Thursday, October 9, 2008

"a social history of remembering in the South."

Sorry for the long absence from this site. There's plenty on my mind, but no particular thing floating to the top that I want to blog about. so, instead, I want to share something that I read (again) today that's driving what I'm hoping to do:

“We should not take for granted, then, the inevitability of the contemporary southern landscape, dense with invocations of the past. The historical South that exists today is the consequence not of some innate regional properties but of decades of investment, labor, and conscious design by individuals and groups of individuals who have imagined themselves as “southerners.” If characterizations of southern memory are to be meaningful, attention should be given to what kind of history southerners have valued, what in their past they have chosen to remember and forget, how they have disseminated the past they recalled, and to what uses those memories have been put. We need, in short, a social history of remembering in the South.”

W. Fitzhugh Brundage, from No Deed But Memory” in Where These Memories Grow: History, Memory and Southern Identity, 2000.

To this I'd add the commonsense note that different southerners have valued different memories, and used different mechanisms for archiving and disseminating those memories too. some of that memory work corresponds to dominant hegemonic notions of southerness, and some of that memory work defies those notions, sometimes activating and enlisting contrary and alternative imaginations of southerness in that effort. And while even this could stand a little unpacking, I want to press forward and suggest a couple of unusual sites for archiving and activating memory, sites available to groups who who lack (for a variety of reasons) the political clout to write their past into the literal landscape in the form of either shopping malls or graveyards. One of them is Facebook, where my own hometown has been holding a kind of extended and far flung countercultural reunion. The other one, broader and more directly applicable to my project is live music in general.

My own experience in playing at and putting on shows suggests to me that live musical performance is all or mostly or often about the construction of memorable moments, and that popular musical performance specifically is about the ongoing practice of enacting (constructing, whatever performative verb you want to use here) a (roughly) duplicable series of memorable moments. Looking at live musical performance in this way ties those performances to recordings, ties together the interests of musicians and audiences, and helps, I hope to get at the role that social musicking plays in the (re)construction of the past in the present. In the context of Brundage's remarks on southern memory it also allows us to see southern musicking as an ongoing identificatory project.

Now, there's a cluster of thoughts around "southern music" and especially "southern rock" that I think cries out for some expansion, but I need a cup of coffee to think about that. Specifically, I'm thinking about southern music, genre, and memory as the overall theme of the next post.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Howdy! This is innerdoggie from over at LiveJournal. I don't think I have a google/blogger account -- if I do, I've long since forgotten it.

You posted about Springdale as sundown town, and you remind me that I haven't asked my father if he had heard anything about it. I will try to do so and post a followup on Livejournal.

I've read _Civil Obedience_ and I'll look for that book you mentioned. Do you do anthro or sociology yourself?

I grew up in Fayetteville and am a bit older than you.