Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

M.A. in Southern Studies

Department

Southern Studies

First Advisor

Jodi Skipper

Second Advisor

Kathryn McKee

Third Advisor

Andy Harper

Relational Format

dissertation/thesis

Abstract

Considerations regarding the mechanisms through which cultural commodification may be woven into the fabric of racial inequity are indispensible when conducting research on African American music tourism in the United States, as white consumers and producers may attach invidious racial mythologies to such heritage, while the industries themselves often take root in communities inhabited by multiple racial groups possessing disparate social and economic power. With these bearings in mind, this thesis assesses the impact of blues tourism development on the experiences of, and between, blacks and whites in Clarksdale, Mississippi, an endemically impoverished Delta city populated by a sizable African American majority. Taking the industry's racial configuration as a starting point—wherein whites predominate both as superintendents and tourists—I seek to expose blues tourism "sites" that occasion a translation of the symbolic elements of racism into more concrete manifestations. In an effort to limn the symbolic, I identify and unpack the racial perspectives of many of those helming Clarksdale's blues tourism industry, ferreting out moments in which white producers use African American musical heritage, and its capitalistic formations, to articulate racial ideologies. Where these systems of belief coalesce behind various racial projects, structural forms of racism take shape. The discursive regions anchoring the dual modalities of this process in Clarksdale's blues tourism industry include the diametric rhetorical strategies of color-blind racism and authenticity; racial reconciliation; participation in the industry; beneficiary rights; and differences in black and white conceptual approaches to racial phenomena intersecting with, and generated by, the industry. At length, I show how the racial ideologies of Clarksdale's white blues tourism managers produce and support a number of racial projects emerging from these topical arenas that contribute to the economic and social marginalization of the city's African Americans.

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