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DHUM 1280A - Political Anthropology of the Jazzistic Field

Type d'enseignement : Elective

Semester : Autumn 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English

Voir les plans de cours et bibliographies



Course Description

The many musics known as "jazz" (what we call the "jazzistic field") have always been an expression of freedom – from the freedom of speech and of storytelling reinvented by the African American people by the means of voices and rhythms that one can also hear in the gospel and in the blues, in rock and in rap, to the freedom of interpretation and improvisation that this creative music has offered to other people internationally. Challenging notions of "high" and "low" arts, notions of "roots" (always in Africa?) and "route" (always in the Western world?), of identity and difference, of individuals and communities. And of alternative institutions. Questioning what is a structure, musically, socially, culturally. Throughout this course, we will try to understand creative music through some of its micro-musical aspects (i.e. its internal musical organization), and through some its macro-musical aspects (i.e. musical transformations as reflecting various social, cultural and political factors). As a consequence of this anthropology, our hope is also to move towards a new understanding of musical forms as social forms, i.e., of socio-musical forms and, more generally, of the forms of creative interaction which are shaping social structures and human history in the post-modern times.


PIERREPONT, Alexandre (Directeur Artistique)

Course validation

Students will be expected to attend class having completed the readings given every week and prepared to discuss them. The discussion will be followed by a background lecture around the same topics. There will be one final essay, decided early in the semester, including a fieldwork around a concert, and a written test on the day of the last class.


Class meetings will be devoted to lectures, discussion and listening. Listening assignments may also be given. The final essay will have to be based on some music discussed in the course (or a related approved topic), or on some ethnography / fieldwork around a concert (concerts in Paris will be suggested during the semester). Students also have the possibility to maintain a process journal.

Required reading

  • W.E.B. Du Bois, Les âmes du peuple noir, Paris, Éditions Rue d'Ulm, coll. « Versions françaises », 2004 [I / 1903 : The Souls of Black Folk]).
  • Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic. Modernity and Double Consciousness, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1993.
  • Leroi Jones [Amiri Baraka], « Le Peuple du Blues », Paris, Gallimard – folio, 1997 [I / 1963 : « Blues People »].
  • Stuart Hall, Identités et Cultures – Politiques des Cultural Studies, Paris, Éditions Amsterdam, 2007 & Identités et cultures 2 – Politiques des différences, Paris, Editions Amsterdam, 2013.
  • George Lipsitz, Dangerous Crossroads: Popular Music, Postmodernism, and the Poetics of Place, Londres, Verso, 1994.

Additional required reading

  • Christian Béthune, Le Jazz et l'Occident – Culture afro-américaine et philosophie, Paris, Klincksieck, 2008
  • Philippe Carles & Jean-Louis Comolli, Free Jazz / Black Power, Jackson, University Press of Mississippi, 2015 [I / 1971]
  • Scott Saul, Freedom Is, Freedom Ain't : Jazz and the Making of the Sixties, Cambridge (Mass.), Harvard University Press, 2003
  • Eric Porter, What Is This Thing Called Jazz ?: African American Musicians as Artists, Critics, and Activists, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2002
  • Craig Hansen Werner, Playing the Changes – From Afro-Modernism to the Jazz Impulse, Chicago, Illini Book / University of Illinois Press, 1994
  • George E. Lewis & Benjamin Piekut (dir.), The Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies, vol. I & II, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2016

Plans de cours et bibliographies