1 DRUM, DANCE, AND THE DEFENSE OF CULTURAL CITIZENSHIP: BL S REBIRTH IN CONTEMPORARY MARTINIQUE By CAMEE MADDOX A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2015
2 2015 Camee Maddox
3 To the memory of my beloved Grandma Ernestine S. Francis (1922 2001) I carry your sweet spirit with me everywhere I go
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This project was brought to fruition thanks to various sources of support, near and far. The moral and em otional sup port of my family has followed me from start to finish of this academic journey. First, I thank my par ents Camilla and Wayne Maddox, who instilled a fe arlessness and tenacity that have carried me through every life endeavor. They did everything humanly possible to help me realize my academic goals with their love and unwavering encouragement. I thank my brother Mackey, my sister in law Nicole, and my loving nephew Mosiah for always mo tivating me to reach for the stars. Thanks to m y Grandma Tish who always pushed me to give meaning passion, in her classic, tough love fashion I am so grateful for that. Countless other family members and lifelong friends always kept me in the light, reminding me to keep balance, prioritize self care, and enjoy life while finishing the Ph.D. And I thank my companion Robert who observed me every step of the wa y to ward this professional milestone always affirming my hard work and dedication. I am so grateful t o my mentor and committee chair Faye V. Harrison who gave me every reaso n under the sun to pursue my graduate training at the University of Florida. wide breadth of knowledge strong advisory skills, and visionary contributions to the field of anthropol ogy, must have been the most rewarding formative experience a doctoral student like myself could ever imagine or hope for. pray that my scholarship and service meet the exceptionally high standard that she has set. Thank you for constantly reminding me that I am indeed in the right pl ace Other committee members, Florence Babb, Abdoulaye Kane, and David Geggus always offered a listening ear and a critical lens to provide thoughtful commentary and
5 feedback for strengthening my work External readers Wil lie Baber and Yvonne Daniel were also influential in helping me formulate research questions related to the Caribbean and deal with methodological quandaries. Doctoral training and re search for this dissertation were made possible by a number of institutions that I would like to recogniz e here. The University of Florida Department of Anthropology provided support for coursework and fieldwork through the Zora Neale Hurston Diaspora Fellowship and the Polly and Paul Doughty Field lso offered their support in a variety of ways with workshops and supplemental funding opportunities. The UF Center for Latin American Studies extended a summer field research grant for preliminary research in 2011 as well as two Foreign Language and Ar ea Studies Fellowships for the study of Haitian Kreyl The Institute of International Education supported my first nine months of field research in 2013 with the Mellon Graduate Fellowship for International Study, and the Reed Foundation, Inc. made it po ssible for me to extend my research for a n additional nine months with the Ruth Landes Memorial Research Fund. The Florida Education Fund provided the necessary support for the write up phase of this project with a McKnight Dissertation Fellowship. And o f course, I must thank friends of the Black Graduate Student Organization at UF for keeping me balanced and focused during my early years of graduate study. My friends and colleagues in Maryland and Washington, D.C. especially SisterMentors under the lead ership of Shireen Lewis helped me push through the last phase of writing and I am so lucky to have m et this brilliant group of Women of Color Ph.D.s Our mountain
6 writing retreats, work dates at Busboys and Poets, and mentoring sessions kept me on my toe s. And finally, my colleagues, consultants, and f riends in Martinique. Justin Daniel at the Universit des Antil les et de la Guyane provided me with an institutional affiliation and an academic home away from home. Various bl associations and actors in the bl movement played a cooperative role in this research, making it possible for me to hear ideas and perspectives from all different angles mostly in the name of advancing the bl movement and in some cases o ut of pure affinity and mu tual understanding. I especially thank Linda, Relta, Clara, and the rest of les filles du bl B Kannal These women gave me the confidence and boldness to practice the dance as an integrated participant observer, and provided an interesting framework for bl subculture. I also want to acknowledge Mr. Victor Treffe and the wider Tanbou B Kannal family many of whom witnessed my personal growth and the growth of this project from my very first contact with the tradition at their bl school in 2009 T he association Mi Mes Manmay Matinik ( AM4 ) provided me with the structure, attention and opportunity to learn and observe th e dance, and formulate pertinent questions at the heart of the bl movement. Members o f the association Lzinisy took a sincere interest in my work and my general well being out of heartfelt kindness. I thank founder and artistic d irector David Alexandre who was generous with his time as a key consultant, teacher, friend, and liaison between myself and les anciennes (elders) from Sainte Marie His counsel and his approach to bl transmission helped to i nspire ve ry important i deas in my work. And to all my hospita ble friends Leila, Astride, Nadine and Pascale who invit ed me
7 into their respective homes at various times over the five year course of my research thank you! George and Gilbert are acknowledged for int roducing me to Martinican life, history, and culture and helping me integrate with ease from my very first visit to the island. And t o my fictive kin Jean Jacques, Sylvie and Bruno who stepped in as adoptive family when I needed it the most, I w ill be forever grateful for their love and generosity.
8 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 LIST OF TABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 10 LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 11 LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS ................................ ................................ ........................... 12 GLOSSARY OF FRENCH AND KRY"L TERMS ................................ ....................... 13 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 17 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 19 Development and Dependency from a French Antillean Perspective ..................... 23 Theoretical Framework ................................ ................................ ........................... 26 Citize nship ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 27 Cultural Politics ................................ ................................ ................................ 29 Chapter Organization ................................ ................................ .............................. 30 2 BL AS ACCOMMODATION OR RESISTANCE: A HISTORICAL OVERVIEW .. 35 The Conundrum of Pan Caribbean Dance Continua ................................ .............. 36 Defining Bl as a Regional Folk Tradition ................................ ............................. 39 Martinican Bl : Questions of African Resistance and French Accommodation ..... 41 Inferences from Congo/Angolan Culture ................................ .......................... 42 French Quadrilles ................................ ................................ ............................. 44 Imitation: A Form of Flattery or a Form of Survival? ................................ ......... 46 Pre revival Eclipse in Martinique ................................ ................................ .. 52 Rebirth: Giving the Drum New Life in Contemporary Martinique .................. 59 3 METHODOLOGY: REFLEXIVITY AND POSITIONALITY IN DANCE (AUTO)ETHNOGRAPHY ................................ ................................ ........................ 73 The Legacy of Katherine Dunham: Reflexivity and the Dancing Body as a Research Tool ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 77 Doing Dance Ethnography in Martinique ................................ ................................ 81 Humility ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 84 Communication ................................ ................................ ................................ 85 Formal and Informal Learning in the Bl Scene ................................ ............. 89 Swar Bl, Moman Bl, and Bl Mawon : Occupying Public Space with Participator y Dance Rituals ................................ ................................ ........... 95
9 Annual Holidays and Observances ................................ ................................ .. 98 Bl : A Celebration of the Life Cycle ................................ .............................. 100 4 MATINIK LV! (RE)FASHIONING POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC SENSIBILITIES IN THE BL REVIVAL ................................ .............................. 111 Bl and the 2009 General Strike ................................ ................................ ......... 111 Disillusionment in the Post depa rtmental Era ................................ ....................... 114 Rzistans and Solidarit : Bl Culture as the Key to Martinican Nationalist Thought ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 120 Fieldnotes: Swar Bl AM4 Fort de France January 25, 2014 ......................... 121 Bl ............. 130 5 SACRAL IZING AND RITUALIZING BL PRACTICE: A DIALECTIC OF SPIRITUALITY ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 139 The Anthropology of Sacred Dance in the Afro Atlantic World ............................. 144 Refashioning the Liturgy: Bl Lgliz ................................ ................................ .... 148 Cultivating African Diasporic Cosmologies on the Bl Cu ltural Landscape ......... 155 Bl ................................ ............................... 1 63 Problematizing the Anthropology of Afro Atlantic Religion ................................ .... 168 6 BL TRANSGRESSIVE SENSUALITY AND GENDER PERFORMANCE ................... 170 Reputation and Respectability Thesis ................................ ............................... 172 Black Womanhood and the Politics of Respectability ................................ ........... 175 Black Womanhood and Struggle in Martinique ................................ ..................... 178 Tropes of Femininity and Womanhood in Martinique ................................ ............ 180 Swar Bl: Sensual Expressivity and the Role of the Danm Bl ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 183 Pleasure and Erotic Experience in Bl : Liberation or Exploitative Exhibitionism? ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 191 7 CONCLUSION: BL REVIVAL, PEDAGOGY, AND THE POST CREOLE IMAGINATION ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 201 Creole Dance Pedagogy ...... 203 Bl Pedagogy, Transmission, and the (French) National Education System ...... 203 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ............................. 211 BIOGRAPH ICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ .......................... 232
10 LIST OF TABLES Table page 2 1 Movement and Dance Styles Observed in Research ................................ ......... 68
11 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 1 1 Map of the Caribbean, courtesy of worldatlas.com. ................................ ............ 20 1 2 Map of Martinique, courtesy of worldatlas.com. ................................ .................. 21 3 1 2013, Flyer for ................................ ......... 105 3 2 2015, the kiosk of downtown Fort de France during Bl Mawon gathering, photo courtesy of Benny Ren Charles ................................ ............................ 106 3 3 2015, Dancers at Bl Mawon photo courtesy of Benny Ren Charles .......... 106 3 4 2013, Dancers at Bl Mawon photo courtesy of Valou Fitt Duval .................. 107 3 5 2013, Drummer at Bl Mawon photo courtesy of Valou Fitt Duval ................ 107 3 6 Thierry Dol, Martinican hostage held by al Qaeda 2010 2013 ....................... 108 3 7 2014, Ladja/Danmy match on Samedi Gloria (Holy Saturday) in Lamentin .... 108 3 8 2014, Dancer performing a solo kalennda during 22 M (Emancipation Day) celebration, photo courtesy of Valou Fitt Duval ................................ ................ 109 3 9 2015, Dancers performing a blya during 22 M (Emancipation Day) celebration, photo courtesy of Valou Fitt Duval ................................ ................ 109 3 10 2014, researcher Camee Maddox performing in 40 th Anniversary Concert, photo courtesy of Valou Fitt Duval ................................ 110 4 1 2014 Flyer for ................................ ................................ ..... 123 5 1 Tanbou bl (bl drum) ................................ ................................ .................. 157 5 2 Tanbou bl with vv painting ................................ ................................ ........ 157 5 3 Kongo cosmogram ................................ ................................ ........................... 163
12 LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS AGEM Association Gnrale des tudiants Martiniquais (General Association of Martinican Students) ALCPJ An Lot Chimen Pou la Jns ( Another Path for the Youth ) AMEP (Martinican Association of Popular Education) APAL As Plr Annou Lit ( ) BUMIDOM Bureau pour le dveloppement des migrations dans les mr ( Bureau for the Development of Migrations in the Overseas Departments) CMAC Culturelle (Martinican Center for Cultural Action ) CNCP Conseil National des Comits Populaires (National Council of Popular Committees ) DOM mr (Overseas Department) DRAC Direction Rgionale des Affaires Culturelles Direction of Cultural Affairs) JEC Jeunesse Etudiante Chrtienne ( Christian Student Youths ) MIM Mouvement Indpendentiste Martiniquais (Martinican Independence Movement) PPM Parti Progressiste Martinique (Martinican Progressive Party) RLDM Radio Lv Dubout Matinik ( Radio Get Up, Stand Up Martinique ) SERMAC (Municipal Service of Cultural Action)
13 GLOSSARY OF FRENCH AND KRY"L TERMS Associations loi 1901 Associations of the law of 1901, the French equivalent of non profit organization, for sports clubs, arts groups, and other special interest groups Bagay Vy Ng P ejorative Kryl expression for old, unsophisticated aspects of black culture Bamboulas Nocturnal (or Sunday afternoon) drum dance gatherings organized and practiced by enslaved Africans during the slave era, documented throughout the circum Caribbean region Bk W hite minority population of slave planter descendants who make up les s than on e percent of Martinique Bl lgliz Church bl Bl Lin/ Samaritain Bl from the northern town of Sainte Marie, whose repertoire of bl styles is the most widely practiced across the island today Bodz A bl step that is commonly used in the flirtatious, playful exchange between female male partners especially during the mont o tanbou sequence toward the drummer. It is a movement that involves pelvic torso isolation, hip switching, and bent knee posture (especially when danced by a woman). Callaloo A popular West Indian stew, used as a metaphor for female sexual arousal in bl lyrical content Carr The dance square in the quadrille choreography made up of four dancers (two female male couples) Chyen Bl A term of endearment to describe someone who dances bl frequently and cannot seem to get enough of the dance Conte (or kont) Kryl storytelling tradition in Martinique with a conteur (kont) whose role is similar to that of a West African griot Coordination Lawonn Bl Coalition of different bl cultural associations (loi 1901) that organizes the calendar of annual swar bl parties and delegates different responsibilities for advancing the bl movement Danmy Martial art tradition in Mart inique, sometimes used interchangeably with ladja Dbrouillardism Economic cunning, informal earning, hustling
14 Djab The devil Djouba Haitian dance step representing agricultural work and danced for the Vodou lwa Kouzen Zaka DKB Danmy Kalennda Bl Doudouisme Stereotypical image of the Antillean sweetheart whose meaning has evolved over time into a folkloric commodity (or stock character) Enterrement de vie de garon Bachelor party Fanm Djok An idea of Afro Martinican womanhood, a woman who is proud and stands strong in the face of everyday life difficulties without giving up. She works to earn a living and raises her children, in many cases as a single mother Foyalais An urban resident of Fort de France Graj A b l movement that uses the bottom of the feet to graze the Gwo ka dance practice Haute Taille Another creolized style of quadrille dancing in Martinique that has preserved more European characteristics Jounen Moun Bl A full day of bl activities (discussions, debates, workshops) organized annually by the Coordination Lawonn Bl in Martinique Jupe A skirt Jupon A petticoat worn beneath the skirt Kavaly A male dance partner Kay bl A bl house, a constructed dance space for bl activities Kolktif 5 Fevry Coalition of organizations and social movements that led the 2009 general strike activities in Martinique Koudmn A helping hand; used interchangeably with konvwa or konbit when referring to work teams or a group of helpers
15 Koumand Master singer of bl who commands the flow of activities during a swar bl (less common today) Kouzen Zaka The lwa of agriculture and rural life in Haitian Vodou Ladja Martial art tradition in Martinique, sometimes used interchangeably with danmy Larl Swar Bl A set of principles, morals, and ethical guidelines devised by the Coordination Lawonn Bl around which many bl activities are practiced and transmitted Lk l bl Bl school Lwa Spirits in the pantheon of Haitian Vodou Madras creole apparel and costumes The square handkerchief worn around the waist of the danm bl is usually made from a madras cloth Manny Viv A way of life, used in bl to describe the ancestral values and practices associated with Martinican traditional (historically rural) living Marronage The enactment of resistance to oppression, particularly colonial or racist oppression, small scale ( petit marronage ) and large scale ( grand marronage ) Moman bl A bl gathering/party that is less formal than the traditional swar bl but similarly functions thro ugh the open participation and unscripted rotation of dancers, singers, and drummers. Participants often bring something to eat or drink and share amongst other guests Mont o tanbou A sequence in the bl lin choreography whereby dancers are displayed in the center of the circle to playfully interact with their dance partners, and give a danced salutation to the drummer Ng Mawon Mythical image depicting a black man blowing into a conch shell and grasping a machete, representing liberation and resistance to slavery Poto mitan A pillar or a central pole used in the Haitian Vodou ritual space often used as a metaphor (in both Haitian and Martinican Kryl lexica) to describe a person of strength and resilience Quimbois comparable wi th
16 American Hoodoo or Jamaican O beah, and largely dismissed in public life as old superstition or witchcraft Socits Groups of enslaved Africans that were grouped by African ethnic affiliation and served as mutual aid associations Swar bl Formal, ceremonial gathering of bl practitioners who convene for an evening/late night of dancing, singing, and drumming; functions through an open, unscripted rotation of participants Tanbou/Tambou Drum Tanbouy Drummer Tibwa Two wooden sticks used by a secondary percussionist who beats a steady tempo on the back of the drum Tonb Lv bl whereby the dancer bends/leans forward, then back to an upright position while swinging their arms in a downward upward motion. Represents the agricultural mov ement of using a machete to cut sugarcane Veille Culturelle The traditional funeral wake tradition in Martinique that includes conte (storytelling), and traditional music and dance, to celebrate the life of the deceased Vv Religious symbols in Haitian Vodou that are drawn/traced onto the ritual space, usually with cornmeal, to invite the spirits to ceremonial activities Won di Dwondi The demi circle (counterclockwise then clockwise) danced by the ensemble of bl dancers during the opening sequence of bl lin sets
17 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy DRUM, DANCE, AND THE DEFENSE OF CULTU RAL CITIZENSHIP: REBIRTH IN CONTEMPORARY MARTINIQUE By Camee Maddox December 2015 Chair: Faye V. Harrison Major: Anthropology This dissertation examines the ways in which cultural activists in Martinique use the expressions of the bl drum dance culture to affirm or contest claims about cultural identity, difference, and belonging. Bl is an Afro Creole set dance and drum complex that was practiced by enslaved Africans and their descendants in rural Martinique during the colonial peri 20 th century, the practice of bl was repressed by the Catholic Church and denigrated cultural lands cape. Over the last 30 years, however, cultural activists and artist intellectuals have mobilized at the grassroots level to reinvigorate this rich set of traditions The extended field research for this dissertation was carried out over the course of 18 months, beginning in January 2013 and ending in August 2014. The methodolog y used in this research includes participant observation, open ended and semi structured interviews, the collection of life histories and archival research P hotography and video graphy were also employed for visual elicitation interviews
18 Data analysis highlights a particular set of debates that persist about how the bl tradition should be transmitted, and what function(s) bl practice should se rve in Martinican society. This r esearch addresses these debates as they relate to: political and economic life; conceptions of spirituality and religion; expressions of gen der and sexuality; and pedagogy and national education Th e evidence gathered in this research suggests that these debates among followers of the bl movement contribute to the formation of a distinctive Martinican cultural citizenship.
19 CHAPTER 1 INTRODU CTION What are you doing, my friends? You behave like cannibals, like savages! The more I try to raise you up, the more you lower yourselves. You make me ashamed. Am I not a negro like you? Then do as I do, imitate the Whites! They alone will civilize you Do not imitate the mulattoes. What use is the drum? Don t you see what the Whites use for their dances? Like them, use the violin. Then my daughters and I will come to your dances Cyrille Bissette 1849 S manmay la par pou tjw tam bou a S gran nonm lan di mwen Tam bou a s an moun Fo Fo Mwen ka mand lavi ba tam bou a a These people are ready to kill the drum The elders told me The drum is someone We must hold up We must care for it I deman d life for the drum I want to give it life! Eug Tambou Seri 1984 The above quotes come from two legendary f igures in Martinique between 19 th century post emancipation and 20 th century post departmentalization Cyrille Bissette was an elite mulatto abolitionist whose heroic legacy is debated in contemporary island political discourse ( cf. Baber 1985 ; Bongie 1998, 2001 ). On the heel 1848 slave emancipation, Bissette addressed a mixed crowd of newly freed blacks and white pla nters at a banquet. D and recreation, he implored them to reject the drum the very instrument that had served as a catalyst for igniting revolt on the eve of emancipation and embrace what he considere d to be more tasteful styles of French music and dance (Forster and Forster 1996:27 s most acclaimed musicians, whose untimely death in 1991 at the age of 48 left the island in great shock and mourning. Prais ed for his radical, barefoot performance style and wide breadth of sacred wisdom
20 that radiated in his musical compositions Mona remains in the collective memory of cultural activists as a game alienation. H is tribute song to the drum and to his companion drum masters, Tambou Seri (Serious Drum) denounces those who tried to eradicate the drum, and commands new life for the beloved instrument, insisting throughout the 12 minute track that the drum must be car ed for, honored, and even venerated as a divinity refrain, he asks why we are not listening to what the elders and ancestors have to say singing Gran nonm lv gran nomn pal, mwen l sav poutchi nou pa ka tann (Mona 1984). I begin my dissertation with these two references because they are illustrative of changing cultural landscape of accommodation and resistance to F rench subordination lif e. Figure 1 1 Map of the Caribbean courtesy of worldatlas.com
21 Figure 1 2 Map of Martinique courtesy of worldatlas.com This dissertation examines how cultural activists in contemporary Martinique a Caribbean island of the Lesser Antilles use expressions of the bl drum dance culture to affirm or contest claims about cultural identity, difference, and belonging. Bl is an Afro Creole set dance and drum complex that was practiced by enslaved Africa ns and their descendants in rural Martinique during the colonial period. Throughout colonial history and well into the 20 th century, the practice of bl was
22 repressed by the Catholic Church and denigrated by national model of assimi lation, nearly erasing the tradition from cultural landscape. Over the last 30 years, however, cultural activists and artist intellectuals have mobilized at the grassroots level to reinvigorate this rich set of traditions. Cultural struggles in Martinique, a dpart ement d'outre mr (DOM, Overseas Department of France) since 1946, have produced a distinctive variant of French citizenship and Antillean identity, and these struggles have historical roots long before the mom ent of integration with France. This political status extends to Martinican residents the same set of rights and privileges afforded under full French citizenship in the metropolitan departments of France (voting, parliamentary representation, social secu rity and public services). Martinicans have a multifaceted notion of citizenship, involving their legal belonging to the French nation state as well as cultural sensibilities that attest to their Caribbean identity. This dissertation aims to explain this paradox through an investigation of cultural citizenship Renato Rosaldo defines this concept as right to be different (in terms of race, ethnicity, or native language) with respect to the norms of the dominant national community without compromisin g right to belong, in the sense of participating in the nation democratic (Rosaldo 1994:57). Martinique is characterized by an undeniable loyalty to the French nation state that exists alongside expressions of Martinican specifici ty and Caribbean belonging. Therefore, c ultural citizenship i s an appropriate analytical framework for exploring the degree to which Martinicans negotiate their French national belonging while assert ing their Antillean difference, particularly i n the prac tice of bl and other related drum dances.
23 Development and Dependency from a French Antillean Perspective A disjunctive relationship between full fledged French citizenship and cultural identity in the French Antilles has manifested with the project of assimilation, a by product of the integration with the French state (Miles 2001). According to the assimilationist model upon which French national belonging is premised ideologically, Antilleans become legally French if they conf orm to French societal norms ( Beriss 2004 ; Price and Price 1997). Especially since the 1960s, there has been a heightened valorization of French values behaviors, and patterns. S cholars have analyz ed from various points of view the alienating effects of departmentalization and the perpetuation of neocolonial power rela tions with France Political scientist Justin Daniel (2001) describes the construction of dependency in Martinique as a strategy utilized by political and economic elites. Maintaini ng allianc es with those holding political power in mainland France has worked to the advantage of Martinican elites to attain one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean D analysis of domination in the French islands distinguishes between self sustaining development and dependent economic growth to demonstrate that despite the increases in GDP in Martinique and Guadeloupe since departmentalization, there has been a dramatic decline in local production, particularly of sugar, rum, and banan as, and unemployment remains a rampant issue for islanders In Martinique, agriculture accounts for only 6 percent of GDP, and the small industrial sector a mere 11 percent. The service sector makes up 83 percent of the economy and even tourism, one of the more lucrative income generating sectors in the Caribbean is a struggling economy in Martinique relative to neighboring islands (cf. Miles 2012). For the most part, the economic growth has been the result of public and social monetary
24 transf ers Daniel goes on to explain that desire to attain the same level of development as the mainland has led to giving priority to policies of redistribution and allocation of the (2001:63). This has created a welfare state whereby social p olicies designed to support highly developed societies are imposed upon a small underdeveloped island. One of my interlocutors once expressed to me that one comes to Martinique, sees the big houses and the nice cars, and assumes that they are as well off as France, but in reality, they are much more like other "Third World" countries and poor Caribbean isla nds (interview May 22, 2009). The economic realities and the illusion of development in Martinique are partly shaped by what Katherine E. Browne (2004) describes as dbrouillardism also known as economic cunning or informal economic activity that, she argues, is a produc t of creole values In her ethnography, Creole Economics: Caribbean Cunning Under the French Flag Browne explains the widespread participation in the informal economy among Martinicans who are finding alternative strategies to deal wit h unemployment, low salaries, consumerist values, and high standards of living. She suggests that this approach to earning undeclared income is a form of cultural resistance and identity assertio n, because it represents the cre ole consciousness of the Mar tinican people subversive earning while proudly accepting economi c assistance from the metropole. Martinican intellectual and writer of the crolit literary movement Patrick Chamoiseau describes the situation of dependency and development in Martinique as one of (Chamoiseau 1997:18). French citizenship and the consumption of goods produced externally have produced this level of French cultural
25 and economic hegemony. Criticizing this culture of consumption, Chamoiseau writes ab out the spread of roads, buildings, shopping malls, and luxury cars as symptomatic of this domination, different from colonial domination and plantation slavery in that it and seduces people rather than violently coercing (Vincenot 2 009:70). F or Chamoiseau, the illusion of development and modernization has the island culture and traditional (Ibid ) I first traveled to Martinique in 2009 to explore the ways in which cultural workers were involved in a general stri ke and political unrest earlier that year ( Chapter 4 ) I placed particular emphasis on those involved in the bl cultural revival movement because d uring the strike, bl was used as a medium for igniting the public in demonstr ations and protest repertoires. My preliminary research carried out in 2009 and 2011 pointed to the centrality of bl promoters in debates over local cultural development and identity. Bl activists position themselves as protectors of Martinican herita ge, making claims of cultural difference from France while maintaining their dual sense of belonging within the Caribbean region and the French nation state. The question of cultural identity and difference from France in Martinique has received a signific ant amount of attention from the prominent intellectual movements of ngritude (Csaire 2000), antillianit (Glissant 1989), and crolit (Bernab, Chamoiseau, & Confiant 1989), as well as the postcolonial philosophical contributions of Frantz Fanon (1967) Anthropologists have interrogated the cultural politics of earning practices (Browne 2004) to the discourse on sexuality, homophobia and liberal r ights frameworks extended by French citizenship (Agard Jones
26 2009 ; Murray 2000 ). Anthropologists have explored cultural expressions and issues of representation in Martinique t Price and Pr ice 1997; Price 1998 ), and the simultaneous accommodation and resistance to French mod ernization (Gerstin 2000). Music research shows how a renewed interest in Caribbean identity and the rise of Martinican national consciousness has led to the emergence of popular music forms that integrat e traditional Martinican characteristics with other diasporic musical elements (Berrian 2000; Cyrille 2 006 ; Guilbault 1993 ). While the potential of political sovereignty in Martinique has been rendered futile, questions of cultural sovereignty and difference are almost always up for debate (Constant 2001; Daniel 2001; Miles 2001). This research highlights the negotiations with France, particularly among bl activists Theoretical Framework Drawing on recent developments in how (Holston 2008 ) is defined and conceptualized in anthropological literature, this research explores how Martinicans use bl to negotiate their demands for cultural distinctiveness while embracing extra local emblems of Caribbean and Afro diasporic identity, and navigat ing the system of assimilation and French national belonging. My interlocutors often describe the bl community as its own small soc iety in Martinican society, and the bl movement is commonly characterize d as a project of cultural resistance, whereby p ractitioners (re)claim aspects of local identity that were historically repressed and nearly dissolved though French cultural assimilation; however, the movement is not exclusively associated with a political project for independence or state sovereignty. Debates persist around whether or not bl as an expression of resistance
27 should operate within or entirely subvert, the dominant structures and values imposed by France. The chapters of this dissertation examine these debates as they relat e to political life, local economic solidarity, conceptions of spirituality and religion, expressions of sexuality and gender identity, and dance pedagogy and the French national education system. The resultant body of data reveals that these debates cont ribute to the formation of a distinctive Martinican cultural citizenship. An analysis of cultural citizenship in the context of Martinique will enhance our anthropological understanding of Caribbean identity, cultural politics, and diaspora studies, as these issues in the French Caribbean present a distinctive case regarding the uneven legacy of French assimilation and colonialism This project builds upon two key bodies of literature in anthropology and related social science disciplines, specifically citi zenship and cultural politics. Citizenship In his influential 1950 essay Citizenship and Social Class T. H. Marshall defined citizenship as the legal status of an individual who makes claims of membership and belonging to a national community with spe cific rights, privileges, and duties (Marshall 1977). Assuming integration and equality for all members of the citizenry, this universalist approach has been challenged in contemporary societies where legal citizenship is inclusive of some groups while re ndering others invisible ( Kymlicka 1995 ; Spinner 1994; Young 1989:250 ). Challeng ing traditional understandings of citizenship is especially important in the context of global economic restructuring and the globalized movement of people and ideas. The cal l for alternative conceptualizations of citizenship from the perspective of racial, ethnic, class, gender, and linguistic difference has been advanced by a number of anthropologists and other social scientists ( Caldwell 2007;
28 Delanty 2000; Flores and Benma yor 1997; Holston 2008; Ong 1996, 1999; Rosaldo 1994; Tang 2010). Cultural citizenship involves the right to be different along the lines of ethnicity, race, class, and language, while maintaining the rights afforded under legal citizenship and participati on in democratic processes. It refers to the right of citizens to assume cultural identities outside the dominant conception of national belonging compromising the right to (Rosaldo 1994:57). According to this framework, cultural differen ce should be valued as a resource, and not condemned as a threat to the nation state (Fl ores and Benmayor 1997). With regard to immigrant and refugee identities, cultural citizenship has been used to describe (Foucault 1989), a process of self making and being made through the negotiation between immigrant subjects, civil society, and the authority of the nation state (Ong 1996:738). Subject making not only occurs through the imposition of dominant cultural norms by the nation state, bu t also through the deviation from those norms that is enacted in collective struggle (Tang 2010:43). The cultural practices and beliefs that emerge from subjectification have larger material implications for the everyday social relations between host soci eties and minority or migrant communities. Even though original use of cultural citizenship did not refer specifically to the realm of art and expressive culture (1994:58), scholars have since extended the term to include aesthetic values, popular culture, and expressive production. Richard Flores (1997) writes about the relationship between cultural citizenship and aesthetic process, arguing that, enactments and practices th at forge a sense of community and belonging lead to renewed experiences of identity, and provide a social space for the formation of
29 collective practice and its concomitant forms of (Flores 1997:125). Flores suggests the investigation of cultural c itizenship in cultural performances because they are public events where expressions of self and society are articulated and negotiated. Cultural Politics Cultural politics is another important and related area of anthropological scholarship that informs t his dissertation project. Glenn Jordan and Chris Weedon (1995) write that politics focus on struggle over meanings, values, forms of subjectivity and (1995:19). These struggles are quite often visible in the production of festivals, v isual art, dance, music, and other cultural practices and performances (Reed 2010; Rivera 2010 ; Sutton 2002 ). The question becomes, whose culture is represented and whose culture is erased? Which cultural forms sell, and which forms are likely to obstruc t the agenda? How are cultural policies formulated to support or marginalize artistic development and heritage projects and what do they mean in terms of larger power relations? As the literature in anthropology and ethnomusicology has shown, ve rnacular aesthetic traditions and cultural performances in the Caribbean serve as sources of heritage preservation, nationalist discourse, identity assertion, and in some contexts reformist and radical social change (Bilby 1985; Daniel 1995; Fernandes 2006 ; McAlister 2002; Moore 1997; Scher 2010 ; Thomas 2004 ). Anthropologists explore expressive forms are used for constructing and contesting narratives and representati ons of the dominant national culture, authenticity, and belonging ( Beriss 2004; Daniel 1995; Davila 1997; Surez 2010 ; Thomas 2004 ). Attention has also been given to the politics of music and dance performance in tourism development, and their
30 implications fo r nation building ( Babb 2011 ; Cohen 2010). Research often reveals that the cultural forms of marginalized groups are either repressed or strategi cally co opt ed for the benefit of the dominant group, having profound implications in the socie social order Chapter Organization The extended field research for this dissertation was carried out over the course of 18 months, beginning in January 2013 and ending in August 2014. The methodology used in this research included dance participant o bservation, open ended and semi structured interviews, and the collection of life histories. I also employed photography and videography, and I carried out archival research My primary objective was to understand what functions bl serves for its diver se community of partipants across generation, class, gender, urban/rural background, and educational experience. For some, bl can have political and/or economic significance. For others, the practice of bl has immense sp iritual or therapeutic value The chapters of this dissertation are organized to reveal a set of debates that point to the complexit ies of tradition and modernity in struggles for cultural heritage preservation, especially in postcolonial, post plantation societies. Bl is a Caribbean dance term that is not easily classified or defined. In Chapter 2, I present a descriptive overview of bl as a family of Afro Creole drum dance variants found throughout the Caribbean region. I then go on to discuss the different histori cal influences that contributed to the creation and development of bl drum dance complex. Finally, I recount the story of decline and subsequent revalorization i n contemporary Martinique, where it has evolved into a vibrant subcultur e under the conditions of postcolonial integration with the French state.
31 Chapter 3 on dance research methodology is a reflexive, (auto)ethnographic account about my journey as a dancer of bl Usi ng reflexivity as a met hodological and analytical tool I consider the diff erent ways in which my positionality i nfluenced the remarks about my identity as a b lack American woman and my participation as a dancer of bl often elicited conversations that spoke directly to the questions guiding my project. According to many of my bl counterparts our mutual belonging to the African diaspora and our shared cultural sensibilities as African descendants explain my ability t o execute the dance of bl in its great complexity and to understand the emotional, communicative power of bl performance In Chapter 4 I use the protests of the 2009 strike in Martinique as a point of departure for discussing the various ways in which leaders of the bl movem ent have helped to refashion political and economic sensibilities among followers of the movement. I will demonstrate how the appropriation of bl for advancing nationalist discourse has stimulated an et hos of resistance and solidarity for its practitioners through highly structured activities, manifestati ons, and modes of inculcation Following my ethnographic analysis of the bl spaces where much of the consciousness r aising and inculcation occur, I will consider alternative perspectives from those who oppose the politicization of the bl public. Chapter 5 interrogates the less explored interface of bl religion, and spirituality. The first objective of the chapter is to examine the incre asing visibility of bl performance in the Catholic Church, a fusion genre called bl lgliz as an attempt to refashion the liturgy with Afro Martinican cultural references that were once prohibited
32 by the dominant religious order. Debates persist arou nd whether or not bl proponents should seek recognition from a religious institution that historically r epressed the tradition, and if C hurch bl is compatible with the larger mission of resistance. Secondly, I interrogate African inspired p hilosophical orientations to spirituality that a subset of bl activists enga ge, drawing upon the rituals, practices and symbols of African and Afro Caribbean religions The cosmologies of Afri can and Afro Caribbean practices such as Vodou S antera C andomb l S pi ritism and Q uimbois are import ant emblems of black spiritual authenticity for these individuals who denounce the dogmatic nature of the Catholic Church, and the connection to colonial history. Finally, I will analyze th e assertion that bl is a spirituality in and of itself a point of view held by an increasing number of practitioners who consider bl to be an integral part of social healing in a society that has suffered a under French a ssimilation (Glissant 1981:173). I have chosen to dedicate Chapte r 6 to the women of bl because so much of the leaders hip and public discourse in the bl revival are male dominated. Women play a central role in the ongoing transmission of bl both on and off the dancefloor. In this chapter, I analyze bl performance as a space for women s transgression of respectable sexuality and gender norms and the associated morality debates around appropriate dance conduct. Bl is a communicative d ance, with some courtship style choreography involving four female male couples. In a society where black women are stereotyped and devalued as dependents of the welfare system and shamed for being overtly sexual, bl becomes a transformative space where their performance of a provocative sensuality is applauded and celebrated. In the playful, flirtatious game of
33 certain bl choreographies in which the woman is the object of her male partner s pursuit, she ultimately decides if she will submit or retrea t. My evidence suggests that this aspect of bl performance, whereby women are valorized for their sensual dance prowess, brings a remarkable sense of affirmation and confidence, while provoking discussions about decency, morality, and respectable dance behavior. In Chapter 7 I conclude the dissertation by discussing the integration of bl into the national education system, and I address an ongoing debate about tradition, modernity, and the politics of (French) national allegiance in the transmission o f bl Some leaders of the bl movement find that teaching bl in formal school settings based on a rigorously codified dance pedagogy is an appropriate strategy for putting young Martinicans in touch with their roots. Others criticize this approa ch, arguing that the improvisational spirit that is intrinsic to b lack dance culture the spirit inherited from the ancestors is weakened through French influenced manners of pedagogy and standardization. With the imposition of French educational guidelines, d efenders of the tradition have been required to modify their modes of transmission at the expense of the ir affective and spiritual foundations to satisfy bureaucratic expectations and appease the concerned parents of school aged children, particularly those who have internalized negative images associated with the tradition. My project in Martinique is of theoretical im portance in that it pushes us to recognize the variegated understandings of (non)sovereignty and enactments of citizenship among postcolonial subjects, a theme that has long characterized the Caribbean region as one of (Knight 199 0) This work fits squarely with the objective of presenting more studies of the no n sovereign Caribbean
34 and placing those analyses alongsi de those of nation s that are asymmetrically affected by neoliberal reforms and global economi c restruc turing (Bonilla 2012 ; also see Cohen 2010 for a discussion of sovereignty in the British Virgin Islands). This should be of growing concern to anthropologists, especially as we witness the increasing integration of political units in t o the European Union, in which French Antilleans hold membership. Local meanings and practices grounded in cultural difference in the French overseas departments should not pose the same threat to French nationalism and assimilation (Stolcke 1995) that the y once may have, and they should have a new significance for local and regional affairs. This project also adds nuance to anthropological scholarship that investigates nationalism through dance, performance, and expressive culture, because the Mart inican context offers an alternative to the future of political autonomy. Popular opinion maintains that Martinique cannot achieve greater autonomy, let alone a movement toward independence given its small size and economic dependence on France. My resear ch will closely examine the new relationships and interactions that arise with cultural heritage projects and practices that prom ote local cultural autonomy while the populace maintains an allegiance to the French nation and ostensibly enjoys the benefits of European integration.
35 CHAPTER 2 BL AS ACCOMMODATION OR RESISTANCE: A HISTORICAL OVERVIEW In contemporary Martinique, bl is not simply the name of a traditional dance; the term bl is used to describe an manny viv or a way of life. It is a subculture that Creole drum dance practices. 1 especially in the years of intense assimilation to French cul ture following World War II, bl and its associated practices like ladja/ danmy and kalen n da flourish today among a minority community of devoted cultural activists dedicated to the cause of preserving Caribbean cultural specificity (Tab le 2 1 ) 2 Because bl is a folk tradition partially adapted from European court dances by enslaved Africans, and several versions of bl can be found across different island communities, the story of bl origins during the slavery era is fraught with conjecture about accommodation, imitation, and creative resistance. 3 Some perspectives would have it that blacks merely sought to replicate the styles and mannerisms of their white masters when they danced the quadrilles of the local bourgeoisie. Howeve r, the legacy of bl in Martinique, as with other Afro C reole expressions of the Black Atlantic, can be interpreted as a story of creative duplicity, resilience and camouflaged resistance under the dreadful conditions of slavery. In this chapter, I pres ent a descriptive overview of 1 Here, I borrow Richard D. E. Burton s conceptualization of referring to a tradition that is primarily African inspired, but created and/or transformed under New World conditions with the convergence of indigenous, European, and African cultural influences (Burton 1997). 2 T able 2 1 identifies the specific Martinican movement and dance styles that I observed and focused on in this research. 3 These terms are considered in this chapter as they have been theorized by scholars of chattel slavery who treat accommodation and resis tance as a (Genovese 1976:658), rather than a dichotomy (cf. Mintz 1974:76). The spectrum comprises different strategies of survival based on both subtle and overt forms of accommodation and resistance through which the enslaved navigated and subverted the system of bondage (cf. Buckridge 2004; Gaspar 1993; Schwartz 1977; Wood 2003).
36 bl as a family of drum dance variants found throughout the Caribbean region. I then go on to discuss the different historical influences that contributed to the creation and bl drum dance compl ex. Finally, I recount the story of decline and subsequent revalorization in contemporary Martinique, which has evolved into a growing subculture under the conditions of postcolonial integration with the French state The Conundrum of Pan Caribbean Dance Continu a While this dissertation focuses exclusively on bl subculture, it is important to first contextualize bl as belonging to a pan Caribbean continuum of interrelated practices that have developed into separate national variations of folk dance over time. A number of Caribbeanist scholars have assumed the challenge of categorizing, describing, and connecting the origins of the creolized folk dance traditions (Daniel 2009, 2010; Gerstin 2010; Manuel 2009). Throughout the Caribbean region, traditional dance repertoires comprise various set dances that were created, synthesized, and sustained under the creolizing process es of European colonialism and settlement, African enslavement, indentured labor migration, and postcolonial heritage preservation. Although many of these dances were adapted from European court dances, such as the contredanse and quadrille styles documen ted throughout the region as early as the 17 th century, some have more obvious ancestral links to their West and West Central African precursors than others. There is a bit of perplexity regarding how these dances can be accurately mapped, traced, and cate gorized due to the nature of historical material and colonial era travel writing on black dance traditions
37 (Gerstin 2010:11). 4 Pan regional survey studies of Caribbean dance have pointed out the various overlapping and interchangeable names used to identify these dances in d ifferent island societies, e ven in circum Caribbean mainland settings such as Louisiana the region catalog these dance t erms and their various cognate spellings as quadrille /kwadril bl /belair haute taille affranchi bamboula bomba tumba francesa calinda/ kalennda chic a lewoz and djouba/juba all of which are related and share overlapping origins, but belong to specific island locales (Daniel 2009, 2010). 5 Julian African dances as circum Caribbean cultural products that were created under the related experiences of colonialism and enslavement, but within dis tinct colonial contexts especially in the former French colonies with high concentrations of Bantu s peaking Africans from the Congo Angola region. As he points out, there is much confusion about the dances that we call kalennda bamboula juba and bl ; kalennda northeastern region of Martinique may appear to be a completely different tradition than calinda same spatial configuration, choreography, and movements may have two different names. The European colonial lens through which these dances were first interpreted left a trail of arbitrary, generalized descriptions in the written record. Assumptions of 4 It is not my goal to take a full inventory of the mult itude of dance variations s pan ning the Caribbean region that share the same names or aesthetic qualities. Other scholars have made great strides in the project of sorting, classifying, critiquing, and tracking the discrepancies in descriptions of Caribbean dance styles that were (mis)labeled by colonial era chroniclers (see Daniel 2009, 2010; Gerstin 2007, 201 0). 5 This list is by no means exhaustive, but rather a few of the more prominent examples.
38 sameness in the labeling of some dances amon g early chroniclers were often based on racist, stereotyped images of hyper eroticism and black bodies (Gerstin 2010:20). With other dances, where the movements appeared more stately and elegant, blacks were assumed to be merely imitat ing the European court dances of their masters. This was especially the case for domestic servants who had greater exposure to the European mannerisms of the planter class. One could argue, however, that the resemblances between these synthesized dances were based on shared values expressed in the form of competitive display, satirical song, flirtatious play, and/or ancestor reverence. Daniel (2009, 2010) comparative Caribbean field research analyzes the various contredanse and quadrille derived styles of the region as expressions of values and dance behaviors related to identity ancestor reverence, and the experience of colonialism. The dance styles falling on this creole dance continuum include different formations and spatial configurations, such as circle dancing, square dancing, and line dancing, and they communicate cultural between the enslaved blacks and their white masters (2009:148). Daniel also highlights the neo African values of camouflaged resistance, parody, regali ty, and aesthetic 6 Coolness in a performative sense reflects calculating, knowing, smooth, deliberate and purposeful (2009:149). For enslaved Africans, these values, combined with on the ancestral tra nsformed European dance styles to old understandings [the beliefs and convictions of African ancestors] in new (2009:150). On the continuum of creolized contredanse / quadrille adaptations, 6 The notion of coolness in black cul ture and aesthetics was develope d by art historian Robert Farris Thompson (1974), and later applied to the analysis of African diaspora dance by Brenda Gottschild (2002).
39 bl stands out among dance scholars as one that is more clearly linked with African dance behaviors (Cyrille 2009:188). Defining Bl as a Regional Folk Tradition Bl is a Caribbean dance term t hat generically refers to the contredanse and quadrille derived folk traditions that most successfully integrat ed African aesthetic elements and musical accompaniment (Cyrille 2009; Daniel 2009, 2010, 2011; Wason 2010 ) Bl traditions include aspects of European court dances, but communicate different attitudes and values rooted in Afro Caribbean cultural sensibi lities. Different dances with the name bl exist in various Caribbean locales, and although these adaptations share overlapping historical trajectories and s tylistic qualities that traversed the region with inter bl tradition is practiced and performed differently. Variations of bl share the same basic logic, involving dance partners who playfully interact with one another in the c enter of a circle through intricate foot patterns, dynamic arm movements, turns, and bent knee, flat footed body orientation. The playful (and at times competitive) interactive style between dance partners is reminiscent of the Congo minuet 7 Through exp ressions of salutation, dancers also interact with the drummer who provides the percussive musical accompaniment of polyrhythmic drum patterns based on the In bl traditions, the goat skinned conical drum is acco mpanied by call and res ponse singing with a lead singer and a chorus of background singers. In Martinican bl there is also the added tibwa percussive accompaniment two wooden sticks that 7 The Congo minuet is an 18 th century New World adaptation of the European minuet partner dance whereby partners face and cr oss over one another with fast intricate foot patterns.
40 are beaten on the side of the drum with a steady tempo. The performing ensemble of danc ers, drummers, and singers is normally encircled by a crowd of participating spectators who clap their hands, sway their bodies, and join in by singing the refrain. All of these elements, when functioning together in harmony, provide the spirited energy that is necessa ry for a successful bl event. Different versions of bl developed according to local island specificities, and the bl variations that survive today have become emblems of national community formation across the Caribbean region (Daniel 2011). In other words, each version of bl is tied to bl is identical to the next. The history of bl as a folk tradition that was transmitted orally and kinesthetically rather than through written literature and codified text, p resents a challenge to scholars aiming to t 8 D ance specialists have largely relied on the observations of European colonial writers such as Father Jean Baptiste Labat (1722) and M. L. E. Moreau de St. Mry (1796) as historica l evidence of the dances practiced by people of color in Caribbean plantation societies. Bl is understood to have its creole origins in the French colonies of Grenada, Saint Domingue, Martinique, and Guadeloupe, and to have later traveled to other Caribb ean island territories that were once occupied by French settlers, including St. 8 A note on vocabulary bl activists to describe the tradition. This has to do with their criticisms of folklorization, and the problematic ways in wh public life as traditions frozen in a fixed, sterile past what Richard and Sally Price (1997:13) refer to as bl activists contend that bl is a living, ever evolving culture and caution against the essentializing and exoticizing effects produced by folkloric representations.
41 Lucia, Dominica, Carriacou, and Trinidad (Franco 1999; Johnson 2012:150). 9 Some studies of bl argue that the dances are adaptations of African mating, fertility, and harves t dances that integrated western European dance elements of 18 th century quadrille and contredanse performance (Honychurch 1988:63). In societies where both quadrille and bl exist, it is clear that the two dances have absorbed elements of one another (Wason 2010:227). Unlike the more African inspired bl that is accompanied by goat skinned drums and other percussive instruments, traditional quadrille performance is accompani ed by melodic instruments, and is danced with erect body orientation, moderate foot and arm movements, and simple turns and curtsies between partners characteristics that signified elegance, grace, refined taste, and high culture according to European mann ers and aesthetic standards that established the prevailing dance hierarchy. 10 If we think of Caribbean quadrilles as a dance spectrum, with some variations being more African influenced, and other s bl repertoire has dance ele ments that are more recognizably inherited from Africa. Martinican Bl : Questions of African Resistance and French Accommodation There are different interpretations regarding the origins of the term bl based on both French and Congolese lexicons (Rosemain 1986:49). Some interpretations posit that bl is a creolized derivation of the French expression belair meaning pretty tunes. This was the name given to improvi sed call and response songs that acc ompanied collective work activities and dance gatherings among bondsmen and bondswomen (1986:51). Other interpretations turn to the Congolese terms boela and 9 For information about bl in: St. Lucia, see Crowley 19 57:7; Guilbault and Embert 2007 :380; Dominica, s ee Caudeiron 1988:27; Honychurch 1988:36 7; Trinidad, Grenada, and Carriacou, see David 1994:162; Herskovits and Herskovits 1964:158 9; Pearse 1955:30 1; Roberts 1972:117. 10 Compare, for example, Martinican bl with another Martinican quadrille derived dance haute taille
42 mbele as the original sources of the name bl (Cyrille 2002:241; Gerstin 2010:27). Moreover, th e circular, square, and double bl repertoires can be traced to French and Congolese traditional dances. European colonial observers tended to characterize Africans dancing bl as poor imitations of the Frenc h quadrille more Afrocentric orientations to history reference the quadrille inspired choreography as a strategy of camouflaged resistance exercised by the enslaved. Here, I examine a set of explan ations regarding both Congolese and French influences that contributed to bl development in Martinique Inferences from Congo/Angolan Culture Understanding African background and influences on the black dance culture requires some discussion of the cultural geography and ethnic composition of the French slave trade. In the French colonies, earliest arrivals of the 17 th century came from Senegambia, and to a lesser extent, the Bight of Benin. After the 17 th century, however, the Senegambia region was much less important than the Bight of Benin and the Congo region for supplying enslaved Africans and populating the French Caribbean islands (Dubois 2004; Eltis 2000; Geggus 2001). French focus shifted away from Senegambia to the Bight of Benin during the first quarter of the 18 th century, and to the ports of the Loango coast during the second half of the 18 th century, a period in which West Central Africa became the leading supplier to large French vessels (Geggus 2001:123). In 1914, a British missionary and explorer by the name of John H. Weeks published a written account of his experience living among the Bakongo peoples of southern Congo. In describing a number of customs, habits rituals, and
43 observe d over the course of his thirty year stay, he writes kind of event gives an occasion for a are danced into the world at their birth, and they are danced out of it at their He states that, their dances there are two formations the circle, and opposite (1914:127 8). 11 Cer tain aspects of the dances he describes as boela and mbele bear semblance to some characteristics of Martinican bl According to description, boela is danced in a circular formation to the rhythms of a medium sized drum, and dancers use a cloth u nder the armpit or tied around the waist as a belt (1914:132). Weeks also includes a description of the game mbele which is played with drum and song on (1914:121). With the formation of the Christian Church, some of the rules were modi fied because the drums game participants, them to lose all self (Ibid). In Father Labat 1724 description of a dance he observed in Martinique, he explains that men and women stand in opposite lines, and with a signal fro m the drum, the men and women approach one another and strike their thighs. They then back away from one another, turn, and advance with the same movement each time the dr ummer gives them a signal (  1972 :401 3). 12 The dance that he is describing is a dance called mablo in contemporary bl complex. Interestingly, this exact same choreography of mablo line dancing, whereby partners take turns striking their thighs and bellies, appears to be a prominent dance feature among ethnic group s in Central Africa. Weeks described this choreography in his observations of the 11 The double line formation described here is also used in the contredanse of Western Europe, and has been observed among the Arad people of West Africa (Manuel 2009:13). 12 This case is one in which Labat arbitra rily labels the dance leading to much confusion in what we call calinda and kalennda today.
44 Bakongo (1914:128 9), and it has also been described as a dance called semba in Angola (Desch Obi 2008:129). Beyond the Congolese Angolan dance influence, the percussive techniques used in Martinican drum dances also have their origins in Congolese culture (Gerstin 2010:32). In Martinique, the goat skinned conical drum is played in a transversal style whereby the drum rests horizontally on its side. The drummer sits acro ss the drum body, uses h er /his heel to alter the pitch of the drum, and s/he is accompanied by another percussionist sitting behind the drum, beating two wooden sticks upon the side with a steady tempo (known in Martinique as the tibwa ). The tran sverse drumming technique with wooden sticks on the side has been recorded by ethnomusicologists working in the Congo and throughout the Caribbean region (Bilby 1985:187; Kubik 1998:678; Lewin 1998:898). Images of the Baaka ethnic group in the Congo also capture this practice of sitting astride a drum laying horizontally on the ground (Kisliuk 1998:92, 188). Identifying those elements that app ear to have their origins in West Central African dance and music culture is only part of the challenge of recover ing origins. The quadrille styles imported from Eur ope during the colonial era also left an imprint on the spatial configurations used in the bl group dances observed in my research French Quadrilles Dominique Cyrille quadrilles explains how European court dances that used both square and line group formations arrived in the Antilles from France through colonial settlement. French contredanse variants, adapted from the English country dance, comprised groups of female male partners facing each other in a longways line configuration; a potpourri of those dances later developed into
45 quadrille square choreographies danced by four couples, which later crystallized into five different dance figures, or floor patterns: le pan talon (pants), (summer), la poule (hen), la pastourelle (shepherd girl), and the finale (De Garmo 1868:87 8). The names were based on the songs originally played for each figure Cyrille argues that European court dances traveled to the Antilles fro m Europe during the 17 th century as missionaries attempted to eradicate African traditions and 2009:192). In the 18 th century, however, these dances continued to be imported to the Antilles for the enjoyment of French planters and aristocrats on the islands who were nostalgic for Parisian forms of entertainment. Different creolized adaptations of the contredanse and quadrille developed through the inter island migration of plant ers and their slaves, free blacks searching for opportunities of upward mobility, and maroons fleeing enslavement and finding refuge in the neighboring islands. Planters would often travel between islands with their performers, and dance masters from Fran ce were hired descendants eventually became familiar with European dance aesthetics and what those aesthetics signified. Though it is likely the case that free peopl e of color in urban settings sought to imitate and assimilate elitist attitudes and behaviors associated with quadrille performance, I am not convinced that this was the goal for enslaved blacks who modified quadrilles into creative inventions of their own It is important to call into question notions of accommodation, mimicry, and resistance (passive, camouflaged, or otherwise), in an effort to understand the different functions that bl practice served for bondsmen and bondswomen during the slave era.
46 Imitation: A Form of Flattery or a Form of Survival? Scholars present different scenarios of how bl developed into the variations observed in Mart inique today. During the slavery era, bamboulas were a common activity for the enslaved population. Sometimes described as nocturnal drum dance events ( Desch Obi 2008:128 ), sometimes described as the of Sunday afternoons (Rosemain 1986:22 3) bamboulas were held on weekends and holidays when the enslaved had free time from work and were permitted to socialize. They would travel near and far, sometimes several miles, and the food was often provided from their own provision grounds and gardens (2008:128; Labat 1724:154). According to Jacqueline Rosemain (1986), slaves were grouped by nation (Afric an ethnic groups) to better maintain order and co ntrol (1986:24). Many of the b l ack dance traditions described in the written record from this time period were observed at these gatherings. Father Labat paints a picture of these events as dance circles or chestrated by a drum he called [sic], fabricated from and named for the bamboo tree trunk. From description, we understand the significant role of the drummer, who improvises the rhythmic sequence based on the movements (Labat 1 724:153 4; Rosemain 1986:24). Bamboulas were also common among mutual aid associations, or socits which organized semi private performance (2008:127). Mutual aid societies were in place to raise money and purchase freedom for the e nslaved, pay for burial arrangements, practice worship and religious activities in a concealed environment, and organize entertainment events. This mutual aid tradition familiar to most plantation societies during the slave era promoted solidarity, recipr ocity, and exchange (Lincoln and Mamiya 1990:242). According to Gerstin, the bamboulas of mutual aid societies, organized around the principles of solidarity and community
4 7 exchange, provided the blueprint for the rural organization of swar bl tradition discussed below ( Gerstin 1996:117). Some perspectives maintain that free people of color and blacks who worked closely with their masters as domestic slaves had greater familiarity with French styles of ballroom entertainment, and thus, sought to reproduc e the quadrille repertoires and mannerisms that they had observed among white dancers (Cyrille 2009:200). Blacks who possessed minimal knowledge of the quadrille and who had not acquired the skills for dancing it in its truest French form, improvised and integrated dance behaviors of their own. By the early 19 th century, blacks in the rural plantation settings of Martinique had adopted the choreography of European quadrille spatial choreography and merged it with the African based musical expression of d r umming and call and response singing that was traditionally used in bamboula gatherings (Gerstin 1996:120). Some colonial observers found imitation of the quadrille among people of color to be an impressive enactment of social integration, while others co nsidered such imitation an offensive bastardization or Granier de Cassagnac  1844 :220). In the writings of Moreau de St. Mry, for example, we see his appreciation for free born, well educated mulattoes who learned the contredanse as if not better than many whit When reflecting on his observations of the enslaved and the newly freed, however, he Mry 1803:39). He found more pleasure in watching blacks perform their own dances :
48 When they resist their unfortunate tendency to imitate, negroes have charming dances, all their own, coming originally from Africa as they do; and the Creole negroes love their dances particularly, because they have performed them from earliest the Congo, the Senegalese and other African farmers and shepherds love the dance as a relaxation and a source of voluptuousness. From all Africa, negroes who settled in the French colonies with comparable climate continue their love for the dance a love so strong that though exhausted by work they find the strength to dance, and even to walk several miles to and from the place of this delight (Moreau de St. M ry  1 976:51 52). Moreau de St. Mry insisted that ballroom styles required careful, serious study for perfect execution, rather than mere approximation of the steps ( 1976:48). Learning to dance the quadrille meant that one had successfully dissociated oneself from the inferior classes Cyrille argues that over time, with the increasing participation of people across class and color, court dances helped to close social gaps between whites and blacks (2009:202 3). According to this perspective, people o f color adopted European traditions to distance themselves from African traditions that were discouraged. African dance forms, especially among rural field laborers, were perceived to lack the decency, control, and moderation required for proper quadrille performance. Such styles of music and movement were commonly described by colonial writers as repetitive, vulgar, and unpleasant ( Du Tertre  1973 ; G ranier de Cassagnac  1844 ; Labat 1724). This would explain why so many white observers were offended to see European court dances appropriated by blacks. The assumption that blacks simply imitated quadrille performance during the colonial era in order to accommodate the status quo and behave more like their white counterparts should be problemati zed, as this is only one side of the story. As we understand from Simon Gikandi discussion of mimicry and counterculture in his 2011 book Slavery and the Culture of Taste replication and adaptation of European
49 styles and tastes was actually a w ay of parodying their dominant counterparts. He uses the example of John Canoe festivities in Jamaica as an example, writing that Canoe had two faces and functions: one imitated the culture of taste; the other mocked (2011:273). Although this k ind of play and duplicity could not mean true liberation for the enslaved, performance of a counterculture of taste was essential to the transformation of enslaved Africans from chattel to (Ibid:271). Disfiguring the most esteeme d and precious traditions beyond recognition brought some degree of human dignity and belonging in an institution that denied their existence. The dancing bod y of the slave, its animation its of (Ibid:280), was the antithesis of Euro pean cultural sensibilities, and polite reserved behavior. Following the line of thinking that blacks did not always aim to assimilate by dancing the contredanse and quadrille some argue that they often appropriated elements of European court dance as a strategy to disguise their ritual practices that were repressed by missionaries and colonial law (Cyrille 2002:224). Rosemain tells us that the improvisatory songs and dances of slaves, what she calls belairs were not just whims of imagination or bodily expression; were their prayers. They guided their activities. They helped God revive his presence, and infuse them with strength and (1986:52). Bl was a cre ative means for preserving their rites and ceremonies under an oppressive colonial regime. If they could execute sacred dance movements (i.e. fertility dances) in the format of a quadrille and give the impression that they were adopting European traditio ns, their practices would not be easily recognized by the authorities as ritual practices and punished according to the
50 established slave codes; to outside observers, it would simply appear as though the slaves were amusing themselves. In the context of Do minica, for example, Norris Stubbs (1973) argues that bl likely served African belief systems long ago. Janet Wason (2010) points out in her analysis of bl in Dominica that although African spiritual traditions were largely eradicated by the Roman Catholic Church, Afro Caribbean ceremonial elements, suc h as drinking rum, drumming, and dancing persisted through the practice of bl but the dance eventually lost its connection to African religious beliefs (2010:235). Wason found among her research s ubjects that spiritual communication is an important aspect of bl although the dance today is considered recreational, and it is not tied to a specific religious tradition. 13 Even though African music and dance were prohibited when it served religious pu rposes, it was certainly permitted and even encouraged when it served work purposes, because it helped to generat e revenue for planters Beyond imitation, accommodation, and camouflaged resistance, slaves also practiced bl as a communal work activity (G erstin 1996; Wason 2010). Rosemain identified work related forms of bl group expression that form the foundation of bl beyond the common bamboula gatherings (what she calls belairs de socits ) and the gatherings organized by mutual aid societies (wh at she calls belairs des socits ). What Rosemain identified as belairs were improvised song and dance that accompanied collective plantation work, and helped to keep field laborers in sync while executing tasks (i.e. cutting cane, clearing fie lds, grating manioc) through their collective voices and 13 I explore the religious and spiritual functions of bl practice in greater depth in Chapter 5
51 movements (1986:51). Belairs des coups de mains (or koudmn in Kryl) were song and dance gatherings that accompanied smaller group work in gardens, on provision grounds, or in any other group work activity beyond the forced labor of plantation work, which served the planters for economic gain. Koudmn gatherings involved blacks working together (Horowitz 1967:32 3, 87), for themselves in their free time, praising their deities of agriculture and offering a helping hand to their neigh bors, so the music and dance were much more animated and joyful ( Lafon taine 1982:8 9; Rosemain 1986:58). Wason uses a historical example in Dominica whereby a town priest organized a bl group to work, sing, dance, and drink rum through the night while digging the grounds for the construction of a new church (2010:235 6). T he tanbou bl would remain a powerful symbol of resistan ce and rebellion, on the eve of, and in the wake of, 1848 abolition of slavery. The drum in Martinique has a legendary role in the story of slave emancipation. According to hist orian Dale Tomich (1990), 1831 wa s a moment marked by music and dance gatherings in the towns among slaves, circulating the revolutionary ideals of libert, fraternit, egalit. As slaves convened in the center of town to sing, play drum, and dance i n the double lin e formation they blocked the streets, and sang songs related to the Fr ench Revolution integrating lyrics to represent the colonial situation (1990:88). 14 In 1848, just before abolition was declared, unrest ensue d in protest of the arrest of an en slave d man Romain, who refused to comply with slave c odes prohibiting the use of drums (AM4 1994, 1998; Hlnon 2011:19; Mondsir 2012:24). Because of legacy, the bl drum has come to represent rebel lion and freedom in Martinique. 14 This image of rebellion is one that would be reproduced in future political uprisings, including the 2009 general strike in Martinique.
52 Pre revival E clipse in Martinique The rural bl heritage of Martinique was maintained after abolition through inter familial systems of r eciprocity and informal economic exchange. 15 The bl repertoire from the North Atlantic coast, for example, remained in tact among large families of bl practitioners from Sainte Marie and the nearby communities of Trinit and Gros Morne. These families were primarily made up of smallholder peasants who also worked jobs in cane fields and on banana plantations, and they often mixed their full time plantation employment with other income generating activities, barter, and gift giving. This created strong rural networks that frequently united village residents through koudmn work groups, celeb rations, and dance gatherings. From the t ime of abolition up until World War II, t he rural structure of bl performance functioned through the organization of participatory, open air gatherings called swar bl during holidays and special occasions. Families would take turns planning and hosting bl parties at their homes, using a rotating system of reciprocity to share in the responsibilities, such as preparing the food constructing the dance space, and sprea ding news of the event much like the collaborative structure used by mutual aid societies. The early swar bl system helped to uphold an informal economic network whereby money could be earned from charging admission and selling food and drinks. Friend s and family would stay all night talking, eating, drinking, singing, drumming, and dancing a continuation of the bamboula dance gatherings of their ancestors. 15 Much of these details of history from the moment of abolition to the contemporary revival were recounted in Julian 1996 dissertation, and the liner notes of the Martinique: Cane Fields and City Streets an album of the Alan Lomax 1962 Caribbean Voyage Collection (Gersti n and Cyrille 2001). These details were also substantiated by my research consultants during my fieldwork.
53 Following WWII, and the 1946 departmental integration with the French state, Martinique witnesse d a major wave of urbanization (Murch 1971:19), with a mass rural flight to the capital city Fort de France. With this post war disruption of rural life, bl and its related traditions were eclipsed by other commercialized music and urban dance forms, par ticularly popular genres such as biguine mazurka jazz and later zouk as well as imported genres like konpa soukous and funk (Berrian 2000:221; Gerstin and Cyrille 2001; Guilbault 1993:32). Workers migrated from countryside communities to urban cente rs in search of new employment opportunities, mainly in ci vil service (1993:8), weakening the inter generational network of rural families that had long dances. By the late 1950s, urbanization had cause d the swar bl system to disintegrate and the performance of bl in rural public life had fallen into oblivion (Gerstin 1996:129). High powered modernization projects based on the French model of development were kicked into gear, and pressures to assi milate to French bourgeois culture became more apparent in the media, the education system, economic change and consumption patterns (Price 1998:180 1). Local traditions, like those associated with bl danmy and kalennda were degraded in favor of European high culture what Martinican intellectuals like Aim ch as Andr Malraux from the Ministry of Cultural Affairs lobbied for the establishment of French cultural centers in the French DOMs, but in Martinique, this was met with great opposition by local artists and nationalist politicians.
54 A number of factors c ontributed to the ongoing (albeit peripheral) survival of bl during its post war eclipse in the 1960s, principally the emergence of folkloric performance troupes, the early audio recordings of bl families from Sainte Marie, and the cultural programming initiatives of Aim Csaire during his tenure as mayor of Fort de France. As Gerstin (1996) explains, uring from the late 1950s well into the 1970s, folkloric troupes served as a conduit through which rural bl performers establish ed urban reputations for themselves and for their (1996:134). Many of these performers were from the northern Atlantic commune of Sainte Marie, which had its own strong tradition of bl and was relatively a ccessible from Fort de France. Roma nian folklorist Anca Bertrand worked with the Office of Tourism and had a mandate to develop the arts for the tourist market based on her knowledge of the island folklore. She assembled performers from Sainte Marie in performance groups, and organized p rograms for them around the island, recorded discs of their performances, and assisted in the earliest radio broadcasts of bl She also edited and contributed articles to the cultural review magazine Parallles She worked with renowned bl singer Emile Casrus and other members of the Casrus family, recruiting bl performers from their countryside homes in Sainte Marie and bringing them to the city stage of Fort de France (Cally 1999 ; Zamor 1999 ). She diffused knowledge of Mart lesser known and largely denigrated folklore and cultural heritage, and she participated in its ( Zamor 1999:348). In one of her Parallles articles, written in 1968, she noted that tourists, especially those who were bo red with lying around in the sun, were eager to discover
55 the heritage and folklore of the island, where would find the natural spirits of their (Bertrand 1968:75 6). This sort of project was part of a larger pattern in postcolonial cultural de velopment in other parts of the Caribbean during the same period. For example, Deborah Thomas (2004) writes about how cultural policy in postcolonial Jamaica relied heavily on the appropriation of the rural folk traditions to define a national identity of creole nationalism. Katherine work (2001) points to a similar trend in cultural policy, which sought to place folk religious expressions on the national stage through the secularized performances of Santera by the Conjunto Folkl rico Nacional de Cuba What sets Martinique and Guadeloupe apart from the independent island nations of the Caribbean is that folkloric cultural development occurred simultaneously with the assimilationist project of French integration. I ndependent island nations were more concerned with defining themselves apart from their European colonial powers and their enduring cultural legacies. In the French Antilles, which became overseas departments of France around the same period, cultural dev elopment worked in tandem with modernization and assimilation. Bertrand commitment to developing folkloric performance in the tourist market of Martinique led her into a collaborative relationship with Loulou Boislaville and Ronnie Aul. Loulou Boislavil le was a Martinican author, composer, interpreter, and director of the Groupe Folklorique Mart i niquais The Groupe Folklorique established the same year as 1946 departmentalization, was known for performing folk traditions such as biguine m azurka and valse through theatrical staged renditions, but Boislaville desired an enhanced professionalism and organization that the group lacked. In 1966,
56 he reached out to Katherine Dunham trained African American choreographer Ronnie Aul, who had prev iously worked in France with the Ministry of Cultural Affairs. Boislaville and Aul worked together to professionalize the Groupe Folklorique and they collaborated with Bertrand to establish relationships with Sainte Marie performers, and integrate bl into their choreographies. The performance of bl moved from its organic context among rural family networks to choreographed, staged renditions, primarily at hotels and on cruise ships, and the Groupe Folklorique traveled to the United States, Europe, a nd toured the Caribbean with their productions. They danced in colonial era costumes, and they modified the traditional bl choreographies as staged adaptations that would appeal to local an d international audiences alike. During bl eclipse in the ea rly 1960s, there were rare audio recordings among Sainte most prominent tradition bearers. In 1959, a young student architect by the name of Franck Hubert studying in Paris traveled back to his island home in Martinique for vacation. He routinely spent his vacations at his home in the rural town of Gros Morne, the town next to Sainte Marie. One day, he witnessed for the first time a bl performance featuring Ti group Les Foulards Jaunes organized by Aim brother in law and colleague Aristide Mauge, who was the mayor of Gros Morne. Struck by the rich sound of bl music and song, Hubert retrieved his tape recording device and recorded what he could of the performance. When he returned to Paris, he passed the re cording along to the Association Gn rale des tudiants Martiniquais (AGEM General Association of Martinican Students) which was part of the already established anti colonial student movement of era in France. They proposed to make a disc of the recordings, but the sound quality
57 was not very good, as there was too much background noise from the live performance. He returned to Martinique the following year with a plan to record a clearer set of songs that could be used in the production of a disc. He was invited to join Ti Emile, drum master Ff Maholany, and the acclaimed bl singer Simeline Rangon at her home, and it was there he recorded an immense col lection of songs ( interview May 3, 2014). From these recordings the disc project finally came to fruition as the first recorded disc of bl and later became an essential reference for the next generation of bl revivalists, cultural activists, and mus icians learning the tradition. In 1962, American ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax toured the Lesser Antilles with his recording equipment to carry out musical research on cultural overlap across the different islands (Bilby and M arks 2001). Upon his arrival i n Martinique, Lomax made contact with the celebrated Grivalliers family of Sainte Marie, which was made up of several talented singers, drummers, and dancers. legendary voice is the one heard primarily on those recordings, and is a ccompanied by drummer Florent Baratini (Gerstin and Cyrille 2001). Ti Raoul, who occasionally performed with the Groupe Folklorique Martiniquais was only 20 years old at the time of encounter, and he survives today among several of his siblings wh o have also contributed to the bl movement. 16 Like the recordings of Franck Hubert, Alan collection also became a precious resource for the next generation of cultural activists. In 1976, Aim Csaire, then longtime mayor of Fort de France, reorg anized the cultural activities under the Service Municipal Culturelle (SERMAC 16 Ti brother, Berth Grivilliers, also a singer of bl was very active at the time of my research and passed away just after my return from the field.
58 Municipal Service of Cultural Action ), and commissioned Ti Emile to offer bl trainings in the city with the new cultural programming initiati ve. Even though it was the renowned intellectual and politician who advocated for 1946 departmentalization, Csaire envisioned a Martinique that would be politically assimilated with France while preserving a distinct cultural heritage (Miles 2001:48 9). The purpose of SERMAC was to combat the ensuing cultural alienation, and bl would help Martinicans to draw upon their own local cultural references. At the time, the 1970s cultural nationalist communities of the French Antilles emerged as a response to the strong French assimilationist presence on the islands, and had placed Guadeloupean gwo ka drum music (and secondarily other African drum traditions like djembe and congas) at the forefront of the struggle for cultural authenticity. The movement for cultural identity had a greater impact in Guadeloupe, where separatist political orientations t oward independence from France were stronger; therefore, Guadeloupean gwo ka and modernized gwo ka fusion genres resonated with radical artistic circles in Martinique, and far outweighed the bl drum tradition, which had been relegated to the margins of s tereotyped folkloric performance that the retour aux sources (back to roots) movement sought to combat. Gwo ka music represented a more authentic connection with Africa and was a symbol of anti imperialism, while the bl drum was generally perceived as a folkloric artifact; bl performance had become a folklorized symbol of doudouisme (sweet lover), a costumed touristic persona comparable with minstrel stock characters of the U.S. and associated with a pastified image of Martinican rural life.
59 Ti Emile h ad already established his reputation beyond the neighborhoods of Sainte Marie through various presentations of his folkloric groups Les Foulards Jaunes (later called Lv Yo Ka ) and La Fleur Creole and through his involvement with the Groupe Folklorique Martiniquais Once Csaire and the municipal secretary of Fort de France Renaud Degrandmaison discovered the great potential in developing bl outside the rural quarters of Sainte Marie and beyond the stage of folkloric performance, particularly for youth activities, Ti Emile was identified as the most appropriate candidate for the job. He offered bl trainings three times per week at the cockf ighting pit of Dillon on the outskirts of Fort de France to large numbers of students recruited by Degrandmaison from the Association Martiniquais e ducation Populaire (AMEP Martinican Association of Popular Education ) As the number of students grew, and as awareness of the bl tradition spread across the popular class, Ti counterparts from Sainte Marie began to assist him with his classes. This format of bl education at SERMAC was carried on by Jean Claude Lamorandire and Josy Mic halon, professional ly trained dancers who were als o employed by SERMAC in the mid 1970s teaching traditional dance classes. Bl Rebirth : Giving the Drum New Life in Contemporary Martinique Prior to the 1980s bl revival, the first small wave of Martinican activist intellectuals educated in France to have an invested interest in bl in the 1960s included the likes of Franck Hubert and his contemporaries Victor Anicet and Marc Pulvar, each of whom spent a signific ant a mount of their time during vacations from school in Sainte Marie at the homes of bl elders. By the end of the 1960s, Marc Pulvar had become a major link between the rural agricultural workers and tradition bearers of Sainte Marie, and the growing c ircles of politicized artists and cultural
60 activists. He was a devoted nationalist, committed to the emancipation of oppressed agricultural workers, and had been moved by the traditions associated with the bl drum complex that symbolized the spirit of r esilience and resistance among the poor rural sectors. He grew particularly close to one of Sainte dance legends Emile Laposte, with whom he organized different projects up until death in 1975 17 In the late 1970s, the next wave of young (mostly male and middle class) activist intellectuals returned to their island home, following years of university study in Paris. Ma ny of them were involved with AGEM in Paris, which was part of a larger radicalized student movement led by Anti llean, French Guyanese, and African labor activists and cultural workers pursuing their studies in France. Disillusioned by their experiences with racism, cultural alienation, and second class treatment 7,000 km from home in the metropole, and newly radic alized by Marxist political ideology, these activists returned to Martinique with a mis sion to their anti colonial, nationalist ( interview July 28, 2014). 18 Having listened to the earlier recordings of bl recorded by Anca Bertrand and Franck Hubert, they were especially touched by their rich drum and song tradition. By the early 1980s, the students of AGEM had returned home to Martinique, and began collaborating with other local youth organizations in Fort de F rance to disc over more about Martinique drum heritage. Notable organizations include AMEP, An Lot Chimen Pou la Jns (ALCPJ Another Path for the Youth), As Plr Annou Lit 17 http://am4.fr/hommages/marc pulvar/ accessed Feb ruary 1, 2015. 18 Chapte r 4 provides a more in depth analysis about the ways in which nationalist political orientations merged with the revival of bl and the associated debates around the political functions of bl
61 (APAL Enough Crying, Fight), and Jeunesse Etudiante Chrtienne (JEC Christian S tudent Youths). Collectively, the leaders and members of these associations turned to the source of bl drum dance traditions to confront what they considered to be an island wide crisis of cultural identity and assimilation ( Chapter 4 ) With other bl students, they established a tradition of going from Fort de France to Sainte Marie to watch bl specialists perform in their home communities. They worked with elders and tradition bearers to cultivate their knowledge of the bl culture that had nearly dissolved with the rapid modernization and assimilation projects imposed by France, and to reorganize the structure of bl in Martinican public life, which had been limited to the mo del of folkloric performance for tourist spectacl es. Setting themselves apart from folkloric performance troupes, the revivalists used a grassroots oriented approach to challenge exploitative, touristic representations of Martinican culture, and promote bl as a living culture through the formation of various community based cultural associations. With the help of the elders from Sainte Marie, they revived the swar bl system that had collapsed with urbanization and other societal changes Much of the story of revival focuses on the tradition s from Sainte Marie because they received more visibility in Martinican public life with the folkloric performers of Ti generation These traditions were also more visibl e during the post war wave of urbanization, as Sainte Marie was relatively accessible from Fort de France compared with other regions of the island. However, other regional variations of bl that survived through oral and kin esthetic transmission were integrated into the revivalist movement. For ex ample, Julien Saban was a specialist and important reference in the excavation of bl from the northern town Basse Pointe
62 ( bl baspwent ), and Esplisane Sainte Rose from the southern commune of Anse was a primary reference for bl of the south ( bl lisid ). It is important to note that many of the middle class bl revivalists, raised to identify as French, had parents who prohibited them from practicing bl when they were children, a time when assimilation was quite strong. Bl practice was long associated with negative stereotypes such as bagay vy ng a pejorative Kryl expression for old, unsophisticated aspects of black culture or bagay ki ja pas s omething of the past, or outdated. It was the culture of old cane cutters who drank too much rum and acted uncivilized certainly not compatible with t he postcolonial assimilation mission that saturated popular culture and the F rench national education system. Even today, despite the fact that it is increasingly becoming en vogue to learn bl the community of bl practitioners remains a small minority in Martini que (less than 1.5 percent of the total population). Most Martinicans either continue to ignore or reject bl as part of the local heritage, or they admire it from a distance as fo lklore while taking very little interest in learning. Since the 1980s launch of the bl movement, the revivalists have worked to reverse negative stereotypes and promote more affirming images of the danmy kalennda bl (DKB) complex. They have created several bl schools and developed a rigorous dance and drum pedagogy based on a written, codified system of the bl repertoire. The public performance of these traditions is sustained by the swar bl system participat ory performance gatherings whereby dancers, drummers, and singers those who have an advanced command of the repertoire come together
63 on a scheduled date (once or twice per month) to play bl until the early hours of the morning. Unlike pr ofess ional folkloric troupes that present Martinique traditional culture in staged, choreographed renditions often criticized for reproducing exoticized stereotypes of Antillean culture these open, participatory performance gatherings function through an unsc ripted rotation of skilled practitioners. The swar bl is ceremonially organized to uphold the values of honor, respect, collectivity, and solidarity that are transmitted in bl schools and guid ed by a shared moral order These events also provide a s pace to pay homage to the ancestors and protest the legacies of racism, colonialism, and capitalism. The professional folkloric model of bl performance was the dominant image of bl after WWII, before the revival Even though the folkloric troupes are criticized by the bl revivalists for perpetuating denaturalized stereotyped images of bl and of the rural past, they are also credited with having diffused the bl tradition through the professio nal performance model, raising a wareness about the indigenous roots of Martinique. The folkloric performance structure also provided a means for poor performers from the rural countryside, many of whom worked on plantations, in factories, or as informal vendors, to supplement their inco me. Today, the bl subculture continues to flourish and grow, owing in great part to the 1980s activists and revivalists. The practice of bl and other associated traditions is organized, maintained, and taught through the work of several cultural assoc iations spanning the urban and rural towns Most of these associations born of the collaborative efforts of the 1970s and 1980s youth groups mentioned above, exist today as associations loi 1901 the French equivalent of a non profit organization, chartered
64 by the law of 1901 declared for sports clubs, arts gro ups, and other special interest groups. Therefore, their funding and administrative operating depends on the French government. The majori ty of these bl associations belong to a coalition, the Coordination Lawonn Bl which seeks to achieve overlapping goals for advancing the bl movement. The coalition meets annually for the Jounn Moun Bl ( Bl Community Day), during which they conf irm their calendar of swar bl dates for the year, have seminars related to drum, song, and dance technique, and discuss/debate the state of affairs in the bl movement. Each association selects a date for hosting an annual or semi annual swar bl and those swar bl are intended to function through the principles of cooperation and solidarity, respect for the elders, and honor to the ancestors. Therefore, members are encouraged to attend the events of other associations. They have all formed t heir own individual versions of lk l bl ( bl schools), based on a (mostly) shared and agreed upon pedagogical orientation They also share an agreed upon moral guide, called Lar l Swar B l which governs the etiquette, conventions, and behavior of f ormal swar bl Although each association belonging to the coalition m aintains its own identity, many of them tend to promote to their members some version of nationalist political thought, and an ethos of resistance to racism and colonialism. They enc ourage specific economic practices and strategies to uplift the local economy local artisans, local farmers, small vendors, and the like. In the early 2000s, under the leadership of then mayor Guy Lordinot, the municipal government of Sainte Marie launched the initiative La Maison du Bl (the House of Bl ), a museum exhibition and cultural institution located in the Sainte Marie neighborho od of Re cule The goal of La Maison du Bl is to bring greater recognition
65 bl activities. Indeed, many of the leaders of the urban based revival and founders of the bl associat ions scattered throughout Fort de France and across various island communities do their part in paying homage to their elders who passed the tradition onto their generation of cultural activists. The elders receive special tributes at the swar bl gathe rings organized by the associations, and their transportation from Sainte Marie to various swar bl and other events is arranged by the Coordination Lawonn Bl and La Maison du Bl A high priority for the members hosting the event is to make sure the elders are comfortable in their reserved seating, having an enjoyable time, and able to participate in the performance rotation. La Maison du Bl goes a step further in giving the elders a more engaged, professional role in the ongoing transmission of b l Drummers, singers, and dancers from prominent rural bl families, like Grivalliers, Rastocle, Cbarec, and Jupiter (to name a few), have been officially designated by the institution under the concept Les Matres du Bl ( B l Masters), and they hav e had various opportunities to produce studio albums and travel internationally for p erformances and workshops. La Maison du Bl has also initiated artist residency programs whereby local and foreign cultural workers are invited to come and exchange with the Bl Masters. Funding for La Maison du Bl comes through different levels of governmental support, including the Direction Rgionale des Affaires Culturelles (DRAC level Regional Direction of Cultural Affairs), the Conseil Rgionale (Regional Council), Conseil Gnrale (department
66 museum exhibit takes visitors on a journey recounting the story of survival among large rural families of practiti oners and the cultural activists of contemporary times. Photos and biographical sketches provide guests with a glimpse of the everyday lifeways of the countryside that fostered the development of bl elders as folkloric heroes of a frozen past, the vision of La Maison du Bl is to bring their past and present contributions to life. Therefore, aside from the exhibit, interactive programs and lessons are in place to give guests a hands on experience with the dance and music. Despite the fact that many of the Bl Masters are fatigued and aging, they hold contracts with the institution to protect their professional engagement and ensure fair recognition and compensation for their work. One day in 2011 I had the occasion of having lunch with Audrey, first director and daugh ter of Mayor Lordinot ( who at the time of our meeting, no longer worked with the institution). She explained how rewarding it was for her at the inception of the project in 2003 to unite the families of Sainte Marie under a single cultural heritage entity. It is no secret that notable bl families from the Sainte Marie area have their own history of family rivalries and competition. Audrey and I talked about ho w her approach gave the elders an opportunity to work together, collectively expressing their own voices, visions, and assess and culminate the different conceptions of bl held by the elders and the active associations of the Coordination Lawonn Bl and apply them in programming. From my meeting with Audrey and my subsequent encounters with the Bl Masters over the course of my extended field res earch, I get the impression that
67 there exists a remarkable sense of gratitute for the high esteem brought to the rural network of bl actors by La Maison du Bl As I note in the introductory chapter, the bl community is often described as its own society in Martinican society. How have bl proponents negotiated and redefined ral citizens, and in what ways d o their ideas accommodate and/or subve rt the imposed model of French national membership? This dissertation attempt s to answer these questions through a close e xamination of the discourse, counterarguments, and proposals for alternative strategies of bl development. The chapter that follow s is an (auto)ethnographic reflection on dance ethnography that explains my methodological and analytical approach to formulating research que stions and organizing my analysi s of the bl
68 Table 2 1 Movement and Dance Style s Observed in Research Name Description Bl Samaritain (Bl Lin) A set of 6 b l dance/music styles from the northern Atlantic commune Sainte Marie and surrounding communities These dances use the quadrille dance configuration of eight dancers: Four da nm (female dancers ), four kavaly (male dancers ) Each of these dances open with the wondi dewondi when the group moves in a counterclockwise direction, then reverses the circle in a clockwise direction to r eturn to their plac es After each of the two carr (squares) have completed their sequence, each couple dances a mont o tanbou sequence, whereby the two dancers dance in the center of the circle in playful exchange, and dance toward to drummer to give hi m/her a salutation. bl bidjin bl frequently practiced in public bl gatherings ( swar bl moman bl bl mawon etc.) 19 Bl bl balans bl kour ant bl cho heightened energy of the dance The movements are more dynamic and have a greater intensity. 19 Bl Lin poste https://vimeo.com/136842090 To access video, use password: UF7684.
69 Table 2 1 Continued. Name Description Bidjin Bl bl dous indicate a softer energy of the dance The rhythms are less rapid, and the movements are mo re calm, fluid, or gentle. In most cases, the dancers are more flirtatious or coquettish in their interactions. Bl Pitch Danced with moderate energy, and includes an acc entuated break in movement or striking of the feet eac h time the drummer plays a marked beat in the rhythmic sequence. Gran Bl Sometimes referred to as a dance of prayer because of its solemn character as dancers move fluidly in a continuous circular pattern Blya Referred to as a call to assemble, gather, and congregate, for example to announce important news or relay a story. This dance can also express hope. During the mont o tanbou sequence, couples move to salute each of the other six dancers in a counterclockwise direction. Bouwo mazouka bl marin bl frequently as the others in the bl lin repertoire. Uses the same choreo graphy as blya for saluting the other six dancers during the mont o tanbou and uses only the gesture al vir
70 Table 2 1 Continued. Name Description Lalin Kl ull moon group d ances 20 Mablo Danced in double line formation whereby partners approach one another with the signal of the drum and zip, zap, zabap their torsos/pelvises against one other. Kannigw Danced in double line formation remcouples follow the commands of the lead singer, who instructs them to move forward, bac kward, change places, and hold and dance with one another in ballroom style movements and turns. Bnzwe l Two variants: One danced in a single line formation, another danced in a double line formation All dancers tonb lv as they form their lines and take their bidjin bal tonb lv signal of the drum, fem s ales and males dance toward one another using the graj Ting Bang Danced in circular configuration whereby dancers move in a successive counterclockwise direction, striking their feet while facing the person next to them, and then doing a half turn to repeat the same movement facing the person on the other side. 20 Lalin Kl https://vimeo.com/136844083 To access video, use password: UF7684.
71 Table 2 1 Continued. Name Description Wo ul Mango anced in circular configuration whereby dancers lock arms, and each dancer takes a turn dancing in the center to salute the other dancers, before falling into and rolling around the circle of locked arms. The objective of the game is to keep the arms locked as the dancer passes by each set of linked arms Ladja/Danmy Combat/m artial art tradition between two combatants in the center of a circle 21 Kalennda Yonn Apr L t Solo dance featuring competitive interplay between the dancer and the yonn apr lt meaning one after the other, because of the successive rotation of soloists. W hen one soloist completes her/his turn, another solo dancer follows immediately behind. 22 Bl Baspwent Bl from the northern commune of Basse Pointe These dance styles, like those found in bl lin are called bl, bidjin bl, gran bl and blya However, they are not danced in the same way as bl lin and their choreographies include both double line and circular formations. There is closer and more frequent face to face interaction between dance couples, and with the drummer. 21 https://vimeo.com/136824868 To access video, use password: UF7684. 22 Kalennda https://vimeo.com/136826520 To access video, use password: UF7684.
72 Table 2 1 Continued. Name Description Bl Bidjin Bl Gran Bl Blya Bl Lisid Bl from the south of the island (primlarily the town of A nses These dance styles, like those found in bl lin are called bl and gran bl However, they are not danced in the same way as bl lin and there are different choreographic variants for both styles Bl Gran Bl Kalennda Lisid mayoumb group dance open to an unlimited number of participants (couples) who dance together in playful harmony, executing any variety of steps they wish to execu te in sync with the
73 CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY: REFLEXIVITY AND POSITIONALITY IN DANCE (AUTO) ETHNOGRAPHY The extended field research for this dissertation was carried out over the course of 18 months, beginning in January 2013 and ending in August 2014. The methodology used in this research included dance participant observation, open ended and semi structured interviews, and the collection of life histories. I also employed photography and vid eography, and I carried out archival research. During my short, preliminary research trips to Martinique in 2009 and 2011, I quickly learned that my ability to gather answers to my research questions, and to analyze the experiences and perspectives of my bl interlocutors, would depend on my understanding of the dance itself. Dancing bl as a method of participan t o bservation became an almost daily research activity during the course of my extended resea rch. As I discuss ed in the previous chapter, bl and the other drum traditions like kalennda and ladja/ danmy fall within a larger complex or continuum of re lat ed practices that all use bl drum the tibwa and call and response music Even though this research is centered on the repertoire of set dances called bl the DKB ( danmy kalennda bl ) cultural movement is a wider heritage project that aims to valorize and diffuse the range of styles associated with the indigenous bl drum. This means that the participants and observers of the bl public are more or less engaged with all of these traditions. As someone with a background in da nce and performance, I was well positioned to engage with research interlocutors in everyday dance settings. Participant observation is an effective method for getting to know the people around us in a social setting, and becoming acclimated to their everyday routines (Emerson et al. 1 995 :1 2 ).
74 In my research, participant observation allowed me to use my body in movement and my written notes to understand the process of preserving and promoting local cultural forms and traditions. Immersion in the bl community gave me a sense of the key issues being debated by different actors who are involved with bl cultural progra mming and performance. It also allow ed me to record and follow the cultural sensibilities, habits, and consumption pa tterns of research participants. Observations were recorded extensively in field notes, logs, and jottings (Bernard 2011:292). I intervi ewed bl dancers, singers, and drummers, as well as workers in cultural heritage management. Open ended interviews were conducted in the early months of field research to detect matters of importance to the groups of interest (Schensul et al. 1999:121). As the project progressed, after I had come to identify the key issues and master the French and Kryl languages, I carried out semi structured interviews using interview guides with selected participants. These interviews were recorded on a tablet with digital audio and video recorders. Interviewees were asked a series of questions about their personal background and demographic information. They were also asked questions about the different functions that bl practice serves in their everyday lives. Questions often elicited comments related to their assessment of cultural programming, the impact of assimilation and the meaning of Fren ch citizenship, perceptions of nationalism independence and the colonial legacy, and the importance of local cultural expression s in Martinique. On occasio n, l ife history interviews were conducted with important actors of the bl revival to capture of from those involved with the preserva tion and revival of the tradition (1999: 138). Life histories
75 helped me obtain a clear understanding of how bl was treated historically, and the motivations behind the 1980s bl revival Photography and videography were used to visually capture the practice and discourse of bl activists and practitioners. Events that were video recorded were later watched with dancers, drummers, and singers to stimulate conversation on dance styles as well as the planning and execution of different cultural programs and performances. I completed a video elicitation study with a small group of bl elders from the northern commune of Sainte Marie, heralded as the birthplace as bl lin ( bl from the north, bl Samaritain ), the most widely practiced style of bl i n Martinique today. This method critical on the style and meaning of bl dance expression (Reed 2010:21). The group of elders was recorded performing together, and later participated in a group interview while watching a series of recordings with di rected questions on the function and mean ing of their performance style. For example, we spent time talking about how styles of dance and song have changed, evolved, or been transformed with the urba n renewal or across generations Because bl is a tradi tion that was orally and kinesthetically transmitted, there is not much historical material to be found in official archives and collections. I did, however, make good use of the records and literature held by bl associations d ating back to the early 1990s. For example, the quarterly bulletins of the association AM4 (1991 present) include event announcements, information on the progress and activities of the association and the wider bl movement, critical reflections about the place of bl in Martinican society in historic and contemporary times, and guidelines for students and followers of the tradition. I also found it useful to peruse the old calendars
76 and pro grams of the Centre Martiniquais Culturel le (CMAC the Martinica n Center for Cultural Action) also known as The Atrium, a large performing arts center featuring dance and theater productions, music concerts, film screenings, and art installations loca ted in downtown Fort de France. CMAC is a large cultural instituti on funded and administered by the French state as well as the regional and departmental councils. T herefore it has a somewhat controversial history for its implication in assimilationist cultural programming. At the time of its founding in the mid 1970s, it was int ended to foster the valorization of local folk culture and French metropolitan culture, but some might argue that it was not a fair balance. Over time, The Atrium has become national stage, encouraging the exchange of art istic works from Europe, th e Americas, and the Caribbean. In perusing the previous programs of The Atrium, I had a sense of what kinds of local, metropolitan, a nd international arts programs were favored and showcased by this Martinican cultural instituti on. As a dance ethnographer, I regularly attended and participated in bl dance classes 3 4 times per week with various cultural associa tions. I learned to dance primarily with Tanbou B Kannal Mi Mes Manmay Matinik ( AM4 ), Lzinisy Madinn Yo Lakou Trankil and to a lesser extent other associations that offer bl classes. My goal was to gather a wide range of conceptions of bl beyond that of one single association and observe different modes of transmission. I also attended forums, conferences with panels of bl specialists and intellectuals festivals, and I danced at participatory performance gatherings, such as moman bl and swar bl tourist presentations, and one staged performance celebrating the 40 th anniversary of Tanbou B Kannal Employing the notions of positionality and reflexivity this chapter explains
77 the ways in which my dancing enabled me to: 1) establish a good rapport with potential research participants; 2) enhance my understanding of the Kryl language, which comprises the bl music and dance vocabulary and is primarily spoken in bl settings; 3) discover and interpret a range of local attitudes, manners, and expressions communicated through bl ; and 4) access a complex system of embodied kno wledge and values that holds great importance for an increasing number of Martinicans. But first, a word about the intellectual tradition that helped to inspire this project. The Legacy of Katherine Dunham : Reflexivity and the Dancing Body as a Research T ool My research interests in dance were largely inspired by the legacy and work of Katherine Dunham. Katherine Dunham was a world renowned choreographer and dance anthropologist who worked with various dance communities of the African diaspora to understa nd the function of dance and sacred embodied knowledge, primarily in the Caribbean, but also in Latin Ame rica, the U.S., and West Africa Although she is more popularly known for her contributions to the entertainment industry and the world of modern danc e, notably from her work with the Katherine Dunham Dance Company, much of her intellectual work resonates with scholars such as myself who investigate anthropological issues through the lens of artistic expression and creativity. 1 Her famous Dunham technique was developed based on the rigorous dance research methodologies she applied in her f ieldwork throughout the mid 20 th century, most prominently featuring sacred dance expressions practiced by Afro Caribbean populations (Chin 20 14). In 1935 and 1936, Dunham traveled to Haiti, Jamaica, 1 Dunham pursued her training in anthropology at the University of Chicago, wher e she had the opportunity to work with notable figures such as Robert Redfield, Edward Sapir, and Bronislaw Malinowski. She was also advised by anthropologist Melville Herskovits from Northwestern University who had a reputation as an intellectual authori ty on African diaspora anthropology.
78 Trinidad, and Martinique; among the four island societies in which she im mersed herself, it was in Haiti that she found her second home amon g practitioners of the Haitian Vodou religion to which s he became an initiate. She analyzed the practice of sacred dance repertoire s to understand how Vodou shapes the material conditions of Haitian society. Franz Boas reminded Dunham, just before her departure for the islands, that as a dancer she would disc over cultural knowledge that was inaccessible to non dancers (Aschenbrenner 1999:142) Dunham was a pioneer, pushing boundaries in the academy in ways that no one else had dared. As Faye V. Harrison (1990) r eflects on her pedagogical approach she writes that Dunham (along with some of her contemporaries like Zora Neale Hurston) sought powerful ways to bring anthropological understanding to audiences much wider than that of a n academic ( 1990:2). Dunham was known for integrating p erformance and demonstration into her academic presentation style (i.e. in conference settings or in front of panels of judges evaluating research proposals), and her approach has proven to be methodologically effective in gaining insight to emic perspecti ves. Other dance ethnographers have followed this approach (although they except Yvonne Daniel, unfortunately do not always acknowledge Dunham as the progenitor), arguing that dance participation is central in gaining an in depth understanding of dance cu lture as social process, political action, and embodied knowledge (Buckland 1999; Daniel 1995, 2005; Reed 1998; Sklar 1991). With the post structural and postmodern turn in anthropology, the terms reflexivity and positionality emerged as new ways of challe nging objectivist social science, which all too often ignores the power dynamics
79 between th e researcher and the researched, or outsider and insider In James (1986) introduction to the anthology Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography he calls for new ethnographic approaches, particularly those which are experimental and reflexive, in order to dismantle colonizing representations of the and offset the relations of power and difference that charact erize ethnographic authority Feminist ethnographers responded to this critique, notably in the 1995 collection Women Writing Culture (Behar and Gordan 1995) by reminding Clifford and colleagues that women anthropologists had been writing innovative and liberatory ethnogra phy for years. Through much of the twentieth century, these women were their contributions erased from the canon, as anthropologist Ruth Behar would argue. They were often dismissed or met with criticism for blurring the disciplinary lines betw een anthropology and literature, lacking scientific rigor, and having personal experience situated within their analyses (Behar 1995:4 5). With shifting intellectual currents, these debates have opened the door for contemporary anthropologists to engage a nd produce theoretical ly grounded knowledge in diverse ways, without running the same risk of being silenced. As both methodologi cal and analytical tools, reflexivity and positionality allow the researcher to assess and evaluate how her own identity influences the process of data collection and the cu lminating interpretations of data. With reflexive writing, the et hnographer is personal in style and transparent about how she navigates fieldwork dilemmas and negotiates her difference from her research subjects, while simultaneously trying to immerse herself and become one with the community Lanita Jacobs Huey (2006) defends the practice of reflexivity when she writes,
80 being reflexive enables a researcher to critically consider her or his own cultural biases and negotiate various ways of culture(s). A reflexive perspective is also particularly sensitive to the socially constructed nature of k nowledge production ( 2006:132). Gina Ulysse makes a compelling e of academic allow her to engage research interlocutors and consultants as theorists of their own experiences (Ibid :6 7). In her ethnog raphy Downtown Ladies: Informal Commercial Importers, a Haitian Anthropologist and Self making in Jamaica Ulysse reveals to readers the ways in which her field research experience was impacted by her racial identity, color, nationality, class, education, and self presentation (specifically her preferred style of hair and clothing). This mode of ethnographic storytelling lays out a economic landscape. Reflexive approa ches to the ethnographic enterprise have 1997), and more specifically feminist anthropology (Bolles 1995), whereby key concerns include the politics of representation, ethnogr aphic authority, and the anthropol positionality. It is my goal to add to this important anthropological intervention. While most anthropologists are inclined to make the claim that these appr oaches have their roots in post structural and postmodern anthropology, it is important to acknowledge that Dunham was an early foremother of reflexive anthropology, long before it became en vogue (Davis 2014:108 10). Elizabeth Chin before American ethnographers turned to such questions as reflexivity, experimental
81 Unfortunately, because Dunham was not taken seriously as an anthropologist, her early interventions in the field were often overlooked. Doing Danc e Ethnography in Martinique field research in Martinique, she focused much of her time and attention discovering ladja 2 In fact, her o bservations of this martial art combat tradition inspired her ballet production of 3 However, compared with her Haiti experience, Dunham was left a bit unfulfilled by the dance culture of 1930s Martinique. In 1935, s he wrot e a letter to Herskovits here psychologically than Ibid ) My work in dis illusionment with Martinique colonial assimilation had nearly eradicated aspects of black religious heritage and dance culture for which she longed in the pursuit of her research interests. In my research, my objective was to understand how the bl comm unity defined itself apart from the model of national belonging and assimilation imposed by France. With departmentalization as a strateg y for decolonization, Martinicans faced enormous pressure to reject their Antillean cultural specificity, and embrace French culture in order to be fully recognized as members of the French state. Bl cultural activists do not 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rl4C EEse_fI 3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iM8xp_1R9Ew
82 exclusively identify as Fren ch citizens; they identify as African descendants, practicing an Afro Creole tradition that was created by their enslaved ancestors, and they unapologetically make claims of belonging to the African diaspora, challenging the legacies of racism, colonialism and economic exploitation t hat have impacted black people all over the world. They are invested in enactments of cultural marronage (resistance), valorizing cultural traditions and values that were historically repressed and discourag ed by the colonial regime. Bl activists make concerted efforts to find points of connection with their Afro Caribbean counterparts from neighboring islands of the Antilles, as well as Africans from the continent, through their travels and cultural exchanges with practitio ners of other African derived traditions. They have worked to transform an educationa l system where the curriculum has rendered the presence and cultural contributions of Afro C reoles invisible. These are all conclusions that I have been able to arrive a t by being fully engaged and imm ersed as a dancing practitioner of bl bl often elicited conversations that spoke directly to the questions guiding my project. Had I not danced, and in turn receive d feedback and commentary on my progress and style of dancing, I would not have come to understand th e full range of values upheld within the bl community. All to o often, researchers observe from the sideline, like a fly on the wall taking notes and ma king observations. While this might help the researcher to maintain some objective distance from the r esearch community, observations of this kind are li mited in scope and lack the breadth of understanding that can be achieved through full immersion and p articipation. This is especially important for foreign scholars who are
83 regarded by research subjects with some suspicion, because our goals and objectives are often not clear, and people are protective about the details of their everyday lives and about the traditions that they passionately defend. On several occasions, even before I had come to comfortably understand the French and Kryl s because you are a n gresse that you understand bl s because you are a n gresse that you can dance bl co me from the U.S. but you are a b lack American, so it is in your spirit; nou tout sti lafrik My id entity as a b lack American woman and an culture impacted not only how I was received and perceived by Martinicans, but also how I would receive and perceive the information that was shared with me. Acc ording to many of my interlocutors, it is our mutual belonging to the African diaspora and our shared cultural sensibilities and resilience that explain my ability not only to execute the dance in its great complexity but also to integrate and deeply unde rstand the emotional, communicative power of bl performance Dunham recounted similar experiences, writing that it was her racial affinity with the people of Haiti that made her integration and her ability to key into and master the special art of Vodou 1983[1947 ] :15). This kind of reflection may sound arrogant, which is not my goal. All this is not to say that my foreignness did not present its own set of challenges challenges that should be pointed out here for w hat they revealed about the values intrinsic to bl It would be remiss if I did not disclose the fact that many in the bl community had their
84 suspicions about me upon my arrival, and for good reason. Bl activists have worked diligently to recover a spects of the bl culture that were almost lost through eclipse, and to combat negative images and stereotypes associated with the tradition. Therefore, they are vigilant about protecting bl from any form of misrepresentation. I noticed early o n in my field research that cultivating certain relationships would take time, and I understood that not everyone would warmly receive my presence. It would require that I remain patient, taking the time to make my intentions known and my purpose clear, a nd devote my energy to learning from people of various backgrounds (class, education, rural/urban, etc.) I took my time to carefully craft my formal interview questions, after months of close observation and i nformal interviews And I would have to be o pen and receptive to criticism about my dancing Just as my interlocutors readily gave me praise for my efforts at integration and my ability to execute the dance, they also critiqued me and pointed out my flaws. There had been established a certain level of affinity, comfort, and familiarity that opened the lines of communication and dialogue. From the conversations and critiques regarding my dance style, I came to understand the importance of humility and non verbal communication as ancestral values of bl practice. Humility One should not practice bl with the expectation of achieving stardom When you are dancing bl you are engaged with a complete ensemble of fellow dancers, drummers, and singe rs, and although pl ayful or competitive display are important element s of the group interaction, you are not there to put on your own personal show. You are there to celebrate and rejoice, to release and pray, to unite and exchange with others. Adding to the principle of humility, dance students are encou raged to wait until
85 they are truly ready to dance publicly, especially at swar bl Even though the performance sequence at swar bl functions through an unscripted, unplanned rotation of dancers, singers, and drummers, there is an understood code tha t one should not d ance at these events unless s/he has mastered and can comfortably execute the full repertoire of bl choreographies, placements, and movem ents/steps, and understand her role as part of a lar ger collective ensemble. If one is ted or prepared to dance to any given bl style or song that may be spontaneously played, then it is not yet her or his time to dance at a swar bl especially not before a bl elder or a more advanced practitioner who is ready to take their place in the rotation The id ea is to honor those who have come before you, and respect your bl comrades. Without this code of respect and humility as operative guidelines for participatory dance rituals it would be impossible to achieve the optimal energy re quired for a successful bl event. 4 The feedback that I received following these occasions gave me the ability to interpret the bl Communication When I first began dancing bl I had a difficult time discerning the appropriate dance behaviors for certain dance situation s. By observing my advanced interlocutors, I noticed that on some occasions, the dancers interacted flirtatiously and playfully with one another; on other occasions, the dancers project ed a more reserved or unforthcoming attitude; and still on other occasions, the dancers appeared to be engaged in a sort of competition Before I understood the range of songs and dance 4 Some of my closer interlocutors could say I learned this the hard way the first couple of times I danced at swar bl After I had spent a few weeks intensively participating in bl classes and closely observing the functioning of swar bl I felt I had reached a competent level of mastery to begin swar bl it was clear to me and other observers that I did not dance with comfort and ease.
86 situations that call for specific styles of partner and group interac tion, I often found myself dancing in ways that w ould be deemed inappropriate to knowledgeable onlookers (i.e. dancing too openly with more advanced male dancers and not yet mastering the game of pursuit and retreat between male female dance couples not smiling or making eye contact with my partner ). One evening, after dancing at Lakou Trankil I asked some of my interlocutors how they interpreted my dance that evening, dan cing a particular style of bl ? And how well are you communicating with the rest of (personal communication, April 26, 2013). Bodily and musical communication with the bl ensemble is one of the most important element s of the dance. Are you listening to the rhythmic pattern that the drummer is playing for you, and are you executing footwork that lets the drummer know that you are in sync with him or her ? Do you have the kinesthetic sense to know when your movements a nd body placement are harmonized with the other dancers participating in the quadrille (square dance style choreography) ? Are you attentive to the varying degrees of intensity in the voice, which signal the kind of energy that your movements shou ld match? Do you understand t he coded metaphors of the Kryl lyrical content? Are you dancing too openly/seductively with (or conversely, too withdrawn or detached from) your partner? All of these questions are pertinent to the element of communication in bl and to the questions guiding my larger project The bl tradition was built on the principles of collectivity, solidarity, and sharing in communal activities all of which require multiple styles of communica tion. These communicative values were creatively enacted and transmitted as strategies of
87 camouflaged resistance by the enslaved ancestors, and are defended today by bl tradition bearers. This is a precious piece of embodied knowledge that I would not have come to understand wit hout my full participation and immersion in the dance space Dance expression has always been a source of therapy and affirmation in my life; my dance background combined with my research interests in dance and other folk healing rituals of the African dia spora allowed me to recognize the transformative powe r of dance in the lives of Martinican d iasporic subjects dealing with their distinct set of social issues. As I draft my notes for this section of my dissertation, I cannot help but tune into the #black livesmatter manifestations taking place in my home city Baltimore, Maryland demanding justice for Freddie Gray, and draw comparisons with expressions of resistance in Martinique. According to ( 2004) analysis in The Wretched of the Earth the dance and possession rituals of colonized peoples are sources of liberation, to exorcise the muscular and emotional tension that is characteristic of the colonized body. In Baltimore, the images of the Michael Jackson impersonator, dancing skaters, capoeiristas West African dances, local marching band bands, and sage smudging rituals to purify the streets, all lead me to reflect on the significance of drum dance rituals like bl and danmy that animated the streets of Fort de France during the 2009 strike protests (discussed in Chapter 4). The connection here is important and warrants serious attention. These contemporary street healing rituals that we are witnessing during heightened mom ents of revolt and resistance to injustice have meaning as expressions of the oppressed, and they have deeper roots in the subjective experience of c olonial and racial subjugation.
88 My integration in the b l community as a dancing participant observer took me to a variety of settings where the tradition is practiced and performed. What follows is a series of vignettes and descriptions of the places, people, and situations I encountered in my quest to understand the representation and modes of transmission of b l in everyday life. It was in these contexts that I met and befriended my interlocutors, explained the purpose of my research, and initiated open ended conversations related to the project. Some situations were more comfortable than others. Some o ccasions were playful and convivial, while others had a more solemn ambiance. Some encounters humbled me in my role as an eager and earnest dance student, while others necessitated that I defend my presen ce and purpose in order to protect my professional integrity as a researcher. Using my body as a research tool, I executed dances and movement styles based on the culmination of my observations, notes, interview responses, and personal sensibility. In fact, there were times when I questioned whether I was dancing too much, and not writing enough. It is my hope that what I recount here regarding my dance immersion experience as a method of acquiring embodied knowledge, will enrich the stories and th e analyses found in the chapters that follow, painting a picture of the bl social world that captivated me from my first visit to the island. I want to begin by reflecting on my experience with bl transmission and my immersion in both formal an d info r mal learning settings. These fieldnote excerpts highlight the early, initiatory phases of my learning bl and my dance maturation over the years of study.
89 Formal and Informal Learning in the Bl Scene It is May 2009, during my first research trip to Ma rtinique. I spent the first couple of weeks here telling the folks who have graciously hosted me that I was looking for a is either unreliable or non existent in the evenings when bl classes are held. Therefore, my hosts have offered to drive me to and from the downtown Fort de France neighborhood of B Kannal so that I can participate in the classes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays with two different associat ions. All female students are required to wear a long, wide, flowing skirt and a plaid madras scarf tied around their waist, so my host Josette lent both items to me. We should also wear leggings, biking shorts, or a petticoat beneath the skirt. The clas ses are structured to begin around 7:00 pm with a warm up session to the sound of live drumming and singing. Seeing as how I have not yet mastered French teacher, I simp ly follow my classmates during the warm up, jumping, bending, stretching, and gliding across the floor in a circular pattern. Once the warm up is complete, there are two hours of non stop movement. The teacher shouts out the Kryl names of steps and mov ements belonging to the bl lin repertoire which students are to execute in across the floor exercises, but unlike your typical dance studio, there are no mirrors to monitor your progress or the accuracy of your movements. When she shouts out the and have counted eleven different
90 work on mastering the arms and the attitude later. After about a half hour of across the floor exercises, where the training emphasis is on footwork and mastering the base steps, students are instructed to break into groups of eight (four couples), and put the steps into practical dance situations using the traditional quadrille square dancing choreography of four couples. This is where things begin to get really confusing for me because I do not understand the instructions for following this choreography, as they have been communicated in Kryl by the dance teacher. I excuse myself from participating to sit on the side and observe the first few places with the person dan cing beside them or across from them in the four person one or two dancers make an error in the choreography, the teacher will shout meanin g start over or try again ). In one of my classes, the dance teacher (who does not speak any English) knows that I am not Francophone or Antillean; she was informed of this when my hosts dropped me off and explained the purpose of my visit to Martinique. She encourages me to participate anyway, pulling me from my seated position on the wall an d inserting me in the quadrille; she non verbally guides me step by step through the dance patterns. A t around 9:30 p.m., a fter the students have spent 45 minutes to an hour etching exercises also to the ongoing sound of live drumming and singing. The dance classes
91 are a little intimidating and very physically demanding. The bent knee body orientation, intricate footwork, and pelvic torso isolation require good cardiovascular health and a strong breathing capacity. Embarrassed about my lack of langua ge proficiency, I keep classes can have anywhere from 15 40 students in attendance at one time (depending on the membe rship numbers ). After three or four dance classes, students are beginning to catch on to my foreignness. The teachers have begun announcing my presence as a visitor during routine announcements (and in many cases applauding my brave efforts to learn without prior knowledge of the dance or langua ge proficiency). One of my t eachers is stern, but loveable, with her bold mannerisms, her frank style of communicating, and her fierce danc e prowess and technical skill. With the exception of two or three people, all of the students, drummers, singers, a nd teachers are of African descent. After attending a few classes, I do note that one of the bl schools seems to have more social class diversity; some middle class professionals come to bl class straight from work. Those with the slightest competen cy in English begin probing with questions about the duration of my stay in Martinique, the reason for my visit, my field of study as a graduate researcher, and whether or not I had training in other styles of dance. Curiosity about the strange American g irl who is always smiling nave and eager to participate continues to mount with each class visit. People are making friendly gestures to assist me with translations and explanations when I appear to be lost or afraid. When you hear the drummer play a
92 break in his drum pattern, that is your signal to change places with the dancer next to you you first dance facing your partner, At the end of my five week stay, and after three weeks of what felt like non stop participation in dance classes, I was able to say that I had acquired the introductory base for dancing most of the Sainte Marie bl styles taught to first level students known as debutants in the French language People complimented me for learning in three weeks w hat most students learn in three months. When I returned to Martinique for five weeks in May 2011, and subsequently in January 2013 for extended fieldwork, I had become a familiar face to many of the bl instructors and student participants in the B Kann al neighborhood. I also had enough familiarity to begin exploring classes outside of Fort de France. I was well acquainted with the basic structure and framework of bl transmission and the pedagogical orientation s used in dance clas s settings by the a ssociations. Therefore, I was ready to use my integration in the dance classes as a routine method of particip ant observation. The ambiances in class settings vary by association, with some being more rigid in structure than others. Some associations fo llow a strict protocol for managing st udent engagement and teaching the base steps, while others permit a more flexible path for bl personality, or developing personal dance flair by building upon the base repertoire. As a foreign rese archer, I found some learning settings to be warmer with familiarity and sociability, which helped to seamlessly facilitate the
93 may have made it more challenging to cultivate relationships with leaders and fellow students. People were often curious enough t o inquire about the nature of my work, the pace at which I was learning the dance, and the different associations I had frequented. Some of my friends admitted that early on, they did not understand why I was dancing so frequently, and why I was present at every event. They observed and monitored my progress, and at times, some teachers would correct or critique movements that I had learned elsewhere. Once I ha d comfortably mastered the base repertoire of steps, I own personality in the dance dents identify with a more advanced dancer, using that person as a mentor, model, or inspiration, but are discouraged from bl but now identity was a challenge as I navigated different dance schools as a participant observer, because of the variations in pedagogical approach across different associations and styles of offering critical feedback. I do not regret this approach, however, because I was able to c ompare different conceptions and styles of instruction and learning Once I was well acquainted with various group learning models in bl schools r un by the associations, I sought out informal and personalized methods of learning. I occasionally visited with rural bl elders in Sainte Marie, or met with dance teachers at their homes for individual study. Sometimes this would involve actually danci ng, for
94 example, when an older drummer like Clothaire Grivalliers was generous enough with his time to pull out his drum and play while instructing me on how to dance the kalennda while his sister Fortuna provided the vocal accompaniment. At other times, it meant simply sitting still and listening to them talk; talk about how bl was when they were growing up, talk about how bl generation of dancers and musicians differs from previous generations. I wou ld spend hours sitting at work with Marie Andre Lapoussinire, an older dancer from Sainte Marie who runs a small roadside fruit and vegetable stand. Marie Andre has danced bl her whole life, having grown up in a village setting where the tradition wa s part of everyday rural life. While taking a break from tending to customers, I once showed her a video on my tablet of a bl party I had attended earlier in the year. After seeing me dance, she complimented my efforts and then offered a critical refle ction that spoke to generational and/or regional differences in movement style. Atchlman, zot ka sot twp! (You girls nowadays are jumping too much!) Poz k ou ka kouri twp vit! ) to swivel my hips and execute torso pelvic isolation, however, she would smile and wi gad, ou ka brennen byen (yea, look at that, you move w were often accompanied by jokes filled with sexual innuendo and humor that are characteristic of creole culture (and especially bl culture), she was complimenting my ability to play on the flirtatious expression of sensuality in dance situations, which is an important subject of analysis that I will revisit in Chapter 6.
95 Swar Bl, Moman Bl, and Bl Mawon : Occupying Public Space with Participatory Dance Rituals The public participatory gatherings where bl pract itioners assemble for dancing, drumming, and singing are organized in the form of swar bl and moman bl The main difference between swar bl and moman bl is the level of formality a nd structure 5 The traditional swar bl usually hosted by a bl association, or in some cases by a prominent bl actor or a family of bl actors, is ceremonial in tone, and follows a general set of formalities ( larl swar bl ) in order to achieve smooth functioning of the event. These open air gatherings requ ire much planning, including the construction of the dance space, which involves securing wooden slabs to the gro und, unless the event is held in a cockfighting pit, or on an earthen floor 6 Hosts must also arrange seating, prepare the food, set up the st ereo sound system, and publicize the event (Figure 3 1) Swar bl traditional values, like respect for the elders and mutual solidarity, can be maintained. There is an expectation that dancers will be appropriately dressed for respectable self presentation and to optimize movement potential while dancing. This is especially the case for women who dan ce in long, wide, flowing skirts or dresses worn over a petticoat and a plaid madras scarf tied around their waists. At these events, food is provided for sale (or offered free of cost to those who participate in the swar by dancing, singing, or drummin g). The event typically begins around 7:00 p.m., and 5 A more thor ough description of the traditional swar bl is provided in Chapter 6 of this dissertation. 6 There are too many risks of injury associated with dancing bl on concrete or tile flooring.
96 depending on the number of performers, can end anywhere between 1:00 and 3:00 a.m. If ladja/danmy combatants are present, they normally warm things up with a few matches, before the bl dancing begin s. Sometimes, one of the hosts will keep a list of those waiting to enter the rotation of dancers to make sure everyone gets a fair opportunity, but a hierarchical system based on age or skill level is also respected. The moman bl operates similarly to swar bl but requires less planning and does not formally impose the strict protocol used in the organization of a traditional swar Participation is more open to different skills levels, including beginners who wish to apply what they have learned in bl schools to practical dance situations. Most practitioners would agree that moman bl are more relaxed and convivial, because th ere is less pressure to follow protocol, adhere to strict moral codes, and compete with other dancers for a spot in the rotation. It does not have the same ceremonial or ritualistic quality as the swar bl so people are really in attendance for amuseme nt, to release stress, and to socialize with friends. Food and beverage are usually handled potluck style; if you want to participate, bring a dish or something to drink This practice commonly functions along gendered lines: female participants are aske d to bring a quiche, tart, or cake, and male participan ts are asked to bring beverages Therefore, the planners are not always esponsible for providing food. Over the last four years, a group of young foyalais (residents from Fort de France) has launched something they call bl mawon (maroon bl ) gatherings, which also have the casual, informal ambiance found in moman bl Bl mawon gatherings are more or less spontaneous (planned and announced just a couple of days in advance), and take place in down town Fo rt de France, on the boardwalk beneath the
97 kiosk facing the famous Parc Savane (Figure 3 2) Invoking the mythical image and concept of the ng mawon (the maroon rebel ) that is symbolic in the social imaginary of Martinican cultural activists, bl mawon gatherings symbolize the occupying of a widely frequented public space in the center of the capital city with the tambour bl This beautified, revitalized park area that lines the waterfront attracts many domestic and international tourists. Bl mawon participants randomly select dates to convene in this space to rejoice and celebrate their right to dance and sing to the beat of their own drums (Figures 3 3, 3 4, 3 5) On the morning of October 31, 2013, bl mawon organizers announced via Fa cebook and text me ssage that they would be assembli ng that evening to celebrate the release of Thierry Dol, a young Martinican engineer who was one of four French hostages kidnapped and held by Al Qae da in Ar l it, Niger since September 2010; Dol and the oth er three hostages were set free earlier that week (Figure 3 6) When I asked that it was to pay tribute to the courage and resilience of one of their own. They danced and played bl until after midnight, and improvised new lyrics to classic bl tunes, B lya pou Thierry! Because of my frequent attendance and participation in these events, I quickly chyen bl bl dog), which is an endear ing term to describe someone who cannot seem to get enough of bl or cannot resist the u rge to dance at every occasion. Whenever I wanted to take a break from dancing to just observe, I would intentionally leave my dance skirt at home or in my car. In such instances,
98 o est ta jupe?! (where is your skirt?!) me observe from the sidelines. Annual Holidays and Observances There are specific holidays throughout the year that call for high participation in bl activities. Samedi Gloria (Holy Saturday), as the first Saturday following the 40 day observance of Lent in this predominantly Catholic island society, is one such ho liday. During Lend, all dance parties (including bl) are suspended; therefore, practitioners look forward to this day to recommence their dance gatherings I did not anticipate that my first experience with Samedi Gloria in 2013 would take me from one town to the next, over the course of 18 hours. My morning began under the kiosk of Fort de France described above for a bl mawon gathering. At around 2:00 p.m., the bl mawon crowd began to disperse, with attendees soon in returned to their homes to quickly shower and head to the large open air market in the center of Lamentin, where the annual ladja/danmy Samedi Gloria gathering takes place. Relig ious holidays, such as Ftes Patronales (Patron Saint Feasts), Samedi Gloria and Lundi Paques ( Easter Monday ) hold special importance for ladja/danmy combatants especially those who spend the period of Lent recharging their strength, physically, spirit ually, and mentally preparing themselves for a day of fighting (Figure 3 7) 7 Later that evening, as the danmy gathering in Lamentin began to wind down, friends and family began carpooling for the long drive to the Pitt Casrus in Sainte Marie (cockfighting pit owned and operated by the celebrated bl drummer Flix Casrus, 7 This is a fascinating observation, given the image and treatme nt of the drum in the context of
99 brother of Ti Emile). Attendees of thi s event socialize, dance and play bl until the early hours of the morning, often returning to their homes around 4:00 am. 22 M (May 22) is another festive occasion for bl enthusiasts, particularly to honor the heroic act of the slave Romain, whose public defiance of the prohibition against drumming, and subsequent arrest, ignited the 1848 unrest that marked the end of slavery. Much like Samedi Gloria 22 M activities are organized morning, noon, and night i n different island communes; a busy day in which I found myself, again, driving to three separate events organized in three different towns. One of the evening gatherings organized by a small group of young women dance rs at the Bay front restaurant Chez Claudette (affectionately known in Kryl as Kay Klodt ) in Fort de France has become one of the highlights of 22 M in recent years. This event attracts large numbers of practitioners and spectators throughout the afte rnoon and evening, for what feels like a never ending rotation of dance/music sets. The organizers rent out the entire restaurant, decorating the space with bright, festive string lights, palm and banana leaves, and poster sized images of various bl pra ctitioners, and they prepare a traditional meal of ti nain morue (saltfish and green plantains) in large quantity to serve each guest in attendance. Though it is common in most swar bl to see women dancers decked out in beautiful skirts and dresses, thi s festive occasion is one where bl fashion seems to reach new heights One of my friends and interlocutors, a bl dancer, seamstress and dress designer who I will call Sisi, receives an increasing number of custom orders each year as the danm bl (fe male bl dancers) prepare for this momentous occasion; in 2015, during my brief, post fieldwork visit to the island, she told me she
100 barely slept the week of 22 M because she kept receiving requests, but she is happy to do it, because it is an additional source of income and bl and sewing are two of her passions. She even accommodated my last m inute request for a custom made jupon ( petticoat) two days before th e even t I also observed this tendency toward bl inspired fashion on 22 M among some of my male drummer friends who dress especially for the occasion in shirts with hand painted bl drum images. Bl : A Celebration of the Life Cycle Bl is transmitt ed as a dance of the earth, a dance that encourages land and human fertility, and celebrates the life cycle. Many bl followers see bl as an appropriate way to memorialize t he life of deceased loved ones, particularly those who contributed to the bl movement to welcome new life, to rejoice in love and nuptial rites, and to animate birthday parties. Even I had the occasion of hosting a moman bl for my 30 th birthday in 2014, which essentially provided me with insight to all that goes into planning a nd carrying out a successful bl event. I once received an invitation to participate in an invite only moman bl with a small group of my friends, and it was only the day before that I realized the purpose of the gathering: it was for an enterrement de v ie de gar on which literally translates as In France and in Martinique like the U.S. and other parts of the world, the bachelor party is a prenuptial ritual to c ommemorate the last days of single living, and commonly entails group outings with heavy drinking and encounters with exotic dan cers. In this case however, our small co ed group of friends were transported by boat to a small islet off the coast of Franois to participate in a simple gathering of bl music and dancing. Going against the conventional image of intentional hedonism and debauchery
101 characteristic of most bachelor parties, this group simply wanted to have a good time dancing to the drum and socializing with friends. Similarly, small groups of bl performers are recruited to provide one of many forms of ente rtainment at wedding receptions. often cautioned again st dancing bl because it is a very physically demanding activity that requires bending, stomping, jumping, and turning. If she cannot resist the urge to plus pos would. However, I observed some pregnant women eager to dance when she and baby have reached full term. When I questioned the reason for this, and expressed concern over the potential health risks, the women would confidently smile and explain that dancing bl towards the end of the pregnancy encourages labor and is helpful for the muscles used in the descent of the baby during birth. I once drove with a friend to a bl event just days after her expected due date. On the way there, she told me she was not sure she w ould dance, but insisted that if she felt compelled by the drum, she would not hold herself back. Indeed, during the event, she calmly danced a couple of sets, and on the way home she explained the birthing benefits associated with dancing during the last stage of pregnancy. Two days later, I received a message that she had gone into labor and given birth to a healthy baby boy. Just as bl is used by some Martinicans to mark the beginning of new life, it also has a revived role in funerary ceremonies in recent years, particularly when the deceased was active in the bl movement. In most Afro Caribbean funeral traditions, drum, dance, and storytelling are characteristic of the traditional wake ceremony, and
102 bl is said to have historically played such a role in Martinique. However, the traditional aspects of the funeral wake in Martinique (what they call the veille culturelle ) have almost dissolved, as the majority of Martinicans today have traded the lively conte (storytelling), music, and dance ritua ls, for the modern, quiet viewing ceremony among close friends and loved ones. In November 2013, Eric Gernet, who played a central role in the bl revival movement as a founding member of AM4, Tanbou B Kannal and other performance groups and cult ural as sociations, lost his battle against cancer. His funeral wake was my first experience at a veille culturelle which was held outdoors in the heart of the B Kannal neighborhood, and attended by at least three hundred people. Eric was a drummer and danmy combatant who is remembered for his wide breadth of knowledge and expertise of traditional drum culture and danmy ritual. As gatherers convened to mourn his loss, bl and danmy practitioners reflected on his life and his many contributions to the militant cultural movement of the 1980s and beyond. People gathered to cry, laugh, hold onto and console one another, view his body, and pay their respects to his family. Whispers and murmurs could be heard among small circles, just a few feet away from the dance space, as people exchanged commentary about the contentious debate surrounding chlordcone (the controversial insecticide that has heavily contaminated the island due to its u nregulated use on plantations), and chemical pollution (c f. Agard Jones 2013) There were hours of danmy matches between several combatants; one fighter recounted his observ ation that the space was filled with an intense spiritual presence.
103 This was especially evident for him when the renowned singer and danmy specialist danmy classic Pa ni pas lanmn osw a special moment, I was almost moved to go into the circle and fight while Victor was interview, February 15, 2014). In my research experience, many of the common dif ficulties and obstacles of doing field research in a foreign country were overcome by a shared racial affinity with the majority of my interlocutors. Even when verbal communication was a challenge, before I developed a more advanced proficiency in French and Kryl I was able to communicate through the language of dance. Despite the differences in native language, despite the administrative obstacles of working in a French department as a foreigner, despite the many differences that set me apart from the community of research subjects, I successfully carried out field research through my full immersion as a dancer and passionate observer of the rich bl tradition. I did however face a number of challenges and concerns preserv ing my professional identit y as a graduate researcher. While I appreciated the warm, open welcome that made for my smooth integration in the bl community, there were instances where I had to inform and remind others that I was not practicing bl to draw attention to myself, acquire fame, become a celebrity, or exploit and appropriate the tradition for personal gain. I was delighted, and even honored, to receive and accept invitations to perform with groups that had come to understand my purpo se in Martinique. For example, in October 2013 members of Tanbou B Kannal with whom I was well acquainted invited me to travel with them to St. Lucia to part icipate in the
104 annual Jounen Kry l festivities. I also had the opportunity to perform with Tanbou B Kannal in July 2014 (towards the end of my field research) for the 40 th anniversary concert (Figure 3 10) I hop ed that my participation in such activities would not be misint erpreted as egocentric or self interested On occasion, I was put on the spot for media interviews and announcements th at drew unwanted attention. I wanted to be open and responsive to any inquiries regarding m y interest in bl but I did not want my humility or the primary objectives of m y project to be questioned by key interl ocutors. I was eventually able to strike a balance as I developed strategies for navigating uncomfortable situations, and public ly communicating my research purpose without compromising my professional integrity and my relationship s with supportive collaborators. The above reflections are intended to give a sense of the people and places encountered in my research and described in the chapters that follow. An understanding of cultural citizenship in the context of bl movement requires an overview of the different personalities and settings implicated in the key issues that are analyzed throughout the remainder of this dissertation. In the following chapters I address a set of debates brewing in the b l community pertaining to political discourse and economic activity, spirituality and religious orientation, the respectability politics of gender and sexuality performance, and the growing presence of b l in the national education system. Even though the b l movem ent generally functions through the spirit of collectivity and cooperation, ideas about how b l should
105 be advanced continue to evolve, and in some cases become fragm ented from the larger mission. Figure 3 1. 2013, Flyer for Association Kannigw s Swar B l
106 F igure 3 2 2015 the kiosk of downtown Fort de France during B l Mawon gathering, photo courtesy of Benny Ren Charles F igure 3 3. 2015, Dancers at B l Mawon photo courtesy of Benny Ren Charles
107 F igure 3 4 2013, Dancers at B l Mawon photo courtesy of Valou Fitt Duval F igure 3 5 2013, Drummer at B l Mawon photo courtesy of Valou Fitt Duval
108 F igure 3 6 Thierry Dol, Martinic an hostage held by al Qaeda 2010 2013 F igure 3 7 2014 Ladja/Danmy match on Samedi Gloria (Holy Saturday) in Lamentin
109 F igure 3 8. 2014 Dancer performing a solo kalennda during 22 M (Emancipation Day) celebration, photo courtesy of Valou Fitt Duval F igure 3 9 2015, Dancers performing a b lya during 22 M (Emancipation Day) celebration, photo courtesy of Valou Fitt Duv al
110 F igure 3 10. 2014 researcher Camee Maddox performing in Tanbou B Kannal s 40 th Anniversary Concert, photo courtesy of Valou Fitt Duval
111 CHAPTER 4 MATINIK LV! 1 (RE)FASHIONI NG POLITICA L AND ECONOMIC SENSIBILITIES IN THE BL REVIVAL Bl and the 2009 General Strike In early 2009, general strikes were mobilized in Martinique and Guadeloupe, paralyzing the two island economies for more than a month. The strikes, organized by c oalitions Kolktif 5 Fvry in Martinique and Liyannaj Kont Pwofitasyon in Guadeloupe, led to riots, curfews, and protests against economic exploitation. 2 The coalitions were formed by labor unions in conjunction with artists, feminist activists, and other progressive organizations and community associations on the islands. Demonstrators voiced their dissatisfaction with the neocolonial conditions that pe rsist on the islands today, as the vestiges of slavery remain deeply embedded in contemporary labor practices and both islands remain politically and economically dependent on metropolitan France (Browne 2004; Bonilla 2010, 2011). During the strike, cultur al activists and artists became engaged in ways that electrified the public with the performance of local drum dance expressions and protest songs. Demonstrations were mobilized on a daily basis, businesses were shut down, and cruise ships loaded with tou rists were turned away. The landscape of political unrest was marked by thousands marching in red t shirts with a screen printed image of the island and the collective s slogan se pou la viktwa nou ka al to recognize the strike and the collective s org anizing efforts. 3 Protest repertoires were ignited by the 1 Martinique, Rise Up! 2 The English translation for these coalitions are February 5 named after the date the strike activities commenced in Martinique, and Against Profiteering in Guadeloupe. 3 Translates in English as are going for
112 sound of the bl drum, with dances and danmy fights setting the tone with a rebellious energy. Flags waved through the air with the colors red, black, and green, symbolizing spirit of Black Nati onalism Road blocks were set up, stores were forced to close, and graffiti was spray painted on buildings with racially charged slogans such as bk racis! (racist bk). 4 Riot police were sent all the way from France to settle the unrest with tear gas and batons. Cars, tractors and garbage cans were set ablaze, stores were looted, and for the first time in history, Carnival was canceled. Although economic hardship and wo rk related issues were at the forefront of this turbulent event, the strike reflected other grievances, including questions a bout cultural alienation and the problem of assimilation on the island. In many ways, these are intersecting issues and the demand s for cultural sovereignty are the result of years of political disillusionment, deteriorating economic conditions, and a perpetual relationship of dependency on France. Martinique s residents have been entitled to French citizenship since the French Revo lution, and they ostensibly reap the benefits of French modernity and development. However, not all of the guarantees of this incorporated status have been fulfilled, and departmentalization as a decolonizing strategy has had its share of backlash Having observed the significant place of bl cultural activists in strike activities and in framing demands for cultural sovereignty, I formulated questions about how the bl movement has influenced the political and economic orientations of the bl 4 Bk is the term used to identify the white minority population of slave planter descendants who make nd racial tensions between the bk community and African descendants persist in present times.
113 public. 5 In this chapter, I will discuss the various ways in which leaders of the bl movement have helped to refashion the political and economic sensibilities among followers of the movement. I will demonstrate how the appropriation of bl for advancing natio nalist ideological discourse has stimulated an ethos of resistance and solidarity for its practitioners through highly structured activities, manifestati ons, and modes of inculcation 6 I begin with an overview of political economic landscape since the 1946 transition to dpartement mer (DOM), and the disillusionment left behind in its wake. I will also discuss how bl bec ame a manner to culturalize the p rogressive political orientations of youth activists and intellectuals during the 1980s moment of radical militancy. Following my ethnographic analysis of the bl spaces where much of the consciou sness raising and inculcation occur, I will consider alter native perspectives from those who oppose the politicization of bl This debate is a clear illustration of how cultural development becomes contested terrain, fraught with contradiction and competing narratives, despite the larger objective of unifying a national community under a shared cultural identity. It fits within the body of anthropological scholarship that deals with Caribbean nationalisms and different modalities of blackness and creoleness, and more specifically, the complex ways in which Blac k folk culture becomes appropriated to advance specific political ideologies ( cf. Thomas 2004). The case presented here from the shores of Martinique is an 5 I use bl movement when referring to the prominent actors/leaders, artist intellectuals, and the larger set of activities around which bl practice revolv es. I use bl public to refer to the followers of the movement, such as bl students, members of cultural associations, and audiences of non practitioners who simply enjoy watching the tradition in a community based performance context. 6 By highly or ganized activities, I am referring to the activities planned and organized by associations or the bl coalition (i.e. swar bl jounen moun bl etc.); manifestations refer to group performances or demonstrations that are intended to highlight or provi de the entertainment for a specific social or political ca use; and modes of inculcation refers to the shared discourse and rhetoric used in bl schools, the establishment of written moral codes and value systems, theory seminars, and so on.
114 interesting illustration of how notions of citizenship get r eworked in non sovereign national conte xts by minority communities (in this case, the bl community), whose members negotiate terms of community belonging that fall outside the conventional frameworks of French national identity. In the case of the bl movement, it is important to interrogate which actors set the terms of belonging with overarching ideological claims and demands and to draw attention to the voices and narratives that receive less attention in the public discourse The bl community is often described as its own sm all society within Martinican society, whose members offer variegated conceptions of bl and different perspectives on the best course of acti on for advancing the movement. Cultural nationalism is what drives the thinking of many bl followers. This o verarching ideology is one that promotes shared Kryl language, local traditions, alimentation, and island territory the specificities that mark their difference from France. However, the degree s to which these cultural nationalists desire s tate sovereignty vary Some subscribe to political nationalist movements and wish to see Martinique pursue independence from France. Others are more invested in seeing Martinique achieve a greater degree of autonomy within, rather than apart from, the Fr ench state And still others have leftist political orientations in the strug gle for greater class equality and fair labor practices. This chapter presents a set of examples regarding the controversial link between bl and political and economic life. Disillusionment in the Post departmental Era N early a century after the 1848 abolition of slavery when decisions regarding decolonization were being made, Martinique s political leaders, notably Aim Csaire, opted for departmentalization with the French state; the goal was political assimilation,
115 but with the preservation of a distinctive cultural heritage ( Miles 2001:48 9). According to Csaire, it was the responsib ility of the French government to guarantee progress and equal treatment for the French Antillean population that was vulnerable to lingering forms of oppression and inequality by the racial power structure (Hintjens 1995:23). Many supporters of departmentalization were initially motivated by its economic promise, and laborers of the old plantation system were persuaded by the benefits of social security (Miles 2001:49). The years of suffering endured during the Vichy regime of WWII created a gen eral sense of panic around severing ties with France, and Martinicans celebrated De victory as one of their own. When the policy of departmentalization was introduced in 1946, Aim Csaire addressed the French National Assembly insisting that the French government would also benefit from the integration of the vieilles colonies or old colonies (C saire 1946). T here eventu ally came a time, though, when l eft leaning activists no longer convinced that departmentalization could truly mean liberation from the colonial past would argue that the guarantees of progress were left unfulfilled, or being realized too slowly. Miles describes the contradiction that confronted C saire, writing that: Csaire soon grew disappointed with the direction that stateho od was The assimilation which you are offering us he announced to the National Assembly in 1948, is but a caricature of that which we demanded (Miles 2001:49). Consequently, leftist, autonomist, and independentist political parties advocating greater autonomy began to form, including C saire s Parti Progressiste Martinique (PPM) founded in 1958. The Mouvement Ind pendentiste Martiniquais (MIM) was later founded in 1978 by Alfred Marie Jeanne, and the two political parties have domin ated island politics in the post departmental era. Intellectuals responded to the cultural crisis
116 of departmentalization and assimilation by celebrating the island s creole specificity and spearheading a literary movement, cr olit which was largely a cr itique of C saire s n gritude for essentializing blackness. 7 douard Glissant (1981) became on the leadin g voices of cultural critique at this moment, arguing that Martinique was undergoing a cultural genocide from the rapid changes brought on by the departmental transformation (1981:173). Justin Daniel (2005) describes how activists began to politicize their West Indian identities once the contradictions of assimilation evolved, and conflicts around the experience of departmentalization were reve aled (Daniel 2005:66). This disillusionment was even more apparent in the activist network of French Antillean migrants in France particularly those of the BUMIDOM era who were encourage to go to France and pursue better work and educational opportunities 8 Many of the return migrants who came back to their island home did so with disdain and resentment based on the indignities of discrimination and racist exclusion in France. Michel Giraud (2005) writes, e image, highlights all the reasons there 7 It is worth mentioning here that the ideas advanced by crolit thinkers also have contradictions that further complicate matters of cultural identity on the island, as pointed out by Richard and Sally Price (1997). Price and Price criticize the creolist es for accommodating the French modernizing project while celebrating a Martinique and promoting a nostalgia around their creole history and culture, leading to folklorization and commodified cultural products (1997:15). 8 Bureau f or the Development of Migrations in the DOMs (BUMIDOM). From the period of 1963 until 1981, BUMIDOM developed work recruitment programs that encouraged labor migration to the metropole from the overseas departments and provided training to recruits, leadi ng to an exodus of French Antilleans and Runionians motivated by the prospect of upward mobility. The overseas departments were drained of young workers who ended up in unskilled labor positions.
117 Since departmentalization, the traditional agricultural economy of Martinique has ne arly vanished. Hypermarket chains providing basic goods dot the tropical landscape, and continue to expand to the benefit of b k business owners. Many of my interlocutors have commented that local food production should be more widely supported, but the y do not have access to the land because the French state and the b k s own it all, and b k s only produce for exporting ( interview June 14, 2009). Nearly three quarters of national revenues are from French assistance (Daniel 2001:62 3; West Dur n 2003 : xxv; Browne 2004:39 40). The unempl oyment rate in 2000 was near 30 percent having increased through the stagnation of tourism and industry (INSEE 2000:61; Daniel 2001:63; Browne 2004:39). 9 About two fifths of the population have immigrated to metropolitan France for jobs ( Hintjens 1992:71; Anselin 1995:1 13; Berrian 2000:3 4). Decisions are made in metropolitan France by politicians who do not know the everyday experiences and realities of Martinicans; thus, their policies are not culturall y grounded or locally informed. The grievances resulting from this situation, coupled with the island s so called identity crisis, created the need for cultural activism and a sense of cultural autonomy that would affirm the everyday popular classes of Mar tinique, along with their cultural expressions that were historically denigrated. The activists have devoted their energy to grassroots cultural programming that encourages cross class participation and aims to offset the alienating effects of assimilatio n, which have been most operative in the media, the French national education system, and the consumer economy. People in Martinique are much more likely to be informed of French current events than the affairs 9 According to 2009 2010 edition of the Tableux E conomiques Rginaux (TER), unemployment has gone down to 23.5 percent.
118 of their island neighbors like St. Lucia and Dominica. They are more inclined to purchase imported products from high end grocery stores and retailers (especially in Fort de France and surrounding suburbs). Children are educated to understand the culture, manners, and historical contributions of F rance, and master the French language, but are discouraged from embracing the vernacular language and expressive culture. 10 The agitation of those political movements in the post departmental era never materialized into a real change in Martinique cal status. In fact, MIM has conceded its call for independence as a primary objective, and has instead come to prioritize their negotiations for a different degree of autonomy. The general consensus is that Martinique is not ready for independence, evid ent in the fact that voters continue austerity measures in recent times, as it threatens their access to French public rupture from the mre patrie has been weakened or outright abandoned by many of the radicals of the 1980s ( Bishop 2013:99). Therefore, the patriotic struggle has become concentrated in the realm of cultural resistance, and bl has become one of the most visible badges of honor. In addition to the influence of the PPM and MIM in shaping radical political perspectives, other political parties and organizations contributed greatly to the 10 an expression (usually of annoyance) used by b lack people internationally, and affectionately known as the tchip Antilleans; the sound is made by sucking in air through pursed lips and clenched teeth. Initiatives have been put in place by the French school system to prohibit the use of the tchip in the school settings, because according to their logic it is an impolite habit that is inappropriate for professional life. This right politician Marine Le Pen in a televised interview.
119 formation of the up and coming c ultural militants of the 1980s Most noteworthy is the far left, radically independentist Conseil National des Comits Populaires (CNCP), which is described as a Marxist Leninist M aoist movement. The cultural wing aligned with this political party is the organization As Plr, Annou Lit (APAL, Enough Crying, An Lt Chimen Pou La Jns (ALCPLJ, Another Path for the Youth). Cultural activist and philosophy teacher Edmond Mondsir played a significant role in cr eating a link between bl activities and l eftist politics. He was a very active member in the political activities of CNCP and APAL, and he helped mentor the young people in ALCPLJ. These youth circles were engaged in what could be described as an appren ticeship in local traditions that drew from the ancestral principles and expressions of Martinique. They would assemble for group gardening activities, construction projects, and drum and dance trainings, and travel by group to Sainte Marie to observe and learn from the elder bl specialists. 11 This was a way to revive and instill the values of solidarity, collectivity, and respect for the elders values that were deemed to be on the path of dissolution with the rapid modernization and assimilation of the society (1981:173). Moreover, this type of consciousness raising was carried out in a way that would be enjoyable and entertaining for an alienated generation of impressionable yo uth who grew up in the throes of rapid cultural change. Other progressive youth organizations that were committed to the cause of popularizing bl include Lavwa Pitchan from the Fort de France neighborhood of B 11 The Kryl vocabulary used to characterize these activities include konvwa (convoy), konbit (teamwork), and koudmn (help; group work).
120 Kannal the Jeunesse Etudiante Chrtienne ( JEC, Christian Student Youth), and activists from Association Gnrale Etudiante Martiniquais (AGEM, General Martinican Student Association based in France). Many of the members of these three associations came together in the mid 1980s to found what is n ow the largest drum dance association on the island, Mi Mes Manmay Matinik (AM4 Look at the Manners/Ways of my Martinican People). This association has been most impactful on the bl movement in terms of their recruitment and membership numbers, and a rigorous research based codification and systematization of various drum dance expressions, particularly the different regional variants of bl kalennda and danmy The young activists of the 1980s generation were drawn to the bl activities of these associations, and motivated by the message that bl is a living culture, not a folkloric product frozen in the past, an idea that was common based on touristic representations of the folkloric troupes. It was not bagay vy ng or a t hing for vagabonds, drunks, and jezebels, as many of the parents of this generation believed and taught their children. Bl as a living culture, would become a space where the everyday lived experience and socio political realities of Martinicans could be reflected and acknowledged in a directed and structured. Therefore, a certain level of social awareness and politicization would be constitutive of the bl experience. Rzistans and Solidarit : Bl Culture as the Key to Martinican Nationalist Thought O ne of th e greatest points of pride within this group of cultural activists was the reinstatement of the swar bl system that had nearly dissolved in the dec ades preceding the revival ( Chapter 2). As the number of allied cultural associations promoting bl have increased, and many of them have unified under the umbrella
121 coalition Coordination Lawonn Bl they now have a highly organized system of planning and executing their swar bl activities to maximize participation, diffuse principles and values, and have a wider impact on society. The annual calendar of the Coordination allows each association to choose and inscribe the dates of their swar bl ; in the spirit of solidarity, e ach association encourages its members and stude nts to attend the events and activities of other associations, and this system helps them to avoid scheduling conflicts. In this section, I reflect on some of my ethnographic observations of how bl transmission is linked with shaping political and econo mic sensibilities in contemporary Martinique. Fieldnotes: Swar Bl AM4 Fort de France January 25, 2014 When I first arrived at the open air gathering in the Fort de France neighborhood B Kannal, I set up my tripod and camera and took my seat. The t heme of this swar bl is Rezistans!: Hommage aux Rsistants (Resistance: Tribute to the Resisters). Publicity for the event included two fist images pointing upward in the style of the Black Power fist I received a pamphlet that was circulating the au dience space surrounding the dance floor (constructed from large slabs of wood in the shape of a square). This danmy kalennda bl : s tribute and the biographies of the three recently deceased honorees: Pierre Aliker, Eric Gernet, and Nelson Mandela. Pierre Aliker was a doctor and militant comrade of Aim Csaire who passed away last month. His biographical sketch outlines how he dedicated much of his long life to the battle against colonialism, and improving the everyday lives of Martinicans by spreading fundamental ideas about identity, dignity, and re sponsibility. Eric Gernet, who passed away in November, was a founding
122 member of the Association AM4 and one of the formidable cultural activists of danmy kalennda, bl ( pillar ) in the cultural activit i es at B Kannal, Gernet dedicated his life to excavating and preserving the again st apartheid shows us that the ultimate goal of r ealizing all humanity is the fight for culture without consciousness of who we are and what we want to be, can only get bogged down in the objectives and forms designed by the Other. In danmy kalennda bl we know who we ar The pamphlet includes r eflections on slavery as a dehumanizing system of exploitation resisted by the ancestors, and the dehuman izing legacy of racism and political assimilation that contemporary Martinicans fight to resist in present times. As it is January, the pamphlet also highlights other significant dates in the month of December, during which various historical events occur red (i.e. insurrections, strikes, the death of Frantz Fanon in December of 1961, the airport blockade of December 1987 that prevented Jean Marie Le Pen leader of a far r ight political party in France from entering the country, and the deaths of other impo rtant militants who passed away in the month of December). More and more spect ators and participants arrived eventually r eaching around 250 guests total while the festivities commenced, beginning with children fighting danmy and then they moved onto th e adult segment of danmy Before moving on to the bl segment of the program AM4 foun ding member and longtime teacher of bl
123 Georges Dru takes the mic to reflect on the struggle for liberation and equality, and the individual contributions of the three men being memorialized. He mention s the role of the Church and colonizers in dehumanizing Africans all over the world. Between his reflection s of each individual honoree, there is a short dance/music sequence presented by a designated team of AM4 m embers. This dance tribute set s the tone w ith a profound sense of honor respect, and gratitude for those who fought to defend the dignity and freedoms of Martinicans and African descendants around the world, and it introduces the open participation bl festivities Figure 4 1. 2014 Flyer for AM4 s Swar B l
124 This vignette is only one of many such events that I observed over the course of my field research. It illustrates the ways in which swar bl are dedicated to nationalist themes and ceremonially organized to pay homage and tribute to militant historical figures local and international At another swar bl organized by the Franois school of AM4 (held in February of each year), the group opened their presenta tion with a procession of dancers, singers, an d drummers marching with fire torches, followed by a speech commemorating the events of February 1900, known as the first major labor in the northern plantations of the island, soon spread to other communes, and ended fatally with the death of 10 strikers. The speech given at the swar bl was a protest against racial violence and oppression endured by black workers under a n unjust sys tem of racial inequality and unfair labor practices The dancers of the opening presentation, dressed in black and red, carried their torches as they entered the circular dance configuration. Many wore black t shirts with the word rzist printed on the back. These are examples of how the militant spirit of maronnage and resistance is ceremonialized and enacted in public bl spaces. The principle of koudmn is sustained by the group efforts of association members, working together to set up and break do wn the dance space, sell food and beverage, ensure the comfort and enjoyment of the elders, and manage the general flow of activities. One of the main objectives of these events is to honor those who fought for liberation and defended the local culture. T his practice of organizing swar bl around a central theme to memorialize important cultural or political figures, or some significant historical event like labor strikes is not uncommon. The space is often decorated with palm leaves,
125 banana leaves, flo ral bouquets, poster sized portraits of deceased honorees, bulletin b oards with photos related to activist activities, torches, and processions of special guests and elders Even though swar bl are open, participatory gatherings, and there is no script ed sequence of when participants will take their turn to dance, drum, or sing, there are specially designated moments set aside for tribute or commemoration, and to feature the work of the association hosting the event There are also times in the program when a spoken word artist or a kont (storyteller) might deliver a piece of his or Day 22 M (May 22) is now a time when the legend of Romain, and his revolutionary use of the bl drum that opene d the door for emancipation, are brought to life and celebrated with the practice of bl danmy and kalennda in different communes all swar bl there is an image of the island that overlaps an image of the bl drum, and the flyer is embellished with the colors of black, red, and green. There is also an image of Aim genocide par substitution ution) marking his critique of the assimilationist presence in Martinique. Politicization of the bl public occurs in other ways outside of the swar bl context. Drum dance manifestations are frequently used to rally progressive political and social ca militants of the associations are expected to be present at such events, as it instills in participants a more soci a lly conscious worldview regarding issues of structural racism, colonial domination, capitalism, and globalization. For example, in 2004 when the large
126 supermarket retailer Carrefour began construction of a new store location in the southern town of Rivi re Sale, bl activists participated in blockades and protests on site with their drums and dances. Sometimes, the associations will hold theoretical meetings and seminars to exchange with their members about the philosophical vision of the groups to whi ch they belong and the larger mission of the movement Even though most associations do not explicitly indicate ties to a specific political party the ir rhetoric usually reflects an unspoken expectation or hope that their members will be more attentive to or critically engaged with political and economic affairs. It should be discussed here that the bl movement also promotes practices to foster local economic development, and there are opportunities for people to earn their living solely from the pract ice of bl though it i s rare. Professional group performance (i.e. folkloric troupes) has economic benefits and has long been an option for practitioners and per formers, although the folklorized style of bl representation faces its share of criticism from the bl militants The re is an understanding that professional bl performance was a manner for poor and working class rural artists to make supplemental earnings. Though some people have been accused of using bl in an unethical manner for their own financial advancement, there is a general consensus that Martinicans should produce and consume with their own local resources and this have right here at home. Buy local, eat local, drink local, develop the economy from within ; the idea is that people should not be so dependent on from beverages to music genres.
127 Followers of bl are encouraged to shift their consumption practices away from those benefitting major multinational corporations, and support local producers, artisans, and small scale vendors. Shifting the mentality away from dependency on Fra nce is a meaningful principle to instill, in light of neoliberal economic restructuring and increasing austerity in France. The 2009 strike was a 38 day suspension from engagement with the global economy, because ports and retailers were blockaded. Durin g this time, the people got a taste (for lack of a better word) of what a rupture from the French system would look like, which is an important point to which I will return in my conclusion. Many of my ethnographic observations point to informal systems of exchange and a burge oning solidarity economy among members of the bl community. 12 For example, seamstresses who are also bl practitioners receive frequent requests and special orders to design and sew bl skirts and dresses for women dancers. This c an be profitable because the long, flowing bl skirt is a major marker of bl identity. The danm bl (woman dancer) is expected to be appropriately dressed for all organized bl events and unlike folkloric troupes whose dancers wear uniformed stereotypical creole costumes, non folkloric group dancers choose their own outfits for bl events. Uniformity is not the goal of these gatherings, which falls in line with the idea of unscripted, spontaneous performance. Th erefore, many women dancers put thought and energy into what they will wear to special bl events, to make an impression with their individual styles of skirts and dr esses (more on this in the Chapter 6 resses and dress designers 12 See Satgar (2014) for a recent collection of essays on solidarity economy.
128 who are integrated in the bl movement have been able to earn additional income from this flow of custom orders. The question of whether or not bl should be used for commercial ventures or for making a living is one that must be more closely analyzed in future research, but warrants some acknowledgement here. There are certainly opportunities to earn a supplemental income or salary for those who teach bl classes o r have their own associations that operate independently from the government (meaning those that do not receive public subventions, though the majority of the associations do receive subventions as associations loi 1901 and therefore do not have the means to compensate their teachers). Money for the associations is raised from the annual registration fees of members and students. At the time of my research, t he commercial venture Lakou Trankil had proven to be a small business success It is an outdoor bl dance space also known as a kay bl ( bl house) in th e heavily wooded, lush green mountains of Gros Morne. The dance space is a dirt packed adobe floor, intended to recreate the rural village ambiance of bl, as it was be fore the tradition moved to the urban center. It is located on the land of an independent farmer and is the site of various cultural activities and weekly bl parties held on Friday night s. The concept of Lakou Trankil is to bring bl to life in a convivial space, outside the context of traditional swar bl and professi onal performance. Beyond mere entertainment on Friday evenings, the economic function of additional earnings to the Lakou Trankil family team. They also charge a sm all fee to guests participating in the 1 hour bl initiation class held before the start of the swar
129 bl At the time of my research, bl allies were encouraged to support this innovative cultural and commercial operation. Bl album production is ano ther aspect to consider. The production and sale of both traditional bl and modern bl fusion genres has been on the rise over the last two decades. This has helped to affirm and bolster the reputations of elders from Sainte Marie, while also taking a dvantage of the financial benefits. AM4 has produced eight albums with various styles of traditional music. The 200 1 Bl Boum B ap project ( bl hip hop dancehall) fostered an inter generational colla boration between young and old bl artists and was Hop Kry l movement. Two Bl Lgliz albums (2009 and 2014) have been produced and distributed, and the Bl Lgliz team has held sold out concerts, proving to be a profitable economic undertaking. Edmo nd Mondsir has produced 16 albums total throughout his time in the bl movement (some with his bl moderne jazz fusion group Bl nou some solo albums). These are just some examples among other creative works that integrate bl expressions and have be en successfully produced and distributed. These albums do not have nearly the same impact in Martinique as commercialized genres like zouk, reggae dancehall, and rap music, but they do bring increased media attention and recognition to the bl movement. The lyrics of bl music cover many different areas of everyday life in Martinique, from love, sex, and courtship, to political and economic realities. Since the 1980s revival, bl music has adopted a more explicitly subversive tone. Because of Edmond M some radical political c ontent. A recent example is his commemo ration of the 2009
130 labor unrest. Se pou la viktwa nou ka al (album title) r eflected the demands of the movement and the overall nationalist unity observed among the strikers. Song titles include Nou dsid chanj lavi nou (We are deciding to change our lives), Bs l pri (Lower the prices), and Solidarit k f n ou genyen (Solid arity will make us win) The media have played a marginal role in creating a stronger link between bl and political orientations. APAL has its own radio station (Radio APAL) that regularly features programs dedicated to advancing bl playing the musi c of bl artists, announcing upcoming bl events, providing the publicity for swar bl and interviewing important actors in the bl Radio Lv Dubout Matinik (RLDM Radio Get Up, Stand Up Martinique ), features a weekly broadcast each Saturday morning, also devoted to the bl community. 13 It is rare to hear bl music played on the radio in Martinique with the exception of these two radio stations, and because both stations are linked with independentist political parti es, there is a wide assumption that the bl community is exclusively made up of revolutionaries. The examples provided here give the larger impression that in order to be a good patriotic Martinican, one must be involved in bl and conversely, that in order to be a faithful follower of the bl movement, one must be a left leaning nationalist or favor independence political future he Paradox of Politicizing Bl One late night/early morni ng as I was walking to my car to head home after a swar bl come here for that swar bl is really not the 13 I was invited by both radio programs t o do interviews and discuss my research on air.
131 many of these people bl to remind me to be a good nationalist date concealed for anonymity purposes). Right away, I recalled a conversation I had months earlier with another dancer, who insisted that bl should not be co opted as a political strategy. culture, politics are politics Bl is our identi ty it is not political (interview, February 17, 2014). Such comments are reactions to the idea that one must be a patriot and subscribe to certain political ideologies in order to practice bl ; the idea that people practice bl only because they are lost in their identity and bl helps them bl based on the political orientations imposed by activists Martinican, or to become a more consciou s co nsumer. When one knows who s/he is and has an understanding of the culture of Martinique, s/he do es not need the influence of bl militants or politici ans to affirm this and tell her/him how to live day to day; that knowle dge is an inherent part of o worldview and daily routine inherited from generations of familial norms and patterns. Continuing this argument in one of my interviews, someone added, You should not be pressured to change your attitudes or habits because you practice bl Just be true to who you are, and if you decide you want to practice bl or danmy do it because you genuinely care about the practice, not because of politics ( interview, February 17, 2014 ). Part of this critical outlook on the politicization of bl simpl y has to do with the rhetoric being pompous, preachy, or sententious in manner and tone, as some have expressed to me. The socialist/communi st rhetoric from which they draw is very much rooted in a French radical syndicalist tradition that is not as easily translatable to the cultural realities of Martinique. Miles (1986) makes a similar observation that,
132 even as the Martinican left wing parties reject French values and politics, they do so in the highly vociferous, ideologically hairsplitting, and pure r th an thou manner which is evocative of at least the postwar Left in France, if not reminiscent of the stridency and intransigence characterizing French politics since the Revolution (Miles 1986:45). The other side of this critique has to do with the contrad iction that many of the people behind this rhetoric, and those who absorb the discourse, are very much memorize a discourse of nationalism, and none of them are willing to give up their jobs interview, February 17, 2014 ). Someone who once worked in cultural programming among the rural elders of Sainte Marie expre ssed to me in an interview that most bl activists talk about bl as a nationalist art, but I do not belong to this ideology. When you work in cultural heritage management, you cannot be a Martinican nationalist for independence, and then go ask the French state for money to support your projects, you know? So in my w ork, I made it clear that I was not doing politics in anything I was doing. Personally, I am not convinced about the seriousness of that ideology, because if you observe well, you will see that the pro independency in Martinique work for the state. They are either teachers, or you know (interview, 2011) The problem, it seems, is not the fact that bl practitioners also work as civil servants of the French state, but rather that they promote ideas of resistance to the French colonial system upon which so many of them depend. Can you be a good militant of bl if you buy champagne, or Coca Cola product ? For some, the answer is why not, so long as there is a balance in consumption practic es and awareness of how one is implicated in the capitalist system. For others, this is a major paradox and point of contention, and here is why: the idea that capitalism and multinational corporations are threats to Martinican self determination circulates with the
133 nationalist, anti capitalist discourse of the bl movement, but the application of this conviction in everyday life is not as easily realized by members of the bl community. Militants of bl respond to these criticisms by saying that the choice to operate independently of the French system is very limited, because it is a system that is imposed, regardless of how conscious you are as a thinker and consumer. The nationalist discourse and consciousness raising efforts are approaches to help Martinicans see life on the island and the world at large through a critical lens, different from the inevitable frameworks, and patterns of though t and behavior imposed by French assimilation. It is not their immediate aim to uproot or sever ties f rom a system that is well entrench ed in Martinique from 400 years of oppressive domination; what they can do, however, is function within that system thr ough alternative practices and ideologies that challenge the status quo in promoting progressive change. necessarily the position that bl militants universally advocate I f bl militants are criticized for the paradox discussed above, it begs the question, should independence be the ultimate objective of bl cultural activists? Is independence a realistic political option for a microcosm island society like Martinique? Scholars of the Caribbean have recently become more interested in the question of non sovereignty and nominal sovereignty ( cf. Bonilla, forthcoming), revealing perspectives of everyday people who imagine other possibilities and visions of postcolonial poli tical formation that do not proclaim state sovereignty as the most viable path to self determination.
134 When I first began my preliminary fieldwork in 2009, I was quick to generalize and romanticize the bl revival a s a revolutionary, anti colonialist moveme nt. I had prepared for my research by reading about the political activist component of the bl movement, and once I arrived in Martinique I mistakenly conflated the experiences and political orientations of all practitioners because I had not yet been i mmersed in the community long enough to gain exposure to alternative points of view. My initial understanding was that all bl status and desire state sovereignty. I now understand the situation as much more complex and nuanced, because the community of bl practitioners is politically fragmented they do not universally envisio n a future of Martinican independence (Gerstin 2000). There is a minority of those who believe that independence for Martinique can be a realistic goal, an d that Martinique can develop a self sustaining economy, if only Martinicans would change their menta lity and stop being so dependent on France. It is common for Martinicans to reference Haiti as an example of the unfavorable outcomes of independence, but some use more suitable comparisons, like Dominica and St. Lucia, which like Martinique are small in size, independent, and capable of producing goods and services for themselves and the global economic market. In my interviews, many of the people to whom I raised the question que is not ready for us are under a mental assimilation. Even those of us who do ( interview, July 11, 2013). Colin dependence later. No, I
135 Most of my respondents from the bl community were pr oud to cla im nationalist ideologic ), but as the aftermath of the strike proved, Martinicans are not prepared for such an abru pt change in political status. Their version of nationalism is that of a cult ural nationalist, in the and in many ways favor increased autonomy in certain sectors of the societ y, such as education, cultural programming and economic development Th is narrative of a cultural nationalism a ctivity and local solidarity, business returned as usual and shoppers eagerly awaited the reopening of their favorite supermarkets and retailers. For some, it was a nightmare that they would never want to relive again. Moreover, in January 2010, less tha n a year after the strike, Martinique voted in a referendum to change its status to one that would grant them more autonomy, and the people overwhelmingly voted against it, rejecting any proposition for real institutional change. As Miles argues, an be made for the ongoing attempt to create a juste milieu between cultural self assertion and continued political attachment to France. At a basic level, that is what the 2010 referenda [in Martinique and Guyane] were basically the results of the referendum indicates a certain disillusionment with the radicalized political climate of the strike and the prospect for greater political
136 power, new demands for cultural autonomy emerged in the 2009 moment of heightened racial and class tension. Shortly after the strike, in 2009, I had an interesting conversation about bl with a tourism professional and politically moderate bl drummer, who m I will call Terry. Terry considers himself a committed and enthusiastic supporter of tourism. He is also proud of his Martinican identity, and values the relationship that Martinique has with France, because he views t he syncretic influences of African and European culture s as something unique and something to be celebrated. Terry was staunchly opposed to the strike, because the tourist industry was very negatively impacted by the hostility that exploded during that month long period. When I asked him if bl activists were often categorized as leftists, independentists, nationalists, and revolutionaries, he replied: It is a trend to associate a musician who plays bl refuse to associate bl as a music of the leftists. It is not revolutionary. For me, bl i a c ould you associate jazz with a leftis t? ( interview June 10, 2009). If Martinicans are to be concerned about developing a self sufficient economy, then it would seem that they cannot afford to lose opportunities for tourism development. Radical political attitudes in the bl movement, howe ver, could create barriers for bl to really penetrate the tourist market. To conclude, I would like to consider the larger implicatio ns of citizenship and belonging brought on by the debate regarding whether or not bl should be used to advance national ist political attitudes and economic practices. There seems t o be an overarching perspective, what could be considered a moral authority or superiority that guides the public discourse of bl and sets the standards for what true Martinican
137 cultural natio nalism entails. This is an example of cultural politics in the postcolonial Caribbean that illustrates the disjunctive relationship between representations of a national culture, and the lived realities, desires, and expressions of the popular class, part icularly when cultural expr essions become appropriated by political circles ( cf. Thomas 2004). As nationalist and independentist narratives steer the discourse and direction of the bl movement, I cannot help but notice that other voices and perspectives are marginalized, or altogether silenced. Some people raise concerns, for example, that it is always the same group of middle class intellectuals and activists speaking for the community, and leading to a bourgeoisizatio n born into this tradition do not get called to do pub l ic talks about the meaning and function of bl women play such a marginal role in the public discourse of bl development, because the 1980s revival was spearheaded by men. These are important questions to ask as the bl community continues to increase in numbers. Most of the cultural associations described in this dissertation do not officially state their affiliation with a specific political party, because they do not want to alienate or lose the interest of prospective follower s who do not subscribe to l eftist political ideologies This is especially the case a s more and more middle class Martinicans join the bl public However, the associations use a coded language of militancy that seems to make nationalist sentiments a prerequisite for belonging to the movement, and that also seem inconsistent with Martini lingering colo nial relationship with France.
138 From what I observed in my interactions with elders from Sainte Marie, they are happy to see societal perceptions of their expressive culture, which was once regarded with great contempt, move in a more po sitive light. Bl has acquired a more to participate in the larger mission of instilling greater appreciation for local traditions. It is clear, however, that La Maison du Bl and the majority of bl actors from Sainte Marie do not have the same preoccupation and/or engagement with militant nationalist politics. It is my sense that anxieties around cultural alienation differ along the lines of age/generation, rural/urban experienc e and upbringing, and educational background. Young and middle aged urban Antilleans (especially those with middle class or elite backgrounds) have been subjected to a distinct type of coercive assimilation that necessitates a more oppositional or subvers ive nationalist ethos. The definition of bl as an expression of cultural marronage (resistance) is painted with a broad brush that may not be attentive to variations and nuances in lived experience and access to power and resources. In the chapters tha t follow, I examine other debates in the bl movement that speak to the overlapping contradictions discussed here
139 CHAPTER 5 SACRALIZING AND RITUAL I ZING BL PRACTICE: A DIALECTIC OF SPIRITUALITY bl find my Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and problems. 1 Nomi, a longtime danm bl (female dancer) Interview, July 25, 2013 (worship), and one cannot be a good practitioner of bl if one does not integrate worship and devotion into their practice. This means when I do bl I give worship to the divinities around me, the four elements of nature, the stars and the moon and all o f these elements are in bl. Izaak an experienced chant bl ( bl singer) Interview, May 1, 2014 What is the significance of such statements about prayer and worship in a cultural revival movement that has prioritized cultural nationalism and resistance from a nonreligious standpoint? How does one come to terms with claims of numinous experience and encounters with the divine in a dance culture that has been commonly understood and promoted as a secular tradition? 2 What do these claims mean i n a small island society like Martinique where the dominant religion is Roman Catholicism and African religious heritage has been rendered invisible? I know plenty of practitioners and specialists of the bl subculture who would question or deny the vali dity of the claims quoted above. Conversely, I know others who hold similar conceptions of the bl experience and are searching for ways to make sense of what 1 In the choreography of bl from Sainte Marie developed from the quadrille, the carr bl is the square dancing segment of the sequence, whereby two female male couples dance face to face in the formation of a square, and swap positions so that the dancers may exchange partners. The mont o tanbou is the segment of the dance sequence following the square dancing, whereby each couple takes a turn dancing together in a moment of playful display, and they accompany one another dancing toward the drummer as a manner of gi ving salutation to the drummer 2 By numinous, I am referring to the term coin ed by Rudolf Otto (1917) that points to feelings of awe, wonder, and fascination as they relate to religion and spirituality.
140 they have observed in their personal practice of the tradition. In recent years, the bl revi val movement has become a hotbed for a new spirituality politics that was not readily apparent to me when I first encountered the tradition in 2009. When I arrived in Martinique to pursue dissertation research on the cultural politics of the bl revival, I did not anticipate that my project would evolve to address questions of spirituality and religion. Dance scholars of the Car ibbean who inspired my work had covered the terrain of sacred dance in b lack religious contexts, and as far as I could see, my d eveloping project on the secular bl tradition would not have a place in this vast body of research. Over time, I noticed that my interlocutors were indeed offering their spiritual interpretations of bl practice, and that their conceptions of spiritual ity were spiraling into a color ful debate about the beloved dru m/dance tradition that gained many of its proponents for nonreligious purposes and activiti es over the last three decades. In this chapter, I use a dialectic al approach to analyze a set of comp eting nar ratives and perspectives about the place of spirituality in the practice of bl In analyzing different spiritual interpretations of the contemporary function in the everyday lives of practitioners my aim is to illumin ate the inherent assumptions and contradictions at play. The range of perspectives considered here come from practitioners with different orientations to religion, but who ultimately wish to bring validity to their numinous experiences with Mar drum culture The dialectic problematizes the sacred/secular dichotomy and reveal s a continuum of spirituality that comprises religious, supernatural, and nonreligious conceptions of bl Leaders of the bl movement initially focused on the tr ansformative potential of bl for refashioning political and economic sensibilities, raising social consciousness,
141 and promoting solidarity and an eth os of resistance to the French ne o colonial presence on the island ( Chapter 4 ). Therefore, the existing r esearch on bl resurgence in Martinique has centered exclusively on the secular functions of the tradition. Bl revival has been characterized as a new social movement, a strategy for defending the stic representations, and a space for creating a renewed sense of belonging (Gerstin 2000; Cyrille 2002; Pulvar 2009). Although these are important contributions to how we understand the entanglements of national identity and expressive culture in the Fre nch DOMs, this is only part of the story. None of these works have addressed the spiritual aspects that are being (re)claimed and debated in contemporary bl practice and discourse. 3 My goal is to enrich his body of research by investigating the less ex plored interface of bl, spirituality, and cultural citizenship. Presently, many bl enthusiasts are searching for and arguing the legitimacy of le c t sacr (the sacred aspect) in both past and present bl practice. Observers have a difficult time making sense of these assertions because the bl drum dance complex is not explicitly linked with a specific religious heritage on the island and Martinique does not have a sacred dance structure that serves ritual functi ons, such as those dance rites presiding over the ceremonies of Haitian Vodou Cuban Santera, or Brazilian C andombl. According to Martinican musicologist Dominique Cyrille (2002), possession dances have not been documented in Martinique since 1902, and unfavorable attitudes about Vodou persist in the wider Martinican social imaginary 3 This is not to say that other scholars working on bl missed or ignored these aspects; rather, the debate has become more pu blic and visible over time, and people are talking about these issues in ways that they were not 15 20 years ago.
142 (2002:240 1). Most remnants of African religious heritage in Martinique have dissolved, and what remains is the folk practice quimbois a healing and conjuring tradition co mparable wi th American Hoodoo or Jamaican O beah, and largely dismissed in public life as old superstition or witchcraft. It is important to note that although the bl revivalists of the 1970s 80s are applauded for their important work of recovering and di ffusing the tradition, they are also criticized for letting the emotional and spiritual aspects of the practice fall by the wayside. The more prominent leaders of the revival considered themselves atheist at the start of the movement, and thus, had very l ittle interest in connection to a higher supe rnatural power. Their Marxist Co mmunist inclinations against religion as a tool of the colonizer and the bourgeoisie did not permit them to pursue the bl revival from spiritual or religious standpoints There was and still is a general consensus that some earlier adaptation of bl danci ng served ritual purposes for b l ack religious worship during the slave era, such as fertility/fecundity dances and harvest dances, which would have required some sacred knowledge of nature and cosmology. However, this cannot be substantiated with precise evidence due to early colonial era campaigns to repress and eradicate those religious practices. Therefore, some observers find spiritual conceptions of bl to be ina uthentic, frivolous attempts to (re)invent sacred elements that may or may not have existed before. Some criticize ng identity crisis. It is not my goal to evaluate and authenticate the claims discussed in this chapter, n or to argue one point of view as more legitimate than another. What is more important
143 and much more interesting is to analyze how and why ideas about religion and spirituality in the context of bl practice are evolving, and what the dialectic of Caribbean, and the wider African diaspora. There is a wide array of perspecti ves to consider, and only a sample of them could be included in this chapter to shed light on an ever growing debate One area of the debate to be analyzed here involves the increasing visibility of bl performance in the Catholic Church, a fusion genre called bl lgliz (Church bl) as an attempt to refashion the liturgy with recognizable Martinican cultural references that were historically prohibited by the dominant religious order. Supporters and opponents of the bl lgliz project have been open to discussing the inherent paradox of this initiative, and both sides of the debate warrant closer analysis. Another line of thinking to be engaged here deals with African inspired philosophical orientations to spirituality that a s ubset of bl activists engage. If contemporary bl expressions are indeed the secularized adaptation s of ancient African religious rites that were transformed by the ancestors, forced to abandon their sac red practices under enslavement and religious rep ression, how and why do present day bl actors strive to recover and maintain those aspects of their identity? Their perspectiv es offer critical insight into the history of French colonization and the Catholic Church as a key driving force behind the isl Finally, I will analyze the assertion that bl is a secular spirituality in and of itself, comprising its own set of values, ethics, and morals. According to this line of thinking, bl has a spiritually transformative potential that does not require the imposition of a
144 specific religious framework. Many people holding any one of these three perspectives consider bl to be an integral part of social healing in a society that has suffered a nd mental health impacts under French assimilation (Glissant 1981:173). I will conclude by situating this work with in recent Afro Atlantic religious scholarship that problematizes the ways in which anthropologists decipher and analyze the contemporary pra ctices of so called African derived religions. It is important to consider my implication in this debate as a foreign researcher working with a contentious subject that has many assumptions about the African past at play. The Anthropology of Sacred Dance in the Afro Atlantic World The interrelationship among dance, music, spirituality, and religious syncretism has held a significant place in anthropological studies of the Caribbean and the wider African diaspora. Early contributions include Melville Hers Myth of the Negro Past in which he developed his ideas about African retention and religious syncretism analytical categories for understanding African American and Afro Caribbean modes of religious expression that emerged through symbiosis under the New World conditions of colonization and ensla vement. In his discussion of components of spirit possession in group religious experience (1941:215 21). Anthropological foremothers and early pioneers of the study of Afro Caribbean culture and religion, Zora Neale Hurston (1938) and Katherine Dunham (1969), remarkably detailed the ceremonial function of initiated drummers and dancers in invoking the lwa spirits of the Haitian Vodou pantheon. Both women left an indelible mark in Caribbeanist anthropology with their vivid descriptions of the Rada and Petro rites, highlighting specific drum and dance styles executed for the individual deities. Ruth
145 Landes (1947) documented the experien ce of trance in Afro Brazilian C andombl, and Cuban anthropologist Lydia Cabrera recorded the sacred musics of Afro Cuban religion, which complemented her extensive ethnographic writings on the subject, notably her 1954 text El Monte. St. Clair Drake (1970) made the important link between resistance and Black religious expres sion. Dance anthropologist Yvonne Daniel (2005) has dedicated much of her career to deepening our understanding of Afro Caribbean sacred dance in contemporary times. In her c omparative analysis of Haitian Vodou Cuban Yoruba, and Bahian Candombl, she il lustrates the complex ways in which African inspired religious worship depends on dance, the key to accessing a sacred system of embodied knowledge. Although this area of scholarship has appeared most prominently in studies of Haitian Vodou and the Africa n Maroon and Kumina traditions have also received some scholarly attention, notably by Kenneth Bilby (2008) and Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje (1998). All of these studies point to the drum and bodily movement as keys for mediating communication with the spirit world, creating the conditions for emotional transcendence, and unifying individuals who share common beliefs and values. Going beyond exaggerated stereotypes of black, frenzied bodies in trance like states, this scholarship has helped us move away from the tendency to essentialize African diaspora expressive culture. They contribute to our contemporary understandings of itics and nationalism (McAlister 2002), tourism and political economy (Hagedorn 2001), and transnationalism and globalization (Matory 2005), anthropological concepts that have been central in the
146 study of Caribbean postcolonial modernity. drum dance heritage remains an under analyzed part of this intellectual conversation. Today, Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion of Ma rtinique, with approximately 85 percent of the total population and an Archbishop presiding over 54 priests. Catholic holidays and feasts for the Saints are observed Sacred Heart Church in Balata (a replica of the Sacred Heart Church in Paris). E vangelical Protestant religion s are on the rise, Hindu ism came to Martinique with 19 th century immigration from South India (although most Hindus in Martinique also identify as Catholic), and there are also small Jewish and Islam communities. The Roman Catholic Church can be viewed as one of the driving forces behind assimilation long before emancipation and departmentalization. The 1685 Code Noir established by King Louis XIV in French colonies enforced the conversion and baptism of enslaved Africans In Martinique, religious educati onal orders and catechism became especially intense in the years immediately preceding emancipation. These programs were commissioned by the French government in 1830 and led by the Brothers of Christian Instruction (Schmieder 2014). Despite the success of such orders in quimbois conjuring and folk healing tradition went underground and continued to exist alongside Christianity. 4 The oppressive conditions of Martinique, namely the Code Noir and prolonged 4 There were parallels in other Catholic dominated colonies. For example in Haiti, Vodouists are often Catholic and undergo rites of passage
147 colonial ties with France, would not permit African religious practices to flourish as highly organized systems of faith, as we see in the more prominent Afro Atlantic religions of Haiti, Cuba, and Brazil. In her discussion of religious repression in Haiti, Kate Ramsey (2011) points out that the Code Noir did not contain laws explicitly forbidding African based religious practice. There were, however, articles and provisions prohibiting slaves belonging to different masters from assembl ing and participating in nocturnal music and dance gatherings (2011:35). Also like Haiti, Martinique faced its share of anti superstition campaigns. During the Bourbon Restoration era following the fall of Napoleon (1815 1830), Martinique witnessed a sur accused of poisoning white masters, livestock, and other slaves (Savage 2012). The poisonings created a widespread fear of traditional healing and medicine. According to his looked increasingly to any and all manner of African cultural practices that could be continu malevolent witchcraft and poisoning, thereby undermining not only the survival of (Ib provided the rationale for society wide repression of Black folk culture. dance traditions, and persisted through the post leading anti colonial intellectuals Frantz Fanon revealed his unease with folk religion as
148 a dis ruption to the evolution of humanity (Fanon 1967:126; Settler 2012:8). Throughout most of the coloni al period and well into the 20 th century, the practice of all regional variants of bl and other associated drum traditions was discouraged by occidental religious thought and the use of the drum was prohibited by the Catholic Church. In the following section, I will discuss the shifting perception of bl in the Catholic community through the emergence of bl lgliz and analyze some of the competing con ceptions of bl as a liturgical expression. Refashioning the Liturgy: Bl Lgliz Over the last decade, more Catholic adherents have grown to appreciate bl and there has been an increasing visibility of bl performance in the Catholic Church. The b l lgliz project is a concept and fusion genre that attempts to refashion the liturgy with new expressions adapted from the bl repertoire. It is best described as the dialogic i nculturation of Christian worship activities and evangelization of the loca l island culture. The goal is to strengthen the C traditional culture, bringing together the values intrinsic to both Christianity and the lespri bl, the spirit of koudmn group work and solidarity discussed in previous chapters). departmental era to reverse the effects of religious persecution of the drum and int egrate local cultural markers into Catholic worship activities. The Second Vatican Council of the 1960s implemented liturgical changes in order to address increasing cultural diversity through the synthesis of traditional culture and faith (Gundani 1994; Rasing 2002). In 1965, with the authorization of the Vatican II liturgical reforms and influence from the social justice stance of Liberation Theology,
149 local priests in Martinique, notably Father Antoine Maxime and Fat her Louis Elie, encouraged the i ncult uration of the church and the liturgy through the use of vernacular expressions in worship activities, such as drum music (not bl ), dance, and the translation of religious texts and hymns in the Kryl language. The 1960s was also a period during which pressures to assimilate to French culture and modernize Martinican public life was quite strong. Therefore, the priests faced a number of challenges and difficulties. The drum had long been considered a diabolic symbol associated with old rural blackness and alcohol consumption, and choir members felt uneasy singing traditional hymns in Kryl because French was the official language demanded in all form al institutions. These mid 20 th century efforts to integrate local expressions into Catholic mass acti vities were not widely popular, and transforming the unfavorable attitudes toward Afro Creole traditional culture would require the efforts of cultural activists and cultural workers in non Church settings In 2005, the new bl lgliz committee was initia ted by Father Montconthour and established bl artists who participated in the 1980s revival movement. Th eir platform nculturation [of the Church] must permit Martinicans to truly be ulated by Father Montconthour in a 2009 television news program entitled 5 Proponents of bl lgliz define it as a creative adaptation of bl using the spirit, aesthetic s, and values of bl and the repertoire of drum patterns and dance movements as a framework for developing liturgical expressions. It is not to be misunderstood as a diluted or misappropriated 5 ( Give Jesus a chance to be Crole Le Jour de Seigneur video accessed May 15 2015, http://bcove.me/hnvpdv0s
1 50 version of traditional bl but rather an artistic endeavor that uplifts the ancestral creole culture in the name of God. In a promotional video for the 2012 Annual Festival of Fort de France, whereby the bl lgliz team performed in a concert called Transandans the artistic dir ector of the bl lgliz bl Church Bl 6 bl base steps and gestures. things you would do at a swar bl that you would no step bodz as an example. In traditional bl dance contexts, bodz is a step that is commonly used in the flirtatious, sensual exchange between female male pa rtners in the bl dance sequence, especially during the mont o tanbou toward the drummer. It is a movement that involves pelvic torso isolation, hip switching, and bent knee posture (especially when danced by a woman). The arms can be positioned in a v ariety of ways when executing this step in the playful exchange with your partner, depending on what you want to communicate; they can be placed on your hips to highlight the lower torso accentuation, they can be used to twirl and play with the skirt, they can be opened up toward the dance partner, inviting the partner to come in closer, or they can be gestured toward the drummer as a form of salutation. The execution of a liturgical bodz in a church setting, toward an altar or choir for example, would re quire some modification and would have a different inten t. For this reason, bl lgliz supporters argue that the dance of bl lgliz is not the dance of swar bl They use a gestural language, and each movement has meaning that comes from the liturgy. Thus, it is not intended to 6 Vianney Sots, 2012 https://vimeo.com/69515169
151 comprise the same repertoire of movements found in traditional bl practice (personal communication July 25, 2014). 7 The bl lgliz team draws their inspiration from Bible Psalm: 96:1 3 and Psalm 150: 1 6, instructing devotees to sing for the Lord, and to Praise the Lord with dance and the sound of instruments. 8 Because the drum was historically perceived as a tool k, the bl lgliz team emphasizes the utilization of the instrument as a dance for Him, to Praise Him, so we do it with what we have here: our bodies, our instruments our interview July 25, 2014). He argues that Martinique should not have to import gospel expressions from the U.S. or elsewhere when they have the cultural res ources to develop their own lit u r gical styles of dance, music, and Kryl translati emerging institution of cultural sovereignty, where Martinicans are free to creolize worship with local references that were historically discourage and prohibited. John Burdick (2004) has observed a comparable phenomenon in the revised liturgy and rituals of the Catholic Church in Brazil, and how liturgical adjustments Pastoral agent s of the prog ressive Catholic movement used C andombl instruments, samba music, stylized capoeira, and other elements of Afro Brazilian culture that were 7 Magnificat is the liturgical dance group that performs in most bl lgliz activities, at church, in music videos, and in live concerts. The group is made up primarily of pre teen and teenaged girls, and their choreographed work combines the base steps of bl with praise dance movements. 8 You will also find references in the Bl Lgliz (2009) album liner notes to 2 Samuel 6, about King David dancing before the Lord and playing instruments with the Israelites.
152 Burdick elucida tes Bl lgliz did not begin to have a marketable appeal until about six years ago, when albums devoted to the bl lgliz project were produced and distributed by Mizik Label and bl lgliz performance groups began giving concerts. Even today, many churchgoers are displeased with the presence of the bl drum in the sanctuary. Despite some backlash and criticism, b l lgliz has proven to be a commercial success based on record and concert sales. My conversations and interviews with my bl interlocutors, both Chr istians and non Christians often led to commentary either in favor or in opposition to the bl lgliz project. Those in support of the project argue that this is an innovative strategy to put Martinican Christians in touch with their local roots. They can be proud of who they are by overcoming the hostility of the past, and now have a manner of recogniz ing themselves in the Catholic worship of God. Bl lgliz proponents also argue that the project brings deeper meaning to the bl value system by putting the values in practice, beyond mere entertainment and amusement. Bl lgliz has also faced its sha re of scrutiny. I have heard some express their disagreement with the liturgical adaptation of musical content, bodily movements, steps, and gestures comprising the true bl repertoire. Traditional bl dance movements and lyrical themes that would be c onsidered indecent or vulgar in a church setting have been modified for a Christian audience, but according to some, this is a problematic manner of sanitizing the practice to adhere t o Christian dogmatic standards. 9 The quote b odz at church the way you do bodz in a swar bl 9 This deba te also pertains to the expression of sensuality and gendered subj ectivity, discussed in Chapter 6
153 speaks precisely to this area of debate, and some find such statements to be troubling. The swinging of the pelvis, hip accentuation, and bent knees in bodz are characteristic features of Black dance expression, with different variants found in the majority of African diasporic dance contexts. S uch movements of the b lack dancing body were historically perceived through a European colonial lens as hyper sexual, lewd, and distasteful. To adapt this mov ement as a liturgical expression for a Christian audience, with an erect, upright body orientation, reduced hip accentuation, and arms lifted in an upward direction in the manner observed in most praise dances, the meaning of the step is altered from its o riginal intent; one way to interpret this modification is rather than inviting your partner for a game of seductive play, you are inviting Jesus into your heart. Bl lgliz artists respond by saying that the objective of bl lgliz is not to put traditional bl at church, because if that were the case, the Archbishop would have never accepted the idea. The paradox of bl lgliz has been noted, even among some of those who participated in its development as bl lgliz team members One evening, after attending a bl lgliz concert, I agreed to drop off one of my more spe cialized consultants, a highly r egarded singer and cultural activist who played an instrumental role in the 1980s revival movement. He had just performed in the show, and as we drove through the streets of downtown Fort de France, he told me he was not entirely comfortable with the performance; he had even told the priest his opinion that bl lgliz is a big contradiction. When I probed about his reflections, he recounted a story about an encounter he had recently with a woman on the street. The woman came up to him, Guerrier I really appreciate your music, your voice, I appreciate
154 everything you have done to advance the traditional culture of Ma rtinique; but one thing bl mwen l mt djab an lgliz e devil to the Church). We laughed about the irony of this encount er the rest of the way home. Misy Guerrier what some consider to be a serious problem with the bl lgliz project. This idea that bl is of the devil, and therefore unsuitable for Church settings, still drives the mentality of so many devout Catholics on the island. Formal complaints have been filed with the Archbishop of Fort de France, and there was even a heated conflict outside of Church in the town of Franois, when a bk caused a b ig stir about a bl lgliz demonstrat ion during tha In response to situations like this, bl lgliz leaders argue that when people do not know or understand something, they will always try to diabolize it. Leaders of bl lgliz are receptive to the opinions of their critics, and have been diplomatic in a d vancing the project. To address complaints that the drum is not appropriate for the acoustics of the sanctuary, for example, one of the bl lgliz musicians designed a new bl dru m that has a more delicate sound for Church music. Should bl activists who also identify as Christians look to their former oppressor, This question seems to be a central point of controversy. The problem does not seem to be that bl practitioners cannot also be Christians, but rather that bl activities and Christian worship activities have an irreconcilable history. According to this line of thinking, bl and Church are not compatible to share the same public space; the implications of this become clear er when we consider other philosophical orientations to
155 spirituality in the bl community that fall outside the institution of the Catholic Church. Cultivati ng African Diasporic Cosmologies o n the Bl Cultural Landscape Another line of thinking found among a subset of bl activists engages African inspired philosophical orientations to spiri tuality. Their spiritual interpretation s concern b l complex, symbolic interrelationship to the land, the ancestors, and the cosmos. As previously stated, when I arrived in Martinique to begin my extended field research on bl I was not prepared to ask questions about the connection between traditional ( secular) bl and African derived sacred practices. However, my academic training as an anthropologist of the African diaspora and particularly the Caribbean h ad well prepared me to quickly take notice of certain symbols, remarks, and observances with a heightened curiosity. Did I just notice him pouring libations? Was that some kind of offering? I asked myself after watching a drummer tip his cup of rum to the earth packed adobe flooring o f outdoor bl dance space one Friday evening. 10 I later made a comment about this to the drummer and I learned that my suspicions were correct. 11 Just earlier that week, when I went to Lakou Trankil for a private afternoon dance lesson, my dan ce teacher was lighting a bush of incense in a small smudge pot Was this some kind of ritual practice for purifying the space? When I asked the reason, he then comm ented that Martinicans are so concerned with the fast paced life, and they forget about the spiritual elements. What I was witnessing during these early days of 10 A more detailed description of this space can be found in Chapter 4 11 I am aware that libation pouring is a practice that exists in various cultural a nd religious contexts around the world, but I immediately read it as an offering of ancestor reverence, and wanted to know its meaning in this particular social space.
156 fieldwork was the (re)enactment of subtle rituals that were intended to enrich the everyday sp iritual lives of certain bl practitioners Although I had initially understood bl as a secular tradition, it would be important for me to try and make sense of this engagement with the spirit world in bl spaces. For some bl practitioners, ancient African cosmologies and the Afro Atlantic belief systems of Haitian Vodou Cuban Santera, and Brazilian Candombl have become important references of Black sacred knowledge; system s of sacred knowledge and practice that once existed in Martinique, but wer e mostly dispelled by colonial oppression. These particular bl interlocutors are inclined to reject the dogmatic nature of the Catholic Church, and draw from other systems of faith wherein they recognize more of themselves and their culture. Take for e xample Amadou a ladja fighter, drummer, and dancer, a staunch critic of the Catholic Church and vehement defender of the Vodou re ligion. When I first met Amadou I had become accustomed to seeing bl drums in bare, plain barrel form, without any aesthetic enhanc ement (Figures 5 1) I was immediately struck by the vv image painted in red and white that adorn s his drum and the thin rope that stretc hes across the face of the drum (Figure 5 2). 12 He id entifies this particular vv as the symbol of conjuration, which is important for his protection. As a combatant and specialist of the ladja tradition, Amadou carries out special rituals to prepare his mind, body, and spirit for fighting. He once recoun ted his trip to Brazil, whereby he exchanged with capoeiristas and identified Shango as his orisha Shango being the warrior deity of strength, thunder, music, dance, and drums; this also explains the paint color choice of red and white on his drum. When I asked 12 Vv images are the sacred designs drawn on the ground with cornmeal for Haitian vodou ceremonies.
157 rope produces sounds with special frequencies and vibrations that enable altered states of consciousness. Figure 5 1. Tanbou b l (b l drum) Figure 5 2. Tanbou b l with v v painting
158 Another example is Grme, who associates bl with the lwa Kouzen Azaka (or Zaka ) the deity of agriculture and guardian of farmworkers and their families in the Haitian Vodou pantheon of spirits (Daniel 2005:112); Ko uzen is a comforter of the poor, Vodou practice of syncretizing African deities with Catholic saints, Catholic counterpart is St. Isidore, the patron saint of farmers and laborers nce, there are certain movements that dancers use to invoke Kouzen and announce his arrival to the ceremony. According to elders of the bl tradition, bl a dance of the land and earth. It was practiced by enslaved agricultural laborers who cut cane and grated manioc to the sound of the bl drum, and danced as a s ource of release after a bl repertoire represent movements executed in field labor. The movement in bl called tonb lv for example, whereby the dancer leans forward and backward while stamping the ir feet and swinging their arms forward and backward alternately, embodies the act of cutting sugarcane (one hand is holding the stalk of cane while the other arm swings the machete in a steady, rhythmic pattern). Graj is the name of another movement, wh Grme has spent the last few years researching the possible links between Martinican bl and the lore of Kouzen Azaka in Vodou Writing about dances in Haiti, Yvonne Dan iel writes about a dance called mayi (from the Mahi nation): Mayi paced, foot slapping, agriculturally rooted dance within Rada rituals
159 dance in Haiti cal led djouba that is danced for Kouzen and it is performed to a drum Matinik 19; Johnson 2012:151). This drum is played in the same manner that the bl drum is played in Martinique, and the movements of djouba bl repertoire djouba the drum is laid on the ground and played with hands and feet, because djouba spirits live in the :130). 13 According to Grme, thes e connections are not mere coincidence. His vision implies that this aspect of Caribbean religious heritage has flourished in Haiti, free from the restraints of prolonged colonial repression that caused the disintegration of African belief systems in Mart inique. Some overlap in the traditions of Haiti, Martinique, and elsewhere in the Caribbean is to be expected because the Caribbean has always been a place of movement, travel, and migration; enslaved Africans were moved from one colony to the next freque ntly enough for these traditions to have circulated centuries ago, taking on different meanings and uses in their new socio cultural environments. I would like to refl ect briefly on b olic attachment to the earth, as Kimberly N. Ruffin (2010) analyzes in her book Black on Earth: African American Ecoliterary Traditions Writing about African descendants in the U.S. context, grueling, horrific e work on large plantations under bondage, they maintained their collective group commitments to farming the provision grounds that would nourish themselves and those 13 15, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxwoYua9ju0
160 around them, ensu ring the survival of their communities. According to Ruffin, produced a tangible commitment to the self and nonhuman nature through agriculture. It helped achieve a bodily and express dedication to their own survival. Doing so allowed the enslaved to experience ecological beauty in the midst of incredible burdens (2010:32 3). This kind of spiritual devotion to soil, land, earth, and all o ther elements related to agricultural life among African descendants warrants more serious atten tion. In the U.S. South, the enslaved danced and played music to glorify their Creator and their ancestors in the fertility of the soil, the harvest of their c lore in Haiti, bl has become a vehicle for urban and rural Martinicans to express their deep appreciation and respect for the land and memorialize their anc estors who possessed special systems of knowledge of the natural environment for their communities to prevail and be resilient under harsh, unimaginable circumstances. That spirit of survival, resistance, and solidarity lives on in the collective memory o f bl activists today. What do we make of the cosmic circle that sets many of Martinican drum dances into motion? The opening sequences of bl and kalennda dances, as well as ladja/ danmy matches, involve the dancers moving in a counterclockwise circular formation. Most of my interlocutors comment on the mystic energy of the counterclockwise dance formation as a characteristic feature of b lack sacred dance when asked about their spiritual interpretations of the tradition. As Martinique was heavi ly populated by Central Africans from the Congo Angola region, and bl is said to have partial origins in Congo Angolan culture, it makes sense that certain aspects of religious symbo logy from Central Africa are re interpreted in the practice of bl
161 drumm ing and dancing. T.J. Desch Obi (2002) writes about the ritual entrance to the circle for danmy combatants, called kouri lawonn (running around the circle) as a Central African retention (2002:365). Throughout his influential text Slave Culture: Nationa list Theory and the Foundations of Black America Sterling Stuckey (1987) impressively highlights the spiritual significance of the sacred circle that survived in New or es, black this information, one can deduce that bl as a secular adaptation of the French quadrille square dance format, was the outcome of such eradication c ampaigns The circular opening of bl dance sequences, however, remains one of the key components of the practice today. The circular bl dance sequence, called the wondi dwondi involves the eight dancers moving (or runn ing) behind one another in a counterclockwise direction. Once they have completed a semi circle, they reverse the direction of the circle and run back to their places in a clockwise rotation; following the wondi dwondi cycle dancers then break into the i r square dancing sequence. The symbolic significance behind the wondi dwondi has been interpreted by my interlocutors in a couple of different ways. One person explained that the spiritual energy of the cosmic counterclockwise circle was too powerful wh en danced in bl context, having a transcendental effect on the dancers; with the
162 religious repression of colonial times, they were forced to modify the dance by reversing the counterclockwise procession in the opposite direction, to avoid provoking supernatural manifestations of trance and spirit possession According to another conception, which draws heavily from Egyptian cosmic knowledge, members of the bl ensemble are responsible for rec eiving and communicating solar and/or lunar energ y to the spirit world. As Izaak explains, this is why the drummer should position the drum so that its head faces the sun or moon. The dancers open the bl sequence by dancing counterclockwise, consistent with the direction, however, because they must go back and gather the positive cosmic energy that descends from the moo n as it orbits the earth. Izaak explained that cosmic energy is also transmitted through t he inverse triangle that is form two hands as s/he strikes the drum, passing through the body of the drum to the spirit world; therefore, it is the drummer who gives the offering. 14 As I ref lect on this exchange with Izaak I recall that in response to my astonishment, he concluded by Bl is a High Mass, Madame! interview May 1, 2014). 14 In listening closely Tambou Seri (excerpted in the Introductory chapter) you find many references to this spiritual interpretation of the drum. Certain aspects of the symbolic significance of the circle for communicating solar energy to the spirit wor ld can also be interpreted using lysis (Thompson 1981)
163 Figure 5 3. Kongo cosmogram In addition to the above exegeses, bl kalennda lalin kl and danmy are believed to serve many other spiritual functions, which wa rrant closer analysis in future research. These can be understood as legends from a time, post emancipation/pre before the civilization was destroyed by French colonial domination and assimilation. These legends involve wakes and funerary traditions, initiatory rites of passage, s acred offerings, and so on. Before concluding, I offer some reflections about the assertion that bl is a spirituality in and of itself, one that does not need to be linked with a specific religious heritage to validate its transformative potential. Bl bl (Doctors can give the remedy, but bl heals me without medicine) Nomi, a longtime danm bl (female dancer), Interview, July 25, 2013 Ideas about spirituality and religion in the bl revival movement have evolved
164 has long been treated as a secular tradition. Beyond the realm of political mobilizing and economic solidarity, bl emotional health and spiritual growth. Many bl practitioners claim to have turned to the tradition to reconcile feelings of alienation and vulnerability associated with the French national model of assimilation. I argue that these practitioners attempt to legitimize or make sense of their transformative experiences by mapping different (at times, incompatible) spiritual narratives onto a performance space that does not have any explicit connection to a specific religious heritage One day, Izaak recounted for me his spiritual path with bl, starting with the 1980s revival movement to p resent times. When the bl movement first began, he immersed himself in the radical political discourse and activities of youth movements, and identified as an atheist militant more concerned with syndicalism and the defense of Martinican cultural nation alism. He spoke with great passion and humility, in a manner that I would describe as simultaneous repentance and deliverance, recounting how he used his involvement with bl to elevate his political consciousness, and establish his reputation as a cultu ral activist, without giving anything back to bl spiritually. He behaved as if it was he who chose bl, to uplift his political convictions, but failed to realize that it was bl Bl gives so much to us; it gives socially, finan cially, politically, but we fail to realize how it gives spiritually. We take, take, take from bl a number of and suffering and eventually hitting what he described as rock bot tom, he took a break from the bl movement to reflect. He later r eturned to the movement with a more profound conception of spirituality and respect for his Creator and
165 ancestors; a conception that would emancipate him and henceforth permeate his practic e of bl Social scientists have analyzed the alienating effects of departmentaliza tion in Martinique ( Beriss 2004; Burton 1995 ). Martinique has been characterized as the health of its inhabitants grappling with the question of identity and purpose. Political scientist William F. S. Miles, who has long analyzed the effects of assimilationist statehood in assimilationist (2012:10 11). Harrison 1997), medical called identity crisis, and feelings of incompetence and low self mic dependence on and relationship between poverty and distress by considering the high level of suffering and mental illness in a place like Martinique, where the standard of li ving (wealth, resources, and access to biomedical services) is relatively higher than other Caribbean island societies (2007:8). One of my interlocutors, drawing a parallel between the realities in Haiti versus Martinique, told me that Martinicans think i t is the Haitians who suffer from they are, and they want everything that France has At least Haitians know who they
166 are and what they are doing interview February 1 5, 2013). So how is bl, as a vehicle for spiritual transformation, implicated in this complex reality? Though the idea of a civil or secular spirituality may seem like an oxymoron, it is a topic that is currently undergoing serious discussion and invest igation among certain leaders of the movement. Actors in the bl movement have done tremendous work in encouraging its followers to uphold a system of values, ethics, and morals rooted in the ancestral heritage of Martinique. The tradition is said to co mpris e its own set of convictions, as a way of life ( bl s an manny viv) Participation in bl and other related traditions has helped to craft an alternative worldview different from that which has been imposed through colonial domination. Participants gather for weekly, monthly, and annual (nonreligious) rituals and ceremonial gatherings to rejoice, communicate, give r everence, and promote the spirit of bl as it was inherited from generations past. For many, it is an emotional re lease that serves as a healthy alternative to meditation or yoga. Indeed, the bl ltar or prayer bench, where s/he can give grace and invocation; it can be the place wh ere one releases her/his pain and tension. Once a woman explained to me how she cried during her entire carr bl and mont o tanbou sequence at a swar bl as she grieved the loss of a loved one. experience in this nonreligious drum dance context? Occasionally, I came across bl practitioners who profess to have experiences with trance while dancing bl especially dances like gran bl and kalennda which were both reputed to be dances of pray er; was I to take these claims as literal or sincere? How was I to decipher the authenticity of trance accounts
167 as they were reported to me? How was I to read certain (infrequent) performances in which the dancer appeared to have slipped into an altered state of consciousness? There are many who think such claims are untrue or impossible because the conditions that mediate trance states (like spirit possession rites observed in other religions) do not exist in Martinique and are not practical in the cont emporary bl space (although there is some consensus that this aspect still exists for certain initiat ed practitioners of ladja/ danmy ). Some people criticize these claims as misconceptions, or as misguided attempts to create spiritual interpretations of transcendence that would only be attainable by highly specialized ritual authorities and initiates in African religion. 15 However, it would be remiss not to unpack and take se riously what these claims mean in t his dialectic of spirituality. If we consider the literature on musical ecstasy and trance, scholars writing the trance effect, but the total event how individua l physiology becomes coupled with a psychological e xperience embedded within a particular cultural tradition and an Ansdell 2014 ethnomusicologist Judith Becker (2004) helps to make sense of secular trancing or near emotion, intense focus, the loss of the strong sense of self, usually enveloped by amnesia and a cessation of the inner langu 15 Though I think we should be careful about those who attempt to invent a sacred quality about bl through exaggerated or untrue accounts of trance, I am influenced by the perspective of Raquel Romberg spiritual presence; these are subjective experi ences (2014:229).
168 With these arguments in mind, perhaps we should modify our framework for what religious ceremonial contexts. If we move away from the idea of trance as s pirit possession, which characterizes the ritual activities of African inspired religious practices, we can have a different appreciation for what trance means in the context of bl culture. We can understand secular trance as being transpor ted to a state of immense joy, pleasure, inner peace, and a sense of healing. It does not have to be an encounter with an identifiable deity or spirit but rather a state of immense emotional transformation. Problematizing the Anthropology of Afro Atlanti c Religion This portion of my research is influenced by recent scholarship on Afro Atlantic religion and spirituality that critically examines the complex ways in which ethnographers and practitioners of Afro Atlantic spirituality (mis)recognize, conceive, These intervention s proble matize the essentialization of b lack religiosity, and call shape b lack religious experience. Taking this critique a step further, Step h (2013) more recent contribution to this conversation examines the making of Afro Cuban religion as an anthropological subject of study, and calls out the ways in which anthropologists have been complicit in the creation of such religious products. In shaping this part tendency to dismiss or overlook Christ centered cultural movements and change in Caribbeanist and Latin Americanist scholarship.
169 Christianity (Louis 2014:10) is most likely due to overarching generalizations of Christianity as a tool of oppression and domination. While I have largely concurred with this perspective in my own critical engagement with Christianity, this tendency ignores eligious pluralism and spiritual diversity, shifting religious economies and markets, and the influence that other religious orientations are having on Christianity, and vice versa. John Burdick (2004, 2013) has done a nice job of showing, for example, ho w progressive Catholics (2004) and evangelicals (2013) in Brazil are implicated in contemporary struggles around black identity politics. I also find the work of Bertin Louis (2014) on the Haitian Protestant diaspora useful in understanding contemporary C aribbean religious diversity. In my work, I aim to pull Martinique from the margins of African diaspora religious scholarship to show how the perception of bl as a secular expression is changing and adapting to contemporary desires and demands f or genuine spiritual transformation. Fanonian analysis of Martinique juridical status will not salve the deeper identi ty Miles 2012:10). The tendency to sacralize the bl tradition, with both Christian and African inspired religious interpretations, and secular notions of healing, illustrates a spiritual defiance of the legacy of French colonialism. Rather than mulling over which spiritual narrative is legitimate, or warrants more scholarly attention over another, I see this as an occasion dance heritage and spirituality politics in an ever expanding intellectual conversa tion about the complex anthropological subject we call Afro Atlantic religion.
170 CHAPT ER 6 BL AS A SITE FOR TRANSGRESSIVE SENSUALITY AND GENDER PERFORMANCE In the previous chapter, I concluded with a discussion of b l as a source of emotional and therapeutic relief, serving a purpose of secular spirituality and social healing for many people whose senses are transformed through deep immersion in the practice. This chapter is a suitable companion piece to that discu ssion, because it explains the affective interpretations of bl from a gendered perspective. In this chapter, I explore the liberatory potential of bl performance through the lens of sensual expressivity and erotic subjectivity particu larly as they relate to Afro Martinican and material realities. I have chosen to dedicate this chapter to les dames/danm bl (female bl dancers ) because so much of the leadership and public discourse around the advancement of the bl movement are male dominated. Women play a central role in the ongoing transmission of these traditions, both on and off the dance floor. In what follows, I analyze bl performance as a space for women s transgression of respectable sexuality and gender norms, and th e associated debates around appropriate dance conduct. This analysis requires a thorough description of the traditional swar bl the various bl lin dance styles performed in swar bl contexts, and the different meanings, purposes, and expressions ascribed to each style. Bl lin is a communicative dance, with courtship style choreography involving four female male couples in the quadrille format, danced with varying degrees of intensity based on the style of song. In a society where b lack women have been historically stereotyped and objectified based on colonial notions of sexuality, shamed as dependents of French public assistance, and suffer disproportionately at the hands of
171 family violence (Leonard 1997), bl is an emancipatory space where t he performance of a provocative sensuality and erotic power are for the most part, applauded and celebrated. In the playful, flirtatious game of certain bl choreographies in which the woman is the object of her male partner s pursuit, she ultimately de cides if she will submit or retreat. My evidence suggests that this aspect of bl performance, whereby women are valorized for their agility, power, and sensual dance prowess, brings a remarkable sense of affirmation and confidence, while provoking discu ssions about decency, morality, and respectable dance behavior. Many of the observations gleaned herein were gathered at traditional swar bl events and through informal and semi structured group discussions with women dancers 1 I have chosen to focus on this chapter theme because it is one of the aspects that peaked my interest from the time of my first contact with the tradition. I was especially drawn to the ways in which the danm bl comma nds the dance space in her exchange with the kavaly (male dance partner), and demands the attention of onlooking spectators. The range of attitudes, emotions, facial expressions, maneuvers, and playful devices used in her performance are all indicators o f a profound sense of control, confidence, and comfort in her moving body. Even though the dance involves a high degree of improvisation, the fluid exchange between dance partners gives the impression that the danm bl is calculated, deliberate, and all knowing in how she exercises her authority. I have also chosen this theme as a chapter subject because the debate regarding sensual expressivity seems 1 I am referring specifically to long time female dancers ( danm bl ) of the tradition who have been dedicated members of the community through their frequent participation in swar bl, and as teachers and students in bl schools.
172 to receive less attention and deserves serious reflection regarding its larger implications for the bl movement, and for wha t it reveals about the society. of gendered behavioral patterns. I material realities and everyday struggles in Martinique, and a discussion of how women are generally represented and perceived in Martinique through public images and tropes of b lack womanhood. Indeed, shiftin g power relations and post emancipation notions of upper class respectability have had an influence over how these tropes were constructed since the colonial, slavery, and post emancipation eras, up until contemporary times. As I will show in my analysis, b lack women use the performative space of bl in ways that challenge pejorative stereotypes and gendered norms through embodied expressions of liberation, autonomy, and power. This kind of sensual expressivity and performance of erotic power has been qu estioned by others in the bl movement who use traditionalist principles and moral standards to assess the appropriateness of excessive sensual dance behavior. When analyzed against the on of ancestral origins in fertility rites, serious discussion of desire, pleasure, and therapeutic release in bl performance is necessary. Gendered Behavioral Patterns in the Caribbean: Reputation and Respectability Thesis In 19 as an analytical framework for understanding competing value systems and gendered behavioral patterns in Afro Creole societies. This hypothesis states that in Caribbean
173 societies, there exists a double standard of morals in which men are expected to exercise and exploit their freedoms of viril ity, resistance, and opposition in public life while women, as passive accommodationists to the colonial legacy, are expected to uphold the m orals, values, and inst itutions imposed by European hegemony According to this perspective, kin networks and households are female centered, and the man remains marginal in the domestic realm. Thus, the values associated with reputation direct him to pu blicl y perform and participate in activities in the public sphere to make a living. From early youth, the male is reared to understand the meaning of machismo as an ideology s role is to be aggressive, outspoken, and hype rsexual He migrates in search for work, and reproduces offspring through both marital a nd extra marital partnerships. on the other hand, is an upper class value system generally imposed on women that emphasizes the colo nial ideals and i nstitutions of the Ch urch, domesticity, education, and marriage. According to Wilson, women (and older men) have passively adopted these European cultural values and moral codes and only occasionally overlap their values with those of the reputation para digm. Reputation, then, is associated with masculinity, lower class norms, public performance (i.e. acting out in the streets and convening in rum shops ), hypersexuality, mobility, and economic strategizing However, hat women in the Caribbean, as passive recipients of imposed European standards, do not assert agency or resistance to the norms inherited from colonialism. Anthropologists who work on gender in the Caribbean such as Tony L. Whitehead, Jean Besson, and Ca rla Freeman have offered a more complex reading of
174 framework in order to problematize the assumptions and over simplifications in his work In his research on masculinity in Jamaica, Tony L. Whitehead (Whitehead 1986) illuminates the symbiosis bet ween reputation and respectability as a dialectic, or post plantation America (1997), in an effort to understand black masculinity outside of the Caribbean context, references the importance of which is maintained by men who though they have ultimately proven themselves to be respectable men by abiding the law, working for financial stability, and exhibiting thei r spirituality. Whitehead writes, Although it is potentially disruptive to social order, young males are allowed to express reputational traits. Masculine maturity, however, is marked by bringing an end to such expressions and channeling them into culturally defined units of the reputation/respectability framework Besson provides examples from her research in Martha Brae, Jamaica, and other regional e xamples, to illustrate how women have integrated the values commonly associated with male oriented reputation dimensions of reputation identified by Wilson as male oriented, namely landholding, indi :22). She also argues that Black women were act ive agents in slave uprisings a nd they continue to have an integral role in the oppositional culture and resistance of Afro Creole com munities (Ibid:30).
175 2014 women who work in the informatics and data processing sector also recontextualizes paradigm, showing the gendered nature of movement, respectability is sought through the institution of marriage, middle class women are simultaneously engaged in male oriented reputation practices for economic a utonomy. Freeman sees reputation and respectability not as a dichotomy, but rather as a flexible dialectic. While many women hold the respectability values of marriage and family with great importance, Freeman shows how they also desire economic independ ence, autonomy, and professional careers (Freeman 2000:109 111); t hus, she sees reputation and respectability as inextricably linked. This research illuminates the ways in which flexibility and adaptability, traits that are usually associated with the mal e instance, can actually be seen in domains traditionally associated with respectability, like marriage. Caribbean women enact aspects of both reputation and respectabil ity simultaneously, with the entanglement of public/private life, and entrepreneurship and marriage. Black Womanhood and the Politics of Respectability The notion of re spectability politics also holds a place in the context of U.S. b lack diasporic feminist theorized by Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (1994) in her book Righteous Discontent: 1920 In this work, Higginbotham analyzes the mobi li zing efforts and activism of b lack women in the National Baptist Conventi on, and shows how ideas around b
176 manners were transformed through pamphlets and speeches on ways to behave in the quest for dignity believed to be achieved or ascribed through educational opportunity and economic success Promoting the manners and behaviors of the dominant group was an effort to prevent black people from embarrassing themselves, and would help to streamline assimilation and w hite acceptance. It was a political strategy to combat ideas about racial infe riority, and a manner in which b lack people could s how their w hite counterparts that they could take individ ual responsibility for their behavior and subscribe to the norms of w hite society It was intended to unsettle racial stereotypes, resistan ce, challenging assumptions of white supremacy that deemed b lack women as incapable of becoming respectable citizens a nd contributing to society in meaningful ways. itics and its implications for b lack people all over the world have been widely debated by scholars and cultural critics in various contexts. Critics point to respectability p olitics as a manner of shaming b lack cultural sensibilities and spreading intolerance of cultural difference. They also view the politics of respect ability as a way of regulating b lack and moral standards imposed by the dominant society, to which minorities are encouraged to assimilate. Black feminist scholars working in various diasporic contexts especially take issue with respectability pol itics as a tool for repressing b lack femal e se xuality (Collins 2004; Cooper 2004; Lee 2010 ). Writing about b lack working
177 respectabi lity standards embodied by w hite, middle class femininity, Patricia Hill Collins (2004) argues, Working class Black women in urban areas wanted respect but saw the contradictions that plagued this version of respectability. Sexuality was one of the few realms in which masses of African American women could exercise autonomy, and thus tangibly distinguish themselves as free women both from the se xual exploitation of slavery as well as the demands of having thirteen babies in i nsular Southern rural families (2004:72). Angela Davis (1998 ) elucidates how b lack women of B selves in terms much closer to erotic sensib ilities about b lack female expressiveness, lins 2004:73), and she argues that the B cultural space for communit y building among working class b lack women, and it was a s notions of sexual (Davis 1998 :44 ). These perspectives from the U.S. context undoubtedly have resonances with the wider African diaspora, and particularly with the case that I present here from Martinique. As I will address l ater in this chapter, similar issues are at stake for black women in places like Jamaica and Haiti (cf. Cooper 2004; McAlister 2002; Thomas 2004) where the historic impact of enslav ement and post plantation disparities and oppressions persist along the lines of ra ce, class, and gender shaping elitist attitudes around sexual normativity and the expression of black female sexuality Whether it is in U.S. Blues culture, Jamaican dancehal l, or Haitian Rara processions, b lack women across the diaspora engage in counter hegemonic modes of expression to challenge conservative, bourgeois norms of respectability. the French state has had its share of gendered consequences, and the implications bea r heavily on the everyday l ives and public perceptions of b lack women. In Martinique, African
178 descended women deal with everyday economic hardship, violence (physical and structural), and pressures to repress their sexuality and b lack cultural sensibiliti es by subscribing to the elitist, Eurocentric norms imposed through French neocolonial assimila tion and the Catholic Church. Q uestions of sexuality and the subversion of respectability politics are relevant to the narratives I gathered in my field researc h on the practice of bl What follows is a description of the material realities that disproportionately impact women on the island, and have created a need for women to redefine their image through the assertion of female agency and autonomy. Black Wo manhood and Struggle in Martinique In Chapter 4 I provided an overview of the socio economic realities in compared with those of less developed Caribbean nations, Martini cans suffer from high rates of unemployment and high costs of living. In the 2009 strike, women and feminist activists contributed greatly to the mobilizing efforts because women have so much more at stake under a system of gender inequality. Women are m uch more vulnerable to the problem of high unemployment than their male counterparts. In 2012, the unemployment rate for women was 23 percent compared with 20 percent for men, and women represent 60 percent of unemployed eligible jobseekers (INSEE 2012). Women are more likely than men to be clustered in the lowest paid and part time formal sector work (37 percent vs. 21 percent) (Browne 2004:186), and they are disproportionately employed in positions for which they are overqualified based on academic back gr ound and training. Women earn 2,400 less per year than men and are commonly subject to sexual harassment in the workplace, which, according to my interlocutors, has become so normalized that little has been done to implement change
179 In her research on dbrouillardism and informal economic activity, Katherine Browne (2004) explains that women are less likely than men to benefit from the informal sector because of their commitment to the family and household responsibilities. Additionally, women in Marti nique are disproportionately subject to gender violence, which has emerged over the last 20 years as a major public debate and a primary focus of feminist activism, next to wage equality and unemployment. On an almost daily basis, one can hear or see anti violence campaigns about how women suffer high rates of conjugal/domestic abuse, and young girls are all too often the victims of family sexual abuse (cf. Leonard 1997; Union des Femmes de la Martinique website) One third of the households in Martinique are headed by single parents. Am ong them, 90 percent are female headed, and three out of five single mothers are unemployed ( INSEE 2003). The matrifocal or single female headed household is not an uncommon family form of the Caribbean. Matrifocality and and autonomy have long been subjects of Caribbeanist social science research (Clarke 1957 ; Gonzalez 1970; Herskovits and Herskovits 1964 ; Slater 1977; Smith 1956 1996 ; Smith 1965). As previously discussed, many early studies of gend er tended to life. Women have always acted as caregivers in the home, while simultaneousl y earning an income outside the home, especially when fathers are absent or unable to substantially contribute (Barrow 1986; Besson 1993; Bolles 1996 a ). Afro Caribbean women play instrumental roles in public life as informal importers and earners (Harriso n 1998; Ulysse 2007), industrial workers (Bolles 1996 b ; Safa 1995), and informatics
180 employees (Freeman 2000). With longstanding ideas about Afro independence, there is the unintended consequence of these women being negatively viewed as (Dagenais 1988; Momsen 1993:5). In Martinique, this traditional notion of matrifocality and the independent superwoman is especially complicated by the modern French welfare system, from which poor, single mothers in Martinique benefit (Leonard 1997). The high costs of living in Martinique make the structural realities of unemployment and wage inequality, combined with a poor public transit system, significantly less manageable for singl e mothers who are typically left with no other option than public assistance. In the 1990s, the rate of welfare payments to single mothers was four times higher in Martinique than 2000) manipulate publi c perceptions of b lack women, the everyday struggles for women in Mart inique have produced tropes of b lack womanhood that have their roots in the colonial era and have evolved to fit contemporary circumstances (cf. Leon ard 1997). Representations of b lack womanhood that have their roots in colonial, racist, or patriarchal oppr ession often create a need for b lack women to challenge societal norms and redefine themselves in public life with more affirming images. Trope s of Femininity and Womanhood in Martinique ul for understanding tropes of b lack womanhood that have circulated the Martinican public imaginary (Leonard 1997). During the colonial era, the image of the doudou dominated in popular representations of Black female sexuality. As a construction of colonial romance and the white European gaze, the doudou was a sweet, docile, submissive sex object
181 whose only function was t o pursue the acceptance of her w hite oppressors, and fulfill the desires of her w hite lovers. After emancipation, when assimilation projects were firmly established on the island, this image of the pleasure seeking doudou was relegated to the margins of folklore and commodified nostalg ia, and replaced by notions of the self sacrificing maman doudou a woman who embodies French values of respectability and the virtuous woman as defined by the Church. The maman doudou works inside and outside the home, doing whatever it takes to fulfill h er motherly role as provider and caretaker of her children. However, she does so with aspirations of achieving upward mobility and successful assimilation in the French national community. In the 1970s post departmentalization era, after the traditional a gricultural economy had disintegrated, and Martinique became a dependent state of social monetary transfers and subsi dies from France, the image of b lack womanhood would change once again. The b lack welfare woman who has access to the public assistance be nefits guaranteed by French citizenship would become liberated from the traditional upper n the 20 th century, responsibility for neo colonial power relations, econ omic dependence, and cultural assimilation have been displaced onto women in :iii ). Because b lack women in Martinique have always been identified with white acceptance, assimilation, and dependency in pop ular imagery, and men have been at the forefront of struggles for cultural sovereignty, women are erased as agents of local cultural production and activism.
182 This could serve to explain why men hold the more visible intellectual and leadership roles in the bl movement, which in a way conceals or diverts attention transmission of bl formerly colonial subjects and now as subjects of the French welfare system and generally remains influenced by French feminist theory and praxis, and thus, has little cultural and vernacular resonance with everyday Black women on the island who are concerned with making ends meet and caring for the family (Maddox 2015). The contemporary f anm d jok persona, sometimes used interchangeably with the expression poto mitan is a woman who is solid and proud, who stands strong in the face of everyday life difficulties in Martinique without giving up. She works to earn a living and raises her children, in many cases as a single mother. She is creative and strategic in how she finds solutions to her problems. She has the capacity to conceal the pressure and suffering that she endures (i.e. as a battered or violated woman, or a woman who has been abandoned by her husband, or is experiencing economic strain), through her self presentation as an autonomous individ ual. While some people think this idea of the fanm d jok or the poto mitan is a legend that justifies the structural violence and poor treatment inflicted upon Martinican women, and diverts attention away from sexist patriarchal oppression, others see thi s image as a badge of honor; as an appropriate response to the legacy of misrepresentation and fanm djok strength and autonomy cannot be undermined, and her bold, public presence an d
183 cannot be repressed. The public perception of women is constantly changing and evolving with shifts in larger power relations. I argue that bl performance is a space where the danm bl evokes the image of the fanm djok embodying a spirit of strength and resilience, challenging gender norms and hierarchy, and unsettling elitist notions of respectable public behavior with her sensual expressivity. In order to support this assertion, it is necessary to give an illustration of the bl performanc e contexts where these dance situations occur. What follows is a description of the traditional swar bl (distinct from staged performances or folkloric spectacles), and less formal gatherings that are akin to the swar bl (i.e. moman bl and bl ma won ). It is in these settings that the bl lin group dance repertoire with four female male couples is primarily performed. Swar Bl : Sensual Expressivity and the Role of the Danm Bl The typical swar bl in Martinique is an op en air gathering of dancers, singers, and drummers who come together on a specified date and time to play bl until the late night/early morning hours. These events, held one or two weekends out of the month, are commonly organized and hosted by a specif ic bl association, though it is not uncommon for an individual or a small group of individuals to host swar bl apart from association activities. Although the old swar bl system prior to the revival was rural based, swar bl now take place in va rious urban and rural districts all over the island. The gatherings are generally open invitation, and are publicized through word of mouth, bl school announcements, radio announcements on Radio A PAL and RLDM, printed flyers, and in the age of social me messages), and social media posts. The attendance of large audiences is always
184 encouraged and desired, and participation in the unscripted rotation of bl songs and dances is open to all practitioners who have an ad vanced, or at least intermediate, command of the bl lin repertoire of group dance styles ( Table 2 1). Long ago, when swar bl were held primarily in Sainte Marie, organizers charged an entry fee to all guests. In present times, with the goal of bringing bl to life and making it accessible to all Martinicans, they are now open to the public f ree of charge. Food and drinks are avail able for sale, and n ormally if you dance, drum, or sing, you receive a ticket for a free drink and a plate or sa ndwich in exchange for your participation. The meals can be anything from coq au vin or stewed pork, to vegetable soup and ham sa ndwich. Most swar bl will begin around 7:00 or 8:00 pm, starting off with a few ladja/danmy matches if there are fighters present. This help with the sound of the drum, the voices, and the energy of the fighters. Around 9:30 10:00 pm, the organizers will use the microphone to welcome guests, announce and acknowledge the presence of other allied associat ions, give a special tribute, and introduce a short presentation of dances planned by the association. After the presentation of four or five dances, the organizers will announce that the floor is open to all desiring participants: dancers ( kavaly/danm ), drummers ( tanbouy ), tibwat (secondary percussionists), and lead singers ( chant ), backed up by any number of chorus singers ( lavwa dy ). There is a special way of understanding how the unscripted rotation of performers functions. According to the uniq ue protocol understood by bl practitioners, each dancer, singer, or drummer will play five to six songs before giving
185 up their place to the next eager performer. The number of participants in an ensemble is limited to eight dancers, two drummers, and on e lead singer at a time, and when there are many performers in attendance, some are willing to wait hours before taking their turn to dance or play. The objective is to maintain an atmosphere of open, unregulated entertainment, but some limits must be imp osed in order to maintain positive energy and participants must comprehend the ethical code of sharin g in order to ensure their fellow performers have an opportunity to take part in the event. There is also an age and skill based hierarchical code that is understood among the practitioners at these events. There are a number of reasons why the swar bl dance and song styles. One must have the self awareness to know when it is a good time to take her/his place in the performance space. For example, even if a dancer has been learning bl for over two or three years, and has mastered the repertoire of bl lin dance styles, it would not be wise for her to take her tur n when the ensemble comprises seven other elders or long time dancers. This is why the princ iples of humility and respect for those who came before you are instilled in bl students. The idea is to optimize the conditions for a successful, high energy event, which is difficult to achieve if the rotation is not well executed and if attendees lac k self awareness. During the swar bl the lead singer plays the role of koumand (commander), assessing the swar sing next. The koumand
186 to keep the swar bl interesting for the audience and the ensemble of drummers and dancers who are eager to perform their wide breadth of skills. Of the six bl lin styles listed in Table 2 1, each is intended to serve a certain function, communicate a certain attitude, and evoke a specific kind of emotion in the dancers and the observing public. For example, bl balans also known as bl kourant is intended to communicate a sense of tenacity or euphoria through high powered dynamism. O thers such as gran bl and bouwo have more of a solemn or meditative character ; this is no surprise because gran bl is frequently referred to as a dance of prayer, and bouwo is a story about heart break. Some styles communicate an inviting, c heerful w elcome and sense of gratitude or hope such as blya And bidjin bl often used interchangeably with bl dous has a sweet, charming, and at times seductive character. 2 The coded Kryl lyrics of bl songs are a form of storytelling that movements. Song topics can range from politic al issues with messages of rzistans to songs about heartbreak or sadness. Some songs make reference to God and the supernatural world, and some other songs recount stories of love, romance, and sex. The latter category, typically sung to bidjin bl / b l dous songs, is where the expression of sensuality and erotic power manifests. 2 It is important to note that these categories and characterizations are not mutually exclusive or rigid. Across the six dance styles discussed here, there is some fluidity in mood and intention. What I have described is a simplified breakdown based on g eneral patterns of the repertoire that I observed or had explained to me.
187 The bidjin bl choreography follows the traditional bl lin quadrille sequence involving two carr (square formations) danced by eight dancers (four dancers per carr ). Af ter each carr has danced its set, each of the four danm kavaly couplets takes their turn to dance with each other in playful or competitive exchange, and then accompany one another toward the drum for the mont o tanbou as a salutation or expression of gratitude to the primary music maker. The bl dous performances tend to be the most entertaining parts of the swar bl because the coquettish and seductive manners of the danm bl are intensified and reinforced by the reactions of her kavaly and the o bserving public, especially during the mont o tanbou There are several things to note in this single thirty second segment of the dance; the way the danm bl is gazing at or sizing up her kavaly inviting him to come in with a charming smile, or darin g him to come closer with a conceited or supercilious glare. She might try to seduce her kavaly with isolated hip motions, like the winding hip roll, pelvic contortions, or a side to side hip tick, all while striking or stroking the ground with her bare rhythms. She might bidjin side to side, or forward and backward, approaching and withdrawing from her kavaly 3 Anticipation to see the outcome of the game builds in this thirty second encounter, especially if the dance partners are exhibiting a high degree of sensual tension. It is clear that in this moment, the danm bl derives grea t pleasure and satisfaction from the control she has over the dance situation. If and when he advances, she may receive him with a warm embrace, she may elude him with a 3 Bidjin is a dance term derived from the popular dance biguine in Martinique, whereby the dancer alternates shifting weight from one foot to the other with a slight hip accentuati on added to each step.
188 smooth dodging maneuver, or she may simply grab him by his waist and execute a single strike against his belly and pe lvic region with hers. There is also a dress code attached to the identity that must be respected for the many functions it serves. She arrives to the swar bl adorned with a long, wide skirt (or a dress) and a petticoat underneath. The magn width and length, and the petticoat, must permit the dancer to maximize her movement capacity to spin, jump, and squat as she pleases without discomfort or bodily exposure. When she first takes her place to dance in the carr she ann ounces her arrival by assertively tying the square madras scarf folded in the shape of a triangle around her waist. The Kryl mar ren mwen According to my danm bl interlocutors, this is a way of announcing s mwen ki l Historically, this piece of fabric was used by working women in field and domestic labor to prevent injury and secure her back and wais t through all forms of movement, like lifting, bending over, squatting, and so on. But it also secured her midsection while contemporary practice of bl She often uses her skir t as a prop for flirtatious play, lifting and fluttering the fabric to entice the kavaly wrapping its ends around her waist, or holding the ends up on her side while she twists and turns. While all the different styles of bl lin give the dancers an oc casion for collective affirmation, to exhibit their agility, strength, improvisational skill, and finesse, the bl dous songs often contain lyrical content that, coupled with the tantalizing sound of the drum, lures the dancer into another dimension of er otic sensation. For many
189 female dancers, this is an occasion to proudly flaunt their sensual prowess, and data analysis of interview narratives suggests that this can be profoundly therapeutic for women facing any range of personal life difficulties. Let examples. Example #1 Chorus: Laft maren ayayay yayay Gad manzl la ka brennen ti Gad manzl la ka soukr ti Gad manmzl la ka koul siwo Kriy manmzl la mwen l manmzl la e The f east of Marin, going to undress you Move your body for me Shake your body for me The feast of Marin, ayayay yayay The feast of Marin your callaloo is too hot Look at that lady moving her little body Look at that lady shaking her little body Your momma is not here, papa i s not here Look at that lady dripping her sweet syrup Your callaloo is too hot, Your callaloo is sticky Call that lady, I want that lady The party of Marin, going to undress you In this particular song, which is intended to have a mesmerizing feel to it, the singer encourages the woman to move in a suggestive manner. The singer uses the words callaloo (a popular West Indian stew ) and syrup as metaphors for female sexual arousal, and tells her how irresistible she is to him.
190 Example #2 Chorus: An jnrat anba wb la Larenn dsann anvil An gwo bildoz anba wb la An santral nikly anba wb la An mot avyon anba wb la An santral vap anba wb la Ni an loto kous anba wb la Twa wch fouy dif anba wb la D tranch mandarin anba wb la Aaaa Larenn dsann anvil, a pt ban nou ress The Queen is coming to town, What is she bringing for us What does she have, so good so sweet like that? A big bulldozer under her dress But what she have, so good so sweet like that? A nuclear power plant under her dress An airplane motor under her dress What does she have, so good so sweet like that? A steam engine under her dress She has a racecar under her dress But what she have, so good so hot like that? A three rock cooking fire under her dress Two slices of mandarin under her dress The Queen is coming to town, What is she bringing for us What does she have, so good so sweet like that? This song recounts a story of a woman, who the singer o (her genatalia) is interpreted as a powerful machine in one instance, and a sweet slice of mandarin in the next. From an emic perspective, this song can be understood as an erotic power, and in dance situations where this song is performed, the danm bl can and conveying an attitude of superiority to push the boundaries of sensual play. S ongs of this nature incite emotions of pleasure and desire, and enhance the game of pursuit and retreat between the danm and her kavaly In such dance situations, whereby the woman is stimulated to the point of sensual or erotic expressivity, her performance is generally cheered on and applauded by the observers, who will respond with smiles, laughter, hand clapping, gasps, shouts, and e ven interjections by the singer holding the microphone. This kind of limelight danm bl
191 performance also encourages competition with the other women in the carr Each of the four women has her turn to face off with her kavaly during the mont o tanbou segment, and when the mood strikes, the danm bl might try to outdo the erotic display of the preceding dancers, making for a rather entertaining set of performances. Pleasure and Erotic Experience in Bl : Liberation or Exploitative Exhibitionism? One evening in July 2013, I organized a group interview with eight women who m I had observed most frequently at bl classes and in swar bl gatherings over the course of my field research (some of them I had known since 2009). The participants are all wome n who have visible roles in the bl community as dance teachers and long time practitioners. I had befriended them through my frequent participation in their dance classes, and was struck by the si ncere camaraderie shared among them. I have heard them r efer to their group as lafanmi bl ( bl family), a group of friends who have a special affinity for one another, developed through the experience of bonding in bl gatherings. Moreover I was completely enamored of their various individual dance styles not only in the way of their sensual dance prowess, but also their impressive, intricate footwork, and the confidence and boldness with which they perform. This group interview would turn into an evening of laughter, gossip, and contemplative reflection about the ways in which bl enriches each of their lives. During the same four hour dis cussion in which these women revealed the different spiritual and therapeutic aspects of bl practice, they also shared comments about how bl has humbled them and r aised their social consciousness over th e years of their integration into the tradition. Almost all of them claimed that they did not choose bl but that bl Bl is not a place where one searches to become a
192 Another added that the social consciousness function of bl carries over into other areas of life. For example, many women stop straightening their hair and come to appreciate a natural hair aesthetic through self transformation achieved in the bl tradition. Some of them grew up in the era when bl was discouraged by their parents. I recall one woman sharing that when she was a teenager and told her mother that she wanted to sign up for a bl bagay bakanal or something practiced only by vulgar drunks and indecent women. Eventually when the conversation turned to the subject of healing and spirituality, they began sharing how the power of the drum and dance transports them to a higher state of joy and pleasure, especially when all of the right elements are in place for a strong bl ensemble. Most of them agreed that there are times when bl is the perfect remedy for relieving stress and tension, and making one feel good through I go to bl that bl has such a powerful effect means there are also times when one must take a break, and suspend her practice for a period of time; but the urge to dance is hard to resist. Suddenly, one of the women who I will call Solan aybe this will my mont o tanbou Everything and everyone in the room seemed to freeze, coming to a complete standstill for two to three seconds bef ore they all exploded in laughter. Solange
193 ed, naming one of her favorite tanbouy who produced this sensation, or was it her kavaly f the elements involved. There are certain songs that really touch you, that give you another sensation, give you chills home late at night after the swar bl has ended, she is still excited from the events of the evening. She then concluded her anecdote by This potent narrative, and the compelling conclusion about the interrelatedness of spirituality and sensuality, recalls the claim that bl has its origins in fertility and fecundity rites. As discussed in the prev ious chapter, even though the bl movement was launched as a secular revival to serve the nonreligious functions of cultural nationalis m, many practitioners have interesting ways of drawing from the ancestral arrative reveals her keen awareness of spiritual base, as a dance that celebrates both land and human fertility; historically, these dances were interpreted as rites of sustenance and sensuality, as the regeneration of life is central to African rel igious belief. Lucie Pradel (2000) argues that, [t]he gestuality associated with fertility and fecundity represents a unifying point between Caribbean dances. The gestures associated with the presence of phallic gods hip movements, stimulated acts of coi attitudes symbolize the victory of life against death. This body between the fertility of earth and man (2000:97).
194 Although this kind of sensual exp ressivity in the practice of bl has been argued to have a therapeutic function, as a source of healing and tension release for Martinican women, it has also been met with less explored points of contention from activists in the bl movement. I have hear d interesting commentary, mainly from men in the bl movement, but also from some women practitioners, who take issue with excessive sensuality in the bl dance space. During a conversation with one of the male leaders of the bl revival movement, he b egan to share his reflections regarding a public moman bl gathering that he had recently observed which I also attended. He asked if I was there that particular evening, trained in bl and have le arned how to dance for a long time, with various associa tions, but these are people who maybe think traditional bl practice is too reg ulated. So they dance, but what they are doing is bl porno! by citing some of the bl atjlman, moun ka brennen ren yo twp, bl (nowadays, people are moving their waists too much, bl this for over t wenty years. The concern is that as the dance evolves and dancers continue to integrate other modern influences into their movements, they are losing sight of the importance of the bl ever Be cause if you're dancing to the sound of the music matching your feet with the drum even if you are dancing a bl dous the game of your feet is going to bring everything else together and
195 waist are not necessary when your feet are doing the work, and this is how bl is supposed to be danced, according to traditional conventions of the practice. Your feet claimed that excessive movement of the hips and waist, and excessive sensuality in general, at in traditional bl bl e doing it for self exhibitionism, not for the collective of the bl ensemble. Following this line of thinking, other critics of erotic display and sensual expressivity in bl argue that it is unclean ( propre ), and that women who dance with excessive hip, pelvic, and torso accentuation do so because they a) simply wish to show off, or b) they have not mastered the command of footwork. bl meaning place, havi ng to do with t he colonial gaze on h ypersexualized b lack bodies, and the repackaging of traditional culture as folklorized cultural products for tourist consumption. However, I would argue that the danm bl performers discussed in my analysis above, who unapologetically express their sensuality in these performative contexts, and appreciate the bl space as one where pleasure and desire can be expressed and applauded, have a deep sense of what they are doing as agents of their own self presentation. Rat her than seeing these women as victims of sexist objectification, or offenders against the traditional, authentic conventions of bl expression it is useful to consider
196 their dance styles as embodied expressions of resistance and empowerment in the face of adversity that challenge elitist notions of respectability. It is unclear whether or not these critiques are grounded in a sincere traditionalist and dancers will lose sight of the base steps and movements of the repertoire; or if the critiques are grounded in longstanding Eurocentric biases and gender norms inherited by the middle class about decency and purity, which tend to police public exp ressions of sexual autonom y by b lack women. According to dance anthropologist Judith Hanna (20 lack dance vocabulary of hip swinging, pelvic (2010:226). The imposition of Eu ropean norms and values on Afro Caribbean communities is v iewed by many as an assault on b lack aesthetics and cultural bl comments about the denaturalization of the tradit ion tell us? From one point of view, one could argue that the Kryl lyrical strategies and metaphors used in traditional bl songs like the two cited above, among many others, call for the bodily expression of sensuality and eroticism; this is an aspect of Afro Martinican culture that could not be sanitized or erased through assimilation, because the songs have been transmitted as part of a deep oral tradition. The above examples are old songs composed by rural elders from Sainte Marie; they are not rece nt found in the Kryl lyrical content, as Elizabeth McAlister (2002) points out in the context of Haitian culture and Rara performance (what they call betiz ) has historical
197 depth (2002:60) Generational differences may be evident in the style of bodily expression (i.e. feet versus hip accentuation) but the sexual thematic content in song is a long standing feature of bl culture. Moreover, critics of erotic display who are concerned with maintaining the ancestral, spiritual base of the bl cultural landscape seem to overlook the sacred base of bl as an adaptation of fertilit y rites. The consensus among leaders of the bl movement is that bl is a dance of fecundity. Historically, women were prohibited from playing the drum, because of t he power and importance of the female reproductive system and taboos related to a woman to such practices (cf. Hanna 2010). s of respectability, and the (2004) and Jamaican cultural critic Carolyn Cooper (2004) have both advanced arguments in defense of female enactments of slackness in dancehal l culture. 4 Thomas 2004:229). Black lower class Jam aican women identify sexuality as a primary source of power in their lives, because it challenges the pursuit of respectability as a gendered assumption, and it gives them patriarchy (Ibid :253) As far 4 Slackness is a term used in Caribbean culture to denote vulgarity or indecency, particularly in music and dance performative contexts. The term is most commonly applied in Jamaican dancehall culture.
198 as dancehall scholar Carolyn Cooper is concerned, explicitly sexual performance that was denigrated as lewd and immoral by colonial ideology could actually be understood as secular recontextualizations of African fertility deities like the Yoruba n orisha Oshun (Cooper 2004:103 These arguments resonate with what I have observed in the Martinican bl context. Should the danm bl have th e freedom to pursue pleasure and fulfill certain desires through dance performance, as an exercise of her autonomy and sexual agency? O r does this threaten the traditional base of bl which emphasizes the art of footwork more than any other part of the body ? It is important to consider the question of misogynistic objectification in these discussions. Most feminist critics of explicit rap music, dancehall, and other commercial genres take issue with the ways in which are used for derogatory, heterosexist lyrical assaults and visual shock value. Indeed, as Natahsa Barnes (2000) points out in her easures and real dangers of commodification and This seems to be the concern embedded in statements about bl porno; doudouiste imagery and discourse are what Europe ans used to sexually objectify b lack women during the slavery era, and the doudou became repackaged in post emanc ipation Martinique as a folkloric commodity. The activists of the bl revival have worked hard to reverse the folkdoudouiste trope in Martinican cultural representations, and exoticized, hypersexualized depictions of local dance tradi tions are hallmarks of
199 folkdoudouiste performance. This point serves to validate their concerns over bl with excessive erotici sm. From another point of view, sexualized body language outside of touristic perfo rmance contexts can be seen as b 004), because public images of b lack womanhood have alway s been constructed by the dominant classes; the bl dance space allows women to liberate themselves through erotic play and challenge elitist visions of culture imposed by outsiders. In the bl dance space, women can present themselves as the fanm djok and the sweet doudou a woman who is both desirable and desiring, on their own terms. Some women playfully refer to bl one of their lovers, or the love that never leaves you or lets you down, and I have heard wome n someti who you hang around after a swar bl because feminine power of the ancestral deities of love and fertility found in African and Afro Atlantic rel igious heritage is what affirms Martinican women as they overcome everyday difficulties and hardships, even if those religious practices no longer exist in Martinique. To conclude, I would like to point out other significant aspects of this debate t o consider for future research. Many of the assumptions of this research and of the bl movement at large are heteronormative, with little to no consideration of how members of the LGBTQ community are situated in this practice. I did not encounter many bl practitioners who openly identify as same gender loving, but my overall perception is
200 that the bl social space is welcoming to those who do. That being said, some observations deserve to be questioned here. I have heard comments under people's bre ath about women dancing too sensually with one another in ways that may be inappropriate, or some kind of threat to the traditional (heterosexist) female male choreography. As women dancers continue to outnumber the kavaly many dance situations call for female female participation in place of the traditional configuration of female male couplets, and in many cases, the sensual flirtatious play is even more exaggerated when it is between two danm bl especially if the two dancers are friends. Whether th is kind of homoerotic play is in the spirit of friendly competition (i.e. which woman can be more arousing to the observing audience), or homoerotic desire is up for question. Sometimes at a swar bl when male participation is low, the person on the mic rophone will announce something to the effect of bl is to be danced by four males, four females! That's the way it's supposed recruitment and transmission or concern that the dance will evolve or deviate from its heteronormative intent if male participation does not increase at a proportionate rate to accommodate high female participation. In light of such shifts, the bl community could benefit from a more serious engagement with issues of gender, sexuality, eroticism, and desire in the tradition. As bl activists argue, this is a living culture that is not frozen in the past, and it will continue to evolve with other changes in Martinican culture and social life.
201 CHAPTER 7 CONCLUSION: BL REVIVAL PEDAGOGY, AND THE POST CREOLE IMAGINA TI ON One late Thursday afternoon, I stopped to do some food shopping before going to my bl class later that evening. While I was out, I crossed paths with an older dancer from Sainte Marie, and told her about my plans to attend a bl class. She smiled, and inquired about the different bl schools where I had concentrated most of my learning bl like that. Now you all have schools for bl neighbors and we repeated it, simply like that (personal communication). Emphasis bl seeme d so uncharacteristic for her. This encounter made me wonder, how different would the impact of bl be in present times had the revivalists not codified the steps and developed a standardized pedagogical system that could be taught in contemporary educational settings? How different w ould the transmission process be without the creation of bl schools and bl baccalaureate school programming ? In this concluding chapter, I examine a set of competing narratives around the transmission of bl s national education system s, the French national education sys tem Some leaders of the bl movement find that teaching the tradition in formal school settings based on a codified dance pedagogy is a strategy of petit marronage putting young Martinicans in touch with their roots. Others criticize this approach, arguing that the creative, improvisational spirit intrinsic to b lack dance culture, and the spirit of rzistans inherited from the enslaved ancestors, is lost
202 through a Eurocentric, French imposed model of pedagogy and sta ndardization. How might bl cultural activists in Martinique create a sense of belonging within an assimilationist educational system that has historically rendered Afro Creoles invisible and has denied their cultural contributions to the French nationa l community? Drawing from Michaeline (2009) st creole imagination, I conclude this dissertation with a dis cussion of bl pedagogy as a quest to transform the school system into a mo bl pedagogy as the pursuit of what Crichlow would call a modern freedom one that simultaneously accommodates and circumvents pressures of French bureaucracy and global power dynamics my goal is to consider how the other debates analyzed throughout this diss ertation are implicated in this struggle Certainly, the arguments for and against bl pedagogy, and bl in the national education system, resonate with other contentions about the function of bl practice in political and economic life, spirituality an d religious orientation, and gender and sexuality expressivity. With the imposition of French educational guidelines, defenders of the tradition have been required to modify their modes of transmission at the expense of the emotional and spiritual foundat ions to satisfy bureaucratic expectations and appease the concerned parents of school aged children, particularly those who have internalized negative images associated with the t radition. This discussion, which points out the tensions of tradition, moder nity, and the cultural politics of French national allegiance in the transmission of bl is a n appropriate way to culminate and conclude the full body of data analyzed in this dissertation, and reflect about the future direction of research.
203 Creole Dance Pedagogy In her book Globalization and the Post Creole Imagination: Notes on Fleeing the Plantation Michaeline C ri chlow (2009) challenges scholars of creoli zation and the Caribbean to think abou acknowledge forms of accommodation and mimicry as crucial components. According plantation Caribbean societies should decenter the analytical category of resistance opposition and conflict and be more attentive to the politics and complexities of accommodation the harsh realities of marginalization in global processes, Caribbean populations maneuver to (2009:74 ; 79 ) Contemporary power dynamics have political impacts on Afr o Creoles who are the struggle for place and the homin g of their modern freedoms. Certain enactments that may appear to be accomodatio nist in the bl movement might be better interpreted as practices of resistance that influence, and are influenced by, The bl baccalaureate option is one such practice, which involves exercis ing some degree of power within the French system that has been imposed through postcolonial assimilation. What is bl culture is recreated in an unhomely space the French adm inis tered system of educat ion. Here, I illustrate how case of bl pedagogy in Martinique. Bl Pedagogy, Transmission, and the (French) National Education System Since the 1980s launch of the bl movement, the revivalists have worked to reverse negative stereotypes and promote more affirming imag es of the bl tradition.
204 Several bl schools were created based on a mostly shared pedagogical approach to to dance and drum on e that i s based on t he research gathered by the revivalists, which, over time, was codified and systematized into a written repertoire. For successful high school completion, students in Martinique are awarded the baccalaurat diploma after completing a number of exams in di fferent subjects of study. Bl is now offered in Martinican high schools as an elective option, and enrolled students are required to pass a danced and written examination to successfully complete the requirements Many of the bl revivalists advocated for and successf ully won approval for creating the bl baccalau reate option in the mid 1990s This required further standard ization of their codified dances that could be taught to high schoolers, and that could be used by a panel of judges (physical ed ucation teachers) as an evaluation tool for high schoolers sitting (in this case dancing) for the exam to obtain their diplomas. To pass the exam students must da nce in groups of eight (forming the quadrille ) and execute the base steps and choreography b elonging to the bl lin repertoire (Table 2 1). The team of musicians that provides the live musical accompaniment sing and play a set of bl lin styles, and students must be prepared to dance to any given music selection. Students must also demonstrate the capacity to dance a kalennda solo for up to thirty seconds. For the written portion of the exam, students must answer a series of questions r elated to the history of bl notable elders and tradition bearers from Sainte Marie, associations and prominent members belonging to the Coordination Lawonn Bl Larl Swar Bl (i.e. appropriate dress standards for participating in a swar bl ), and the general principles and values associated with
205 The integration of the bl baccalaureate option into the education system has ignited some controversy; as demonstrated in the other chapters of this dissertation, debates persist aro und whether or not bl as an expression of so should operate within, or entirely subvert, the dominant structure s and values imposed by France. Black adolescents in Martinique have been deprived of representations of their local cult ure as a result of a French universalist curriculum model, one that fails to For advocates of the bl baccalaureate option, this is a form of passive resistance or a subtle form of opposition t hat challenges the system of French colonial domination from within. It is a way to negotiate some form of cultural sovereignty within a system of political non sovereignty. It gives the youth a sense of empowerment to p romote their Afro Caribbean identity, which is commonly discouraged in the assimilationist school system. annoyance used in black cultures around the world; the sound is made by sucking in air through pursed lips and clenched teeth I n 2015, French educational bureaucrats launched a campaign polite, goes against French manners and norms, and is una cceptable in professional life. Bl revivalists who defend the use of a standardized pedagogy argue that because of modernization and the imposition of French educational models, modes of learning and transmitting dance must be adapted to accommodate new conditions. Indeed, older generatio ns of bl practitioners who were raised in rural settings had a completely different experience with bl acquisition. They belonged to the rural
206 manny viv bl was founded, and through which bl survived its eclipse. They h ad frequent exposure to the practice in its most organic contexts, outside of structured learning settings. A young girl in Sainte Marie could spend just a few yaers of her early childhood, observing and repeating the bl expressions of her mother, or au nt, or cousin without step by step instructions, or specific names coded to identify each gesture. In the 1980s, however, bl was known, practiced, and understood only in a handful of countryside neighborhoods and among a small number of folkloric troup es that performed for tourists. The new urban, (and mostly French educated) generation of interested observers and students had been accustomed to French pedagogical frameworks. Transmitting bl to large numbers of students who were not immersed in the rural settings that fostered the survival of these traditions would require more advanced approaches, beyond the observation, kinaesthetic transmission, and muscle memory that is characteristic of many non western dance cultures and expressions A ccording to this line of thinking a system of references, gesture names for base movements and variant steps, and standardized teaching formats would be required in order to reproduce bl post dep artmental era of assimilation; hence, the expansio n of bl schools, and the creation of the bl baccalaureate option. Now that this has become the most common approach to diffusion over the last twenty years, bl can be taught to large numbers of student participants at a time, and the number of new students grows each year. Though the bl community is still (making up less than 1.5
207 percent) bl rev ivalists see their work and progress as a victory in the struggle for cultural sovereignty, filled with great promise for generations to come. The growing number of bl schools and the bl baccalaurea te option speak directly to the premise of cultural citizenship Renato Ro saldo (1994) argues that cultural citizenship involves asserting cultural difference and embracing cultural specificity without compromising the right to belong, participate in democratic processes and utilize public services The fact that bl activists have made tremendous strides in reversing negative perceptions of bl in Martinican society, and persuading French educational institutions to recognize and take serio usly the bl tradition itage, should signal a monumental shift in how citizenship is marked and defined in contemporary times. In my field research, I did encounter c ritics of the bl baccalaureate and even revivalists who participated in the early development of bl pedagog y express regret over the rigid systematization of bl transmission. I asked one bl teacher whose conception of bl differs from that used in the bl tradition to many people all over t he island, and to see so many people able to participate in bl activities thanks to the expansion of schools and educational about gaining more people in the b l movement, or having the most people in my how people are doing bl if they 2014). In this conversation, my interolocutor referenced the European ized dance
208 pedagogy model used by most bl teachers as a deviation from the organic process of kinaesthetic transmission, because it lacks the rich and diverse elements and influences that are central to black cultural (re)production. It is an extract of Afro Martinican culture that has been removed from its foundation, and recontextualized or repackaged for new tastes and standards. With codifi cation and systematization, bl actors invite the risk of uniformi ty and the loss of spontaneity. This particular group of critics do es not agree with the idea of diluting and sanitizing the tradition in order to attract numbers and adhere to French institutional frameworks; at the base, the dance contains elements of black cu lture (i.e. A frican religious symbology, sensuality, marronage ) that would be deemed vulgar indecent, or subversive through a French lens of c ultural hegemony They argue that bl taught with in French constructs authenticity, and they find it contradictory to promote an ethos of resistance to French colonialism, while simultaneously accommodating the French neocolonial system. There are also critics with more moderate opinion s who are happy to see bl taught in the public school system, but who take issue with with the evaluation process bl baccalaureate option is a good thing, but the jury and the people evaluating students should be people who have the knowledge. The jury is often made up of m tropolitains (people from France) who teach physical education but do not know anything about bl The panel of judges to which he refers is often comprised of French teachers who are trained in sports education, and are given a sort of crash course in the codified repertoire of bl in order to have some capacity or reference for assessing students taking the exam. This is an issue that some find hugely promblematic, but one that I
209 believe is being slowly resolved, as more and more bl practioners obtain degrees and diplomas in sports education and take on faculty positions in the school system. Perceptions about the everyday function of bl i n Martinican society have ttempt to connect the tradition to everyday constructs of modernity. How does this debate inter s ect with the other issues analyzed in this dissertation? To conclude, I wo uld like to consider a set of queries to be considered in future research, as these debates continue to unfold and influence the ever changing societal perception of bl question about the political functions of bl practice discuss ed in Chapter 4. How are high school aged students to interpret the politicized discourse of a cultu ral movement that stresses resistance to colonial domination, when their primary source of education (outside of the home) is one administered by the neoco lonial power structure? Some could argue that it is not possible to preserve the link between bl and oppositional politics among future generations if critical anticolonial sentiments and perspectives are silenced, marginalized, or censored in French i nsti tutions. The question of spritiuality and religious orientation is also important to consider here. Many mature adult practitioners of bl claim to have turned to the tradition to reconcile feelings of alienation and vulnerability associated with French assimilation. Beyond the realm of political mobilizing and economic solidarity, bl has a tremendous th and spiritual growth. According to some perspectives, the spiritual and emotional functions of bl are compromised with the standardization, uniformity, and codification Moreover, with French secularization of public spaces and insittutions one of the keystones of French nationalism, how can the
210 sacred aspects of bl be transmitted for example, its basis as a fertility rite, a dance of fecundity, its interpretation as a possible element of Vodou practices, or its adaptation as a Catholic liturgical expression in bl lgliz ? Religious symbology and doctrine ar e taboo subjects in French public schools and in Martinique, there is already a widespread fear of or disregard for African inspired expressions of spirituality How will bl activists reco ncile this rift in future developments, as the movement continues to grow? Finally, how are the notions of sensuality and erotic expressivity received among school supporters of bl and French education administrators? Can these aspects be transmitted to school aged children in Martinique, given the gendered respectability norms imposed in public life? How will the dance evolve if this element becomes diluted, repressed, or discouraged in order to appea se and accommodate pa rental and bureaucratic concerns? These are all important question that highlight the ongoing struggle of balancing tradition and modernity; resistance and accommodation; and Africanity and Europeanness in contemporary Martinique
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232 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Camee Maddox received her Ph.D. from the University of Flor ida in the fall of 2015. She completed her Master of Arts degree in 2010, also at the University of Florida, and she is a graduate of Towson University wh ere she completed her Bachelor of Science degree in 2007. scholarly activities are wide ranging, and she has worked in a variety of settings as a rese archer, an educator, and a museum docent. She is the proud recipient of many awards, including the Mellon Graduate Fellowship for International Study, the Ruth Landes Memorial Research Fund, the McKnight Dissertation Fellowship, and the University of Flor Zora Neale Hurston Diaspora Fellowship. Camee has previously worked at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, and has conducted ethnographic field research in Martinique over the last several years