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Citation Information

Type Thesis or Dissertation - Doctor of Philosophy degree in Anthropology
Title Dancing the Habanera beats (in country music): empire rollover and postcolonial creolizations in St. Lucia
Author(s)
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2011
URL http://ir.uiowa.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2574&context=etd
Abstract
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.
2
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.

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