American Allegory: Lindy Hop And The Racial Imagination

Paperback | May 27, 2013

byBlack Hawk Hancock

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“Perhaps,” wrote Ralph Ellison more than seventy years ago, “the zoot suit contains profound political meaning; perhaps the symmetrical frenzy of the Lindy-hop conceals clues to great potential power.” As Ellison noted then, many of our most mundane cultural forms are larger and more important than they appear, taking on great significance and an unexpected depth of meaning. What he saw in the power of the Lindy Hop—the dance that Life magazine once billed as “America’s True National Folk Dance”—would spread from black America to make a lasting impression on white America and offer us a truly compelling means of understanding our culture. But with what hidden implications?

In American Allegory, Black Hawk Hancock offers an embedded and embodied ethnography that situates dance within a larger Chicago landscape of segregated social practices. Delving into two Chicago dance worlds, the Lindy and Steppin’, Hancock uses a combination of participant-observation and interviews to bring to the surface the racial tension that surrounds white use of black cultural forms. Focusing on new forms of appropriation in an era of multiculturalism, Hancock underscores the institutionalization of racial disparities and offers wonderful insights into the intersection of race and culture in America.

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“Perhaps,” wrote Ralph Ellison more than seventy years ago, “the zoot suit contains profound political meaning; perhaps the symmetrical frenzy of the Lindy-hop conceals clues to great potential power.” As Ellison noted then, many of our most mundane cultural forms are larger and more important than they appear, taking on great signific...

Black Hawk Hancock is assistant professor of sociology at DePaul University. He is also coauthor of Changing Theories: New Direction in Sociology.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:280 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.79 inPublished:May 27, 2013Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022604310X

ISBN - 13:9780226043104

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Prologue: This Strange Dance
Lead In: The Cost of Insight

      Introduction: The Lindy Hop Revival

1     Finding the Pocket

2     Caught in the Act of Appropriation

3     Put a Little Color on That!

4     Steppin’ Out of Whiteness

      Lead Out: Learning How to Make Life Swing

Conclusion: Toward New Territory

Notes
References
Index

Editorial Reviews

“Hancock’s American Allegory represents the first book-length meditation on how the neoswing renaissance, and its ahistorical cross-cultural engagement with ‘African American cultural forms,’ sustains racial domination. . . . Hancock’s prose is…inspired. . . . . Allegory deserves a readership beyond well-credentialed white liberals committed to more expansive forms of self-loathing and would be a vital addition to syllabi in courses on racialization, culture, and methodology. Like the protagonist of Invisible Man, Hancock’s hunger for justice remains unabated, I figure, and I look forward to his next excavation of the remaining riddles in the American vernacular.”