11.  Is American Culture Jazz-Shaped?

African American Rules of Performance

Bibliography

Credits

Günter Bischof

Preface

The essays in this volume are a tribute to and a showpiece of the ascendancy of the American Studies field in post-World War II Germany and Western Europe. Berndt Ostendorf has been a leading figure in that new field in postwar Europe. He does not shy away from making frequent references to his own intellectual autobiography in these essays. His chapter “Growing up in the Fifties: Jazz, the Cold War and the Birth of American Studies” represents a veritable showpiece of postwar intellectual formation of a young German escaping the burdens of German Nazi history by way of total immersion in American popular culture. He demonstrates how the new opportunities offered by student exchange programs – what today we call “international student mobility” – allowed young Germans (and young Austrians like myself) to embark on trajectories of “Westernization” and “Americanization”. Such escapes helped mastering difficult pasts and open new windows for post-Nazi intellectual formation. Clearly his visits of the United States as a high school pupil and later as a university student and lecturer offered personal and intellectual windows to a new life. Such a new world, both less stultifying and more inviting to foreigners, put Ostendorf on the path towards becoming a shaper of postwar German and Western European discourses about America.

Ostendorf held the chair of American Studies in Munich for more than 20 years (1981–2005) and produced a steady flow of essays and articles that defined many aspects of American cultural studies in the postwar European American Studies movement. He was a key “translator” and mediator of American academic discourses in Germany and Western Europe and in the process helped shape those debates on the continent. He was one of the first to venture into “black studies” in Europe, thus contributing to the formation of African-American cultural studies discourses in the 1980s. He was a key impresario in grounding the “multi-Kulti”-debate in Germany in the 1990s in the larger American context of that discourse. He contributed to a thorough understanding of American popular music and introduced it to the ethno-musicology discourses in Germany.

As chair of American Studies he regularly invited top-notch and cutting-edge American academics to come as Fulbright guest professor to his “Amerika-Institut” at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. These guests immersed the Munich students in their innovative research interests and thus contributed to uplift them to participate in those innovative discourses. Both Sidney Mintz and the late George McGovern, the 1972 nominee for President of the Democratic Party (who also held a PhD in American History), taught in Munich as Eric Voegelin guest professors. When I served as a visiting guest lecturer in Munich in 1993/1994, David Blight (then Amherst College, now Yale University) was involved in doing his path-breaking research on Civil War memory later published in the prize-winning book Race and Reunion. Through these prominent visitors the Munich students came to inhale and reflect these discourses, at times even before they came to dominate the American intellectual landscape. Munich students often knew about these academic debates before they became popular in the US. So it went with many superstars of American academia who came to the Ostendorf’s Amerika Institut in Munich.

Ostendorf’s New Orleans essays collected in this volume give a cross-section of his amazingly diverse yet idiosyncratic contributions to the field of American cultural studies as seen through the lens and mirror of the rich cultural history of the Crescent City. Ostendorf penned these essays over a period of 30 years and during many visits to New Orleans, years before “cultural studies” became a buzzword in academia. In that sense he was an innovator, precursor and trend-setter in the field of cultural studies and an icon of New Orleans studies in Europe. Berndt Ostendorf taught for a semester at the University of New Orleans in the spring of 1989, exchanging with his friend Joseph Logsdon, who taught in Munich as a visiting DAAD professor that semester. He took advantage of his stay in New Orleans to practise deep immersion – as a participant observer in a quasi-anthropological field study. This is when he encountered the photographer and ethnographer Michael Smith who became his friend and regularly took him along to Mardi Gras Indian parades. Smith introduced Ostendorf to second line parades and jazz funerals. Here he became interested in the Afro-Caribbean dance traditions in public spaces that fascinated him so much. The “dance-driven” musical culture of New Orleans and its many carnivalesque outrages during Mardi Gras and jazz funerals absorbed him as did the sensuous of the lively street scenes encountered every day in the “libidinal economy” of “sin city USA.”

As his autobiographical essay “Growing up in the Fifties: Jazz, the Cold War and the Birth of American Studies” shows he had already deeply imbibed the sounds and rhythms of American jazz and popular music as a statement of personal liberation from the German past. Now in New Orleans attending the music clubs and jazz festivals of New Orleans allowed him to experience the amazingly colorful musical scene of the Crescent City that “never sleeps”. Living in the city with his wife Jutta and being a gourmet and excellent chef himself allowed him to enter the world of New Orleans food culture and cuisine, yet another variation of experiencing the “rich gumbo” of ethnic influences on New Orleans’ popular culture and food ways. He followed the complex heritages of the three principal food traditions of New Orleans – Creole, Cajun, and the “down home” fusion of “N’Awlins”. Ostendorf came to appreciate New Orleans as the “El Dorado of eating and public drinking” and taught seminars about it in Munich. New Orleans’ “caloric temptation” he sees as the counterpoint to the bland food culture of the rest of America and its obsessions with dieting.

Ostendorf immersed himself in New Orleans Creole cultures with such gusto that he would write and teach about the city and its fantastic cultural mix for the next 20 years. His seminars in Munich on “New Orleans Music”, or “Race and Creole New Orleans”, or “The Cajuns” became legend. His students came to New Orleans to research their Master’s thesis or doctoral dissertations in local archives; some received year-long scholarship at the University of New Orleans History Department for more thorough study. Ostendorf became a promoter of New Orleans – not a tourist one, but an academic one. Whereas most American Studies in Europe had followed the lead of the Northeastern Ivy League universities and its exclusive focus of studying Anglo-America, Ostendorf’s interests led his students to give equal attention to Franco-America and Hispano-America, both of which had a colonial presence in Louisiana. New Orleans is the place where the three European imperial ”contact zones” rub against each other and interact. New Orleans, as Ostendorf likes to point out, is not “the Southernmost North American city but the Northernmost city of the Caribbean.” That makes the Crescent City such an extraordinary laboratory to study the “bricolage” of American culture-mixing. In fact, since New Orleans is such a fascinating zone of culture formation, namely cultures clashing and assimilating, “bricolage”, “metissage”, “hybridity”, and “fusion” are Ostendorf’s favorite concepts to explain “Creole New Orleans.” One of the most extended essays in this collection is devoted to dissect and understand the term “creole” and its complex grammar and legacy. His struggle with the concept of “creole” is at the heart of understanding New Orleans culture. His favorite theoreticians of creolization are anthropologists Sidney Mintz and Melville Herskovits – and Ostendorf’s own “star student” Stephan Palmié, now a professor of anthropology at the University of Chicago. They provide this participant observer roaming of the streets of New Orleans with the lenses to understand the Afro-Caribbean complexity and quasi “other-Americanness” of New Orleans culture.

Ostendorf is at his best when he maps out the outlandishness and quirkiness of American subcultures; his exuberant prose in many of these essays suggests that he had much fun researching and writing them. He penetrates with his sharp wit American fads such as the 1960s/1970s infatuation with Cajun culture, music and cuisine. With an even more cutting humor bordering onto the sarcastic he dissects a segment of the paranoid Far Right situated around the John Birch Society (the successors of McCarthyism) in 1960s America. It is a case study of anti-communist Angst in archconservative white American circles who feared that African rhythms and dance were about to undermine and threaten to destroy the American nation. The “jungle noises” of American jazz threatened to pervert the classical forms of music. Rock ’n’ Roll in this reading was “sexual, un-Christian, mentally unsettling and riot-producing.” Elvis Pressley and the Beatles (the vulgar “anti-Christ”) were communist sympathizers and/or agents undermining America. As Ostendorf relates he picked up this kind of outlandish literary production as a student in America and understood its meanings only 30 years later.

Ostendorf thrives and excels in pealing back the many layers of New Orleans and American culture. These essays can be read also as a tribute to New Orleans – one even more appreciated in post-Katrina New Orleans, a time and place when some of the prime features of the cultures he describes are more threatened than ever. Ostendorf points out that “parasitic” tourism exploits the richness of New Orleans cultural production on a daily basis without adding anything to it. The academic Ostendorf is fully engaged in the theory of and discourses in cultural studies to understand concepts like creolization while the New Orleans fan Ostendorf gives the reader of these essays a personal feel for his enthusiasm and sensuous engagement in understanding this most unusual of American cities. May these essays documenting a rich scholarly life, pulled together in this volume from many obscure academic publications, find many readers in Europe and the United States. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

New Orleans, November 2012

Introduction

The following chapters constitute a record of my involvement with New Orleans, both as a scholar and as a jazz fan. The book begins with the historical roots of New Orleans as the metropolis of the senses and ends on an autobiographical note, on how my interest in jazz led to a career in American Studies. The individual chapters represent an attempt to uncover and explore the various “mysteries of New Orleans” particularly the way “new sounds” have emerged from this remarkable city. New Orleans, I would submit, is the best location on the North American continent to observe the formation of African American traditions. These emerged in a contact zone where the cultures of France, Spain, England and Africa and their respective legacies of slavery entered into an unending dialogue. The culture formation processes involved may best be described as “creolization”, the end result of fusion, adaptation, and amalgamation of multiple traditions, culinary habits, languages and religions. Creolization as a descriptive metaphor for culture fusions in the triangle between Africa, America and the Caribbean has profoundly shaped the rules of performance of New Orleans musical life and these in turn have had an impact on the nation and the world.

It took some effort to penetrate the fog of misperceptions in which the history of this city is shrouded. New Orleans historiography is a hotbed for myth-making and conspiracy theories. It required a guide and cicerone, Michael P. Smith, to whom this book is dedicated, to learn to appreciate the complex social structures and the secret cultural springs of this unique urban archipelago. Location is destiny for New Orleans: The book starts by charting the historic layering of cultural practices owing to the cultural input from three empires: Spain, France, England and their involvement with and their management of race. Negotiating between North-America, Africa and the Caribbean, between Roman Catholicism and Puritan Protestantism, between the North American and Caribbean racial order, New Orleans, of all American cities has received the longest and strongest input from this energizing circumatlantic fusion. One consequence of the African life line has been that New Orleans developed a dance-driven culture that calls for a symbiotic interaction between musician and audience. In short, it is not a concert culture with the audience relegated to a passive sit-down role, but a street culture involving the second line and band performance. Musical practice is held in place by a strong networking of neighbourhood associations such as Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs, Mardi Gras Indian tribes, marching bands and a fanciful diversity of religious denominations. They provide the agents and scenarios that turn the streets during a jazz funeral into a communal stage for the mise en scene of a vibrant culture far away from the French quarter tourism. Though the historiography of New Orleans is full of death and decline imagery, its vibrant musical culture has survived all challenges – let us hope even Katrina.

In this musicoracial history the role that Afro-Creoles have played needs especial attention. Caught in the conflict zone between a three-tiered Caribbean racial order and a binary racial system imposed after the Louisiana purchase by North America, they compensated their gradual loss of social status and political power by carving out spaces of freedom and by withdrawing to their families and neighbourhoods. Jazz emerged in this communal space where Afro-Creole and African American traditions came together: Jazz is about freedom, says Thelonious Monk and Ned Sublette adds “If you haven’t been on a second line, there’s something about jazz you don’t know”. Though jazz-related types of music, such as ragtime, emerged in other places, it was in New Orleans where the notion of jazz as a way of life has profoundly shaped American culture and subsequently affected the entire world. This book follows Ralph Ellison’s aside that all American culture is jazz-shaped. If this is true then New Orleans would represent the key city in culture production processes not only for the United States, but for the entire world.

It is telling that the cultural capital of New Orleans remains largely invisible to the American public, but is admired throughout the world. Most of it (food, sex, music, religion, architecture) belongs to the world of the senses and is embedded in the popular expressive arts: therefore the city has acquired the role of the sensual other, the Big Easy, that lacks civic (and moral) legitimacy. New Orleans is both the cradle of jazz – as a music of freedom – and the most racialized metropolis. Also crime and corruption are rampant in its history. W. E. B. DuBois’ quip that the problem of the twentieth century is the color line is an apt description of New Orleans racialized politics. For many Americans New Orleans represents not only the sensuous other, but due to its Afro-Creole past also the threatening other. There is a long history of paranoid resistance to the culture of New Orleans, a history of fear and discrimination which reached its nadir in the Supreme Court decision Plessy vs. Ferguson. It is telling that Homer Plessy was a passablanc Afro-Creole. African rhythms continue to loom large in racist fears, the paranoia is by no means over as the fundamentalist reactions African American popular music and, most recently, to the Obama presidency demonstrate. And yet, over time the city has shored up an ethno-nostalgic heritage and a contradictory cultural history of race relations that needs to be rescued from oblivion, for it treasures those sedimentations and resonances, which give New Orleans its mysterious, urban aura.

Chapter 1

New Orleans:

A Caribbean Metropolis of the Senses

When on August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina destroyed large parts of New Orleans prominent Americans suggested giving up the city for good, particularly the low-lying, mostly black neighborhoods. At the time forty-seven percent of Americans polled by CNN shared this view. Certain state legislators reasoned that God had finally intervened to eliminate the sores of poverty and crime in the Black projects. Religious leaders interpreted Katrina as God’s punishment for a sensuous, hedonistic, and homosexual city.1Sin City, America’s version of Sodom and Gomorrha,“had it coming.” It was pointed out to those who held this view that something must have gone wrong. For God destroyed the houses of church-going Blacks and of white Catholics in St. Bernard, but spared the houses of gay whites in the French quarter and the Garden District. This raises the serious question of whether God is just or, as one wag put it, “whether she is gay.” Mayor Ray Nagin came up with yet another topical explanation: Katrina was God’s punishment of George W. Bush for starting the Iraq war. But he also reminded his countrymen: “Whenever anywhere in the world New Orleans is mentioned eyes light up.” His boosterism was well taken: While the cultural heritage of New Orleans remains largely invisible to the North American public and sometimes even to local citizens, it is appreciated throughout the world. Most of it, food, sex, music, dance, and religion, belongs to the world of the senses and is embedded in the popular expressive arts. Hence it lacks moral legitimacy or prestige at home. New Yorkers and Bostonians of “property and standing” are falling over each other trying to “save Venice”, yet few of these would lift a finger to save New Orleans. This tacit habit of the heart is due to the negative role New Orleans had acquired in the nation’s libidinal economy. For many Americans (including George W. Bush) New Orleans had become the metropolis of transgressions: the Big Easy.2 While before Katrina Americans loved to sow their wild oats in the city “that care forgot”, they did so clandestinely and always with a bad conscience. Admittedly New Orleans has over time also become a symbol of graft and corruption and it clearly lacks the civic tradition of say Seattle or Minneapolis. Long before Katrina the city had gone into economic decline. And in this coincidence of material neglect, civic decline and sensual attraction lies the problem of judging its merits. The cultural capital of the city that might help to compensate for the lack of a civic culture is deeply compromised; for it lies buried in a complex history of satisfying the senses. This conflict-ridden tradition needs to be rescued from benign neglect and defended against moral censure; for it treasures those sedimentations, which give New Orleans its spectacular urban aura, a synaesthesia of sight, sound, taste, smell and touch which is felt most keenly when it is gone. The anthem of New Orleans captures the sensory quality of this deprivation well:

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!