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European and British Association of American Studies Joint Conference (EBAAS), London, April 7-9 2018
“It would hardly be an exaggeration to state that most of our present understanding of the blues is based on the work of Paul Oliver.” David Evans
The British blues scholar Paul Oliver, who passed away recently at the age of 90, authored some of the most important books on the blues and his work was instrumental in focusing attention on the blues as an art form in its own right in the late 1950s. His scholarship on the music’s meanings, origins within the African American experience, and relationship to African American society in the Jim Crow era informed scholars and enthusiasts on both sides of the Atlantic from 1950s to the 1960s ‘blues revival,’ and has helped to shape the course of blues scholarship.
Importantly, Oliver’s work is also representative of the ways in which European scholars and enthusiasts have been fascinated by African American music, particularly jazz and blues, and used these to interpret and represent aspects of American life, from African American culture during the segregation era, interracial connections throughout the 20thcentury, to the role of the South in shaping American popular culture. Interest in various genres of American music such as blues and jazz but also country, soul, bluegrass and folk continue to fuel interpretations of American culture and history, as exemplified in the recent documentary series American Epic. These interpretations both enrich and complicate our understanding of the racial politics of American cultural history.
This roundtable at the EBAAS 2018 Conference seeks to provoke a wide-ranging discussion on the place of music in American Studies, and the way music from the early 20th century onwards has been used to understand and represent the United States at home and abroad. How can music contribute to our understanding of American history in the 20th century? What was the role of different musical genres during the segregation era? How does music complicate or enrich our more conventional interpretation of American history? What was the role of the transatlantic exchange in shaping the representation of American musical genres? Proposals for short contributions of 6-12 minutes are invited addressing (but not limited to) one or more of these topics. Expressions of interest are particularly welcome from female and minority scholars. Please send submissions to Christian O’Connell (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Friday 29th September.
- role of music in the study of African American history/studies
- racial politics of musical criticism
- gender and representation in American music
- the transatlantic exchange – American music in Europe
- music and the American South
Dr Christian O'Connell